Jane Eyre Chapter 32-33 Summary and Analysis

Charlotte Brontë

Chapter 32-33 Summary and Analysis

Chapter 32:

Over time, Jane’s young pupils begin to make an improvement, and her confidence as a teacher grows. Jane becomes especially fond of some of her older pupils and is regularly invited into their homes. Eventually, Jane becomes quite popular in the village and is met with “cordial salutations” and “friendly smiles” when she walks through town. She finds herself settling in and becoming quite happy, though she still has reoccurring, frenzied dreams about Mr. Rochester. Miss Oliver regularly visits the school, and Jane notices that she seems to time her visits for when St. John will be around. Jane observes that Miss Oliver is a charming person, though not particularly deep or interesting. One day, she draws Miss Oliver’s portrait and so impresses Mr. Oliver that he invites her to their home. During this visit, Jane realizes that Mr. Oliver greatly respects the Rivers family and would not oppose a marriage between his daughter and St. John. Emboldened by this knowledge, Jane attempts to play matchmaker and bluntly tells St. John that Miss Oliver has feelings for him. He admits that he does love Miss Oliver but says that he could never marry her because she would make a poor missionary’s wife. When Jane suggests that he could abandon his plans to become a missionary, John responds that no earthly pleasure could tempt him away from his religious ambitions. Before he leaves, St. John shows an unusual interest in a scrap of paper, and Jane watches him surreptitiously tear off a small piece. She recognizes the paper as a scrap upon which she tested her paint and pencil but cannot understand his actions.

Chapter 33:

One night, Jane’s reading is interrupted by a surprise visit from St. John. He launches into a story about how a poor clergyman fell in love with a wealthy young woman and married her, much to the chagrin of all her friends. The pair died a few years after the wedding, and their only child, a daughter, was sent to live with a Mrs. Reed of Gateshead. At this point, Jane starts, realizing that St. John is talking about her. He continues to relate her journey from Gateshead to Lowood to Thornfield and even reveals that he knows about her ruined wedding and Mr. Rochester’s deception. Jane does not reveal herself to be Jane Eyre immediately, and St. John informs her that a solicitor named Mr. Briggs has posted advertisements everywhere seeking a Miss Jane Eyre. Thinking that this search must be on Mr. Rochester’s orders, Jane begs St. John for information on Mr. Rochester’s well-being. St. John informs her that Mr. Rochester is uninvolved and tells her that Jane Eyre is being sought because her uncle, John Eyre, has died and left her twenty thousand pounds. Shocked, Jane finally admits that her real last name is Eyre, not Elliot.

St. John reveals that he was already suspicious that Jane might be the woman Mr. Briggs was seeking, but he became more certain when he noticed the name “Jane Eyre” scribbled on a scrap of paper in her cottage. Wondering why Mr. Briggs would have contacted St. John at all, Jane presses St. John until he admits that his full name is St. John Eyre Rivers. He explains that his mother’s name was Eyre and that she had two brothers: Jane’s father and Mr. John Eyre, Jane’s uncle. When Jane could not be found after fleeing Thornfield, Mr. Briggs contacted St. John to see whether he knew of his relative’s whereabouts. Jane realizes that this means the Rivers are her cousins and the unknown relative to whom their uncle left his fortune is, in fact, herself. Delighted to have found a family and uncomfortable with the idea of being extremely wealthy herself, Jane insists on sharing the money equally between the four of them. Though her cousins protest, Jane insists, and eventually they all receive five thousand pounds. St. John points out that, with twenty thousand pounds, Jane could make an impressive marriage, but Jane tells him she will never marry.

Analysis:

In these chapters, the significance of Jane’s uncle, John Eyre, is finally revealed. Through her uncle, Jane finds not only wealth but also the family she has been yearning to have for so long. In an unexpected twist, the very people who take Jane in and whom she grows to love turn out to be her actual relations. When Jane learns of her immense inheritance, we see that despite the suffering and poverty she has experienced throughout her life, Jane still desires the love of a family over any amount of wealth. St. John observes her surprisingly joyous reaction to the news that they are cousins, saying, “You were serious when I told you you had got a fortune; and now, for a matter of no moment, you are excited.” That St. John is confused by Jane’s response speaks to their fundamental differences: Jane values warmth and affection, while St. John tries to remain cool and practical. They openly admit their differing natures when St. John tries to resist Jane’s pleas for information, saying, “I am cold: no fervor infects me,” to which Jane replies, “Whereas I am hot, and fire dissolves ice.” Jane’s immediate reaction to the news that she is an heiress is to share the money among her newfound family—a decision based in her feelings of affection. When St. John tries to persuade Jane to keep the money, he brings up the practical consideration of marriage, but Jane responds by saying, “No one would take me for love; and I will not be regarded in the light of a mere money-speculation.” This demonstrates that Jane values love above practical social conventions and reinforces her discomfort with the idea of participating in a mercenary marriage. Just as Jane was anxious about the perception that she was marrying Mr. Rochester for his money, she is also upset by the idea that someone might marry her for money. Jane’s instant dismissal of the idea that someone would marry her for love speaks to her continued feelings for Mr. Rochester. Though she remains physically separated from him, she is still haunted by dreams of him and still believes that he was her only chance for romantic love.

As Jane learns more about St. John, we see that he is becoming a foil for Mr. Rochester. While Mr. Rochester is a wholly passionate individual, St. John declares, “Reason, and not Feeling, is my guide.” When Jane speaks to the Olivers and realizes that there is no practical impediment to a match between Miss Oliver and St. John, she is confused by his reluctance to pursue the relationship. Jane’s confusion as to why St. John would not simply abandon his plans to become a missionary is partly due to the fact that her own love was only thwarted by an insurmountable obstacle. Later, she comes to understand that, unlike her, St. John sees love itself as an obstacle to be overcome. We see that while Mr. Rochester was willing to transgress both human and moral laws to obtain the object of his affection, St. John freely rejects the object of his love in service to his ambition. Jane’s own character lies between these two extremes. Unlike Mr. Rochester, Jane is not willing to abandon her principles for love, but unlike St. John, Jane does not view romantic love as a weakness. While Jane must urge Mr. Rochester to live a moral life, she finds St. John’s moral expectations stifling and overbearing. The contrast between the fiery Mr. Rochester and cool St. John mirrors the constant internal battle between Jane’s passionate nature and her rational mind.

(The entire section is 1300 words.)