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...
(The entire section is 1425 words.)