Is Jane's marriage with Rochester a happy ending in Jane Eyre? If not, why?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The ending, in which Jane and Rochester marry, is happy, if bittersweet.

It is bittersweet because Rochester has been disabled by the Thornfield fire, losing a hand and his eyesight. He is no longer the intimidating Byronic hero. Jane, too, has been through a series of sobering experiences.

It is, however, these maturing experiences that make it possible for Jane and Rochester to have a happy marriage. They marry on the basis of an honest foundation, for Bertha is dead. Rochester is disabled, but his disabilities allow the two to have a companionate marriage based on mutual equality. If Jane, the poor, quiet, dependent former governess had married Rochester when he was "whole," it would have been an unequal relationship, with Rochester in control. Now, Rochester is as dependent (or more) on Jane as she is on him.

They do have a happy marriage, filled with a deeper, sadder, more mature happiness than that perhaps experienced by frivolous young people in the first stages of passion. They appreciate each other all the more because they both have suffered. They have both known what it is like to feel lonely and despairing.

Brontë seems to be commenting on patriarchy in implying that a man needs to be disabled in some way for an equal marriage to take place.

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mwestwood eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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Jane Eyre's marriage to Edward Rochester at the end of Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre, is a romantic one, certainly.  For, earlier in the novel, Jane has so happily accepted Mr. Rochester's proposal of marriage only to learn that he is already married.  Refusing to compromise her principles, Jane leaves Mr. Rochester despite his pleas:

"Jane, do you mean to go one way in the world, and to let me go another?"

"I do."

"....Oh, Jane!  This is bitter. This--this is wicked.  It would not be wicked to love me."

"It would to obey you."

After Edward Rochester's rebirth by fire, however, in which he is blinded only to really see, Jane returns to Thornfield to love and cherish the man who now has paid for his sins.  For Jane, the ending is, indeed, happy since she can love Mr. Rochester without compromising her principles.  In addition, Jane's marriage to Mr. Rochester seems a reward for her earlier denials of his proposal as well as that of St. John Rivers.

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