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Free Study Guide-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 23

Summary

It is summer at Thornfield Hall. One midsummer night, Jane goes for a stroll in the orchard. On seeing Mr. Rochester, she tries to sneak off, but he calls to her to join him.

In a casual manner he informs her that he has decided to get married to Blanche very soon. He wants to carry out her suggestion of sending Adèle away to school, and he tells Jane that the time has come for her to leave Thornfield. Mr. Rochester suggests a post for her in Ireland, but Jane is heartbroken at the thought of being far from Thornfield and Mr. Rochester. Through her tears she communicates her love for him. After teasing her a little, Mr. Rochester pulls her close to him and declares his intention to marry her. Jane at first does not believe him, and then finally consents to marry him.

Suddenly, the weather changes and grows stormy, forcing them to rush indoors. While bidding Jane goodnight, Mr. Rochester kisses her in front of Mrs. Fairfax, who emerges from her room at this time. Later, Adèle informs Jane that the chestnut tree, under which she and Rochester were sitting, has been struck by lightning and "half of it split away."

Notes

The chapter begins in summer splendor and ends in the violence of a storm that signals further destruction. This is an example of pathetic fallacy (nature reflecting human emotions). The chapter is also tinged with irony. When Mr. Rochester asks Jane to be his wife, she replies: "your bride stands between us." She is thinking of Blanche, but speaks ironically of Bertha, who was Mr. Rochester's first wife and who, in fact, resembles Blanche. Jane, of course, is as yet unaware that it is Bertha who is hidden away on the third floor of Thornfield Hall.


A different kind of irony is evident in Jane's statement: "There is no middle, sir, I have no kindred to interfere." She has forgotten that she has a kinsman (John Eyre), and this character will "interfere" at the appropriate time.

The scene of Mr. Rochester's proposal is highly significant. Jane again becomes the victim of a deception, one which is more serious and more successful than the gypsy charade. The proposal takes place by moonlight. The moon is a symbol of imagination and passion. Moonlight is traditionally associated with deception, mystery and evil. Jane's reading of Mr. Rochester's face under moonlight is an interesting exercise. The reader is told that his face is very much agitated and flushed. There are "strong workings in the features" and "strange gleams in the eyes." Of the garden Charlotte Brontë observes: "No nook in the grounds" is "more sheltered and more Eden-like." "The confessions of love are as new to Jane as they were to Eve. But the original Eden fell to grief through passion and so does the garden of Thornfield." (Robert Berward Martin, The Accents of Persuasion: Charlotte Brontë's Novels, 80).

After Jane agrees to marry Mr. Rochester, the wind rises and the horse-chestnut tree writhes and groans. It is struck by lightning and split into half. It symbolizes the separation that is to come between Jane and Mr. Rochester. The scene is also richly romantic and the chestnut tree itself is a favorite romantic image of organic life. It also symbolizes the destructive power of passion.

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