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Free Study Guide-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 17


Mr. Rochester remains away from Thornfield for the next few days, and Jane begins to experience a sickening sense of disappointment. However, she keeps reminding herself that Mr. Rochester is nothing more than her employer. Soon Mrs. Fairfax receives a letter from Mr. Rochester, asking her to make arrangements to accommodate his guests in style, as there are to be visitors at Thornfield. Accordingly, the next three days are spent in cleaning and preparing the place. Jane is as busy as the rest of the household. The sight of Grace Poole, however, throws her on her guard. When the guests arrive, Jane sees Blanche Ingram for the first time.

From the second day of their stay, Mr. Rochester insists on Jane accompanying Adèle to the drawing room. Jane enters while the drawing room is still empty and takes a corner seat. The ladies present are Mrs. Eshton and her two daughters, Amy and Louisa, Lady Lynn, Mrs. Colonel Dent and the Dowager Lady Ingram with her daughters, Blanche and Mary. Later, the gentlemen also enter. They include Frederick Lynn, Colonel Dent, Mr. Eshton, the magistrate, and the young Lord Ingram. While Mr. Rochester enjoys himself interacting with his guests, Jane keeps gazing at him unnoticed. Blanche commands Mr. Rochester to sing. Jane remains long enough to hear him and then slips away quietly. Soon she finds herself face to face with Mr. Rochester. He makes inquiries about her health and finding her distressed, excuses her from returning to the drawing room.


Seeing Mr. Rochester once again stirs Jane's emotions. On comparing him with his guests, Jane recognizes the emotional and spiritual affinity between Rochester and herself: "He is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine-I am sure he is-I feel akin to him-I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him."

In recalling the dislike they felt for their various wretched governesses, the Ingrams deliberately humiliate Jane herself as a governess to Adèle. They are careful in selecting the adjectives that describe their old governesses: "lachrymose and low spirited," "coarse and insensible" and "immoral." The Ingrams represent the type that Jane strongly dislikes: they are unnatural and unbelievable in both speech and manner. Blanche, for all her haughtiness, is intelligent and accomplished. Her French is good, she is a skillful rider, and she is an excellent pianist and singer, well read and knowledgeable. Another important aspect of her personality that Jane comments on is her height. Charlotte Brontë highlights all these details about Blanche in order to prepare the readers for Jane's later conclusion that Blanche is too petty and mean-spirited to merit jealousy.

There seems to be some inconsistency in Mr. Rochester's behavior. He later explains that the whole of his dealing with Blanche has been intended to arouse Jane's jealousy. However, he weakens the effect of this policy by speaking tenderly to her at the end of the chapter.

It is important to note that according to Jane, she is not attracted to Mr. Rochester for his stately height but for the influence his face has over her, and for the way it "masters" her. Their relationship crosses class boundaries and is based on something even more substantial. She claims to be able to sense all his feelings from his face.

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