In Jane Eyre, Chapters 24-26, Mr. Rochester goes away for business; what happens while he is gone?

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mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Indeed, in Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte, there is much foreshadowing in Chapter 25 of the most unfortunate occurrences of Chapter 26.  For, as Jane anticipates her wedding day, she anxiously awaits the return of Mr. Rochester.  When Jane runs down to the gates where she can peer down the road she remarks,

A puerile tear dimmed my eye while I looked--a tear of disappointment and impatience...'I wish he would come!....'I exclaimed, seized with the hypochondriac foreboding....The event of last night again recurred to me [the splitting of the tree].  I interpreted it as a warning of disaster.  I feared my hopes were too bright to be realized and I had enjoyed so much bliss lately that I imagined my fortune had passed its meridian, and must now decline.

That Jane feels a presentiment about her wedding day is underscored by her comment,

who knows with what fate the next [hour] may come charged?

Jane tells Mr. Rochester of a dream that she has had in which Thornfield Hall is

in dreary ruin, the retreat of bats and owls....I saw you like a speck on a white track, lessening every moment....I hushed the scared infant in my lap...the wall crumbled; I was shaken; the child rolled from my knee....

Upon awakening, Jane says, she beheld a woman who was tall and large with "thick and dark hair hanging long down her back."  She took Jane's wedding veil, held it up, gazed at it, and then threw it over her head as she gazed into a mirror.  Her face was discolored, savage, and her red eyes rolled against the "fearful blackened inflation of the lineaments."

The next day as Mr. Rochester and Jane stand together to be married, a man's voice is heard,

The marriage cannot go on:  I declare the existence of an impediment....Mr. Rochester has a wife now living.

In Mr. Rochester's absence, people have arrived at Thornhill.  Another witness appears: Mrs. Rochester's brother, witnessing that the wife lives in Thornhill.  Dissembling no more, Rochester admits to having a wife.  He, then, leads them to where Mrs. Grace has been caring for the woman, an utterly mad woman. Returning to her room, Jane concludes that she must leave Thornhill, although her prospects are "desolate."


scarletpimpernel's profile pic

scarletpimpernel | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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In Chapter 25, on the wedding, Mr. Rochester is called away on business to some of his property.  Jane is anxious and restless in his absence and decides to take a walk.  As she does so, a storm begins to rage, and she discovers the chestnut tree split in half by the storm.  As Jane studies the ruins of the tree, she thinks:

"You did right to hold fast to each other. . . . I think, scathed as you look, and charred and scorched, there must be a little sense of life in you yet; rising out of that adhesion at the faithful, honest roots" (274).

Ironically, the tree describes what is soon to happen to Jane and Rochester's relationship but also offers a small sense of hope that she and he will weather what is to come.

After Jane moves past the tree and realizes that she should have taken shelter much sooner, Rochester rides by, swoops her up on his horse, and carries her to the safety of Thornfield.

The scene serves not only to contribute to the Gothic style of Jane Eyre but also to foreshadow the shocking events of the next day.

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