Chapters 16–19 Summary and Analysis
Jane is both fearful and excited to see Mr. Rochester the morning after the fire. To her surprise, the morning passes as usual. None of the servants seem suspicious of Mr. Rochester’s story that the fire was started when he fell asleep while reading by candlelight. Jane is especially surprised to see Grace Poole acting as if nothing happened. Bothered by Grace’s lack of guilt, Jane questions her about the fire, but Grace acts completely nonchalant. Soon, Jane finds out that Mr. Rochester is not home, having journeyed to attend a party at the Leas. She is disappointed to hear that he will probably not return for a week and even more disheartened to hear that at the party he will be in the company of the beautiful Miss Blanche Ingram. Feeling foolish for having ever thought Mr. Rochester could be interested in her, Jane sketches two portraits. One is a faithful portrayal of her own plain face, and the other is a drawing of what she imagines the beautiful Miss Ingram to look like. She tells herself that in the future, whenever she starts to believe that Mr. Rochester holds her in special regard, she will look at the two portraits and remember her insignificance to him.
After Mr. Rochester has been gone ten days with no word, Jane is upset to hear Mrs. Fairfax speculate that he might go straight from the Leas’ house to London and perhaps not return to Thornfield for over a year. A few days later, however, Mrs. Fairfax receives word that Mr. Rochester will be returning in three days and expects to be accompanied by several of the people staying with the Leas. Several temporary staff members are hired from the village to aid in the preparations of the house. During the flurry of activity, Jane overhears Leah and the charwoman mention that Grace Poole makes much more money than the other servants and that there are not many who would be able to do her job. Confused, Jane tries to hear more, but the conversation is cut off when Leah spots her. Jane reflects that “there was a mystery at Thornfield; and that from participation in that mystery I was purposely excluded.”
When the glamorous guests arrive, Jane and Adèle stay out of the way. Soon, however, Mr. Rochester summons them downstairs to make an appearance. Jane sits quietly in the window seat, remaining at a distance as the group members entertain themselves. When Mr. Rochester appears, she cannot help but steal a glance at him and struggles to suppress the surge of emotion she feels in his presence. Jane observes that Blanche Ingram is indeed very beautiful, although she and her mother, Mrs. Ingram, show great disdain toward Jane. Uncomfortable, Jane takes the first opportunity to slip away but is stopped in the hallway by Mr. Rochester. Seeing that she is upset, he allows her to retire for the night—but not before demanding that she make a similar appearance every evening.
The guests remain at Thornfield for several days. One evening, Jane watches Mr. Rochester and Miss Ingram play charades together and suspects that they will soon marry. Their match is all the more painful for Jane when she realizes that Mr. Rochester does not truly care for Miss Ingram, nor she for him. Jane admits that had Miss Ingram been kind and able to successfully charm Mr. Rochester, she would feel extremely jealous. As it is, Jane only feels sorrow that Mr. Rochester is marrying for connections rather than love. One day, a stranger called Mr. Mason arrives while Mr. Rochester is away. Claiming that he is an old acquaintance of Mr. Rochester’s, he is put up for the night. Later that evening, an old “gipsy” woman appears and offers to read the ladies’ fortunes. When Blanche returns from having her fortune told, she is in a noticeably bad mood. A servant approaches Jane and says that the gipsy woman refuses to leave until she has read Jane’s fortune as well.
Jane enters the library, where the gipsy woman is sitting. The woman’s face is covered...
(The entire section is 1,425 words.)