Chapter 32–33 Summary and Analysis

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Last Updated on October 8, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1222

Chapter 32

As Jane’s young pupils begin to improve under her tutelage, her confidence as a teacher grows. Jane becomes especially fond of some of her older pupils and is regularly invited to their homes. Over time, Jane becomes quite popular in the village and is met with “cordial salutations” and “friendly smiles” whenever she walks through town. She finds herself settling in and growing content in her new life, though she still has recurring, frenzied dreams about Mr. Rochester. Miss Oliver regularly visits the school, and Jane observes that she seems to time these visits for when St. John will be present. Miss Oliver proves to be a kind and charming woman, though not particularly deep nor interesting.

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One day, Jane draws Miss Oliver’s portrait. Impressed by her work, Mr. Oliver, Miss Oliver's father, invites Jane 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, despite the disparity in their financial situations. Emboldened by this knowledge, Jane later attempts to play matchmaker. When St. John visits Jane at her home, she bluntly tells him 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 insists that no earthly pleasure could tempt him away from his religious ambitions. Before he leaves her house, St. John shows an unusual interest in a scrap of paper, surreptitiously tearing off a small piece. Jane 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 describing 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 Mr. Rochester must be the one behind this search, Jane begs St. John for information about Mr. Rochester’s well-being. Confused, 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 his suspicions were confirmed 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 him until he admits that his full name is St. John Eyre Rivers. His mother’s name was Eyre and 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 keeping such enormous wealth for herself, Jane wishes to share 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 long been yearning for. In an unexpected twist, the very people who take Jane in and whom she grows to love turn out to be her actual relations. Jane's response to her enormous inheritance reveals that she desires the love of a family over any amount of wealth, despite the suffering and poverty she has endured. Observing her joyous reaction to the news that they are cousins, St. John remarks, “You were serious when I told you you had got a fortune; and now, for a matter of no moment, you are excited.”

St. John's confusion about Jane’s reaction illustrates their fundamental differences: while Jane values warmth and affection, St. John wishes to remain cool and practical. They acknowledge their differing natures when St. John resists Jane’s pleas for information, saying, “I am cold: no fervor infects me,” to which Jane replies, “I am hot, and fire dissolves ice.” Jane wishes to share her inheritance among her newfound family, a decision based in her feelings of affection. When St. John brings up the practical possibility that Jane could leverage her wealth to make an advantageous match, Jane responds, “No one would take me for love; and I will not be regarded in the light of a mere money-speculation.” Her obvious disgust for a mercenary marriage recalls Jane's earlier anxiety about the perception that she was marrying Mr. Rochester for his money. Jane's response is also telling in that she quickly dismisses the possibility that someone would marry her for love. Though she remains physically separated from Mr. Rochester, she still clearly believes that he was her only chance at a romantic relationship.

As Jane learns more about St. John, he begins to develop into a foil for Mr. Rochester. St. John declares “Reason, and not Feeling, is my guide”—a marked contrast from Rochester's passion. When Jane 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 and simply abandon his plans to become a missionary. Jane's own fierce love was only thwarted by an insurmountable obstacle, but she eventually realizes that St. John sees love itself as an obstacle to be overcome. While Mr. Rochester was willing to transgress both human and moral laws to obtain the object of his affection, St. John freely rejects love in service to his ambition.

Jane ultimately lies between the extremes represented by these two men: she is not willing to abandon her principles for love like Rochester, but she does not view romantic love as a weakness, as St. John does. Jane had to persuade Mr. Rochester to do what was morally right, yet she finds St. John’s inflexible moral expectations stifling and overbearing. The contrast between Mr. Rochester's fire and impulsivity and St. John cold reserve reflect the internal battle that occurs within Jane, as her passionate nature wars against her rational mind.

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