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Free Study Guide-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 20

Summary

Jane is woken up by the moonlight streaming in through the window. She hears a piercing scream accompanied by the sound of a struggle coming from the third floor. She rushes out and discovers the guests in great agitation, standing in the corridor. Mr. Rochester, descending from the third story, gently persuades them to retire to their rooms.

An hour later, Mr. Rochester calls Jane and takes her into a chamber, where she finds Mr. Mason bleeding profusely. Mr. Rochester instructs her to sponge away the trickling blood and hold smelling salts to Mason's nose, while he goes to fetch the doctor. In the meantime, they are told not to speak to each other. From the next room Jane hears a snarl like that of an animal and Grace Poole's characteristic laughter.

As dawn is breaking, Mason is bandaged and sent with the surgeon, Carter. He is to stay with him until his recovery and departure for Spanish Town. As Mason takes his leave, he urges Mr. Rochester to take care of "her." At this, Mr. Rochester expresses a desperate wish that there should be an end to "all this."


Early in the morning, while strolling in the orchard with Jane, Mr. Rochester makes a veiled reference to the undisciplined life he led in a foreign land. He then asks whether he has any right to "attach himself" to someone who can give him peace of mind. He makes Jane promise that she will be there for him if he should ever need her; he even mentions the night before he marries Blanche Ingram as one such occasion when he will need Jane's company. Then he adopts a sarcastic tone and asks Jane's opinion of Blanche. Their conversation is cut short as Mr. Rochester's guests appear.

Notes

This chapter abounds with elements of horror: screaming, blood, and the suggestion of a violent woman's presence. However, Charlotte Brontë relieves the tension in this chapter by giving comic descriptions of Mr. Rochester's guests clinging to him in fear: "(T)he two dowagers, in vast white wrappers, were bearing down on him like ships in full sail."

Mason's sway over Mr. Rochester and the master's promise to take care of a mysterious woman puzzle Jane. When she is instructed to attend to the wounded Mason, her courage is tested for a two-hour period. The circumstances under which Mason is given treatment and sent away are definitely very suspicious, both for the readers as well as for Jane.

Jane is also puzzled by Mr. Rochester's reference to his profligate youth and to society's approval of his new friend, "the gentle, gracious, genial stranger." Mr. Rochester talks openly about his marriage to Blanche in order to elicit some sort of response from Jane. His remarks about Blanche Ingram contribute to the novel's atmosphere of suspense on an emotional level. It is also a way of indirectly introducing the notion of a marriage between Jane and Mr. Rochester.

Throughout all that has happened, Jane and the master of Thornfield Hall are developing trust and cultivating intimacy. In yet another crisis, it is Jane's courage and intelligence that reassure Mr. Rochester.

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