Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
On the wedding day, Sophie helps Jane into her bridal gown. Jane can hardly recognize herself in this unusual attire. Rochester shows impatience in all his actions. He orders that the carriage be kept ready to take him and Jane to London as soon as they return from the church. He then hurries Jane to the ceremony.
The wedding ceremony begins, but it is soon interrupted by a startling announcement made by a Mr. Briggs, a London lawyer. He asserts that Mr. Rochester is already married, to a Bertha Antoinetta Mason, whom he wed fifteen years ago in Jamaica. Mr. Rochester tries to dismiss this accusation by claiming that his first wife is dead. But Mr. Mason, who has been hiding in the background, comes forward and confirms that Mr. Rochester is married to his sister. Finally, Mr. Rochester admits this truth, claiming that he was duped into marriage with an insane woman belonging to a family of "idiots and maniacs."
To prove his point, he conducts all of them to Thornfield Hall. He intends to show his "maniac" wife, who lives on the third floor, to the assembled party. Grace Poole is present and in charge of the invalid. Bertha's savage behavior confirms Mr. Rochester's claim. The only thing that he wants his guests to do now is to compare the crazy woman with the rational and worthy Jane, "this young girl, who stands so grave and quiet at the mouth of hell, looking collectedly at the gambols of a demon."
Jane recognizes Bertha as the woman who entered her room and tore the veil. Mr. Briggs tells Jane that he is her uncle, John Eyre's, business associate. This very uncle had informed Mr. Mason about her approaching marriage. Mason had then realized that Mr. Rochester was contemplating bigamy. Since John Eyre is seriously ill, he had asked his lawyer and Mason to come to England to stop the marriage.
When left alone, Jane tries to consider the events of the day. She is inconsolable. She feels that Mr. Rochester has betrayed her and is so dejected that she cannot even pray.
This chapter offers an important revelation about Mr. Rochester's character: knowing that he could not offer her an honorable marriage, he encouraged Jane to fall in love with him. He deliberately committed a serious crime. His plan to marry Jane appears to be an extension of his enslavement by Bertha. The reader sees that he has played on Jane's innocence and caused her a great deal of suffering in the process. The reader also notices Mr. Rochester's shocking conduct in church. His language is as profane as the crime he is attempting to commit: "produce him-or go to hell," and "The devil is in it if you cannot answer distinctly."
Jane once again becomes a cold, solitary girl. Brontë presents an external landscape corresponding to the heroine's mental condition: "A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples; drifts crushed the blowing roses..." Jane's physical reaction to the shock is significant: "eddying darkness seemed to swim round me, and reflection came in as black and confused a flow." The novelist conveys the response of a sensitive nature to an extreme emotional crisis.