Last Updated on October 1, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1575
A few weeks after Jane’s return, she encounters Mr. Rochester while walking through the orchard at sunset. He invites her to sit with him and begins discussing his upcoming wedding to Miss Ingram. He informs Jane that he has found her a new position at a house in Ireland, and Jane expresses her dismay at being so far from Thornfield and from him.
Mr. Rochester admits that he feels a cord of communion connecting his heart to Jane’s. He says if they were to be separated, this cord would snap and cause him great pain. Jane tells him of her grief over leaving him and Thornfield behind but declares that he has given her no choice by selecting a bride. When Mr. Rochester replies, “I have no bride!” Jane passionately admonishes him, asking how, as person possessing a heart and soul, she can possibly be expected to stay at Thornfield and become nothing to him.
To her surprise, Mr. Rochester then asks her to marry him. Jane initially rejects him, thinking that he is speaking in jest. Once Mr. Rochester takes the time to explain to her the depth of his regard, Jane is convinced of his sincerity and accepts his proposal. Mr. Rochester explains that he never intended to marry Blanche Ingram and, recognizing her superficiality, planted a rumor that he lost his fortune. Upon discovering this, Blanche quickly lost interest in him. Mr. Rochester explains that it has always been Jane he intended to marry. The pair hurry back to the hall as it begins to rain, and Mrs. Fairfax is astonished to see Mr. Rochester kiss Jane goodnight. In the night, a bolt of lightning strikes the tree under which Mr. Rochester proposed, splitting it in two.
The next morning, Jane wakes feeling a mixture of bliss and anxiety, believing the events of the previous night were too good to be true. Mrs. Fairfax—unaware that Jane and Mr. Rochester are engaged—is cool and distant toward Jane, believing her to have entered into an immoral affair with him. Even after Jane makes Mr. Rochester explain their engagement, Mrs. Fairfax remains disapproving and skeptical of the match. She warns Jane to distrust herself and remain on her guard until the wedding.
Meanwhile, Mr. Rochester attempts to shower Jane in fine gifts, requesting that his family jewels be removed from storage and insisting on taking her to town for new dresses. She protests these gifts, as it makes her uncomfortable to feel “dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester.” Remembering her uncle’s letter, Jane decides to write to him in the hopes that he will make her his heir. She thinks that having even a small fortune of her own might make her feel less at a disadvantage to her fiance. Plagued by uneasiness and the feeling that things have turned out too well, Jane takes Mrs. Fairfax’s advice and insists on creating some distance between herself and Mr. Rochester until the wedding.
The day before the wedding, Jane is restless. Mr. Rochester has been away, and Jane walks into the orchard to await his return, passing the lightning-struck tree on her way. When Mr. Rochester arrives, he senses that something has upset her. She reveals that the previous night, her wedding dress arrived, accompanied by an expensive veil. That night, she dreamt she was carrying an infant and fruitlessly chasing Mr. Rochester down a winding path. He dismisses her dream, but she then tells him that it was followed by another dream in which she carried an infant up to the ruins of Thornfield Hall and glimpsed Mr. Rochester riding away on the horizon just before the ruins crumbled, waking her. Once awake, she detected a strange woman in her room. The woman, who Jane describes as dark-haired with a “fearful and ghastly” face, savagely ripped Jane’s wedding veil into pieces, causing Jane to faint from fear.
Mr. Rochester tries to dismiss this as merely another bad dream, but Jane tells him that she found the destroyed veil on the floor the next morning. Mr. Rochester then explains that Grace Poole must have ripped the veil. Jane, being only half awake, must have imagined that it was some strange woman. Once again, Jane wonders why Grace Poole is allowed to remain at Thornfield, and Mr. Rochester promises to explain to her the reason for Grace’s presence once they have been married for a year and a day. On Mr. Rochester’s orders, Jane stays in Adèle’s room that night. Unable to sleep, she clutches Adèle until dawn.
After several chapters of buildup, Jane and Mr. Rochester finally openly declare their feelings. Like the rest of their relationship, Jane’s and Mr. Rochester’s confessions of love are unconventional: Mr. Rochester broaches the topic by announcing his intention to marry Blanche Ingram and send Jane away, while Jane lashes out at him and then refuses his initial marriage proposal, not believing him to be serious. Under the impression that Mr. Rochester is toying with her, Jane forcefully declares that he has no right to expect her to endure emotional suffering: “It is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal—as we are!” Though Rochester agrees with her pronouncement, Jane’s claims to spiritual equality highlight the fact that she and Mr. Rochester are not considered equals in the material world. Though they are naturally compatible, the obvious material inequality between Jane and Mr. Rochester continues to make Jane uncomfortable during their engagement.
In the weeks following the proposal, Jane is torn between elation and anxiety: she is delighted to have found the love and companionship she has always wished for, yet she also feels uneasy about her changing relationship with Mr. Rochester. She finds Mr. Rochester’s sudden desire to shower her in extravagant gifts and fine clothes repugnant and worries that he treats her as a doll to do with what he pleases. After their engagement, Mr. Rochester refers to Jane as an “angel” who exists to comfort him, and his expectations—which Jane is quick to correct—seem to confirm her fear that he, in his excitement, has forgotten that she is a real person with her own independent feelings and desires.
Though Jane’s reservations are certainly bolstered by Mr. Rochester’s behavior, her deeper feelings of unease may be attributed to her strong sense of independence. From the beginning, Jane has desired freedom just as much as she has desired love. Even as Mr. Rochester attempts to bind Jane to him, she forcefully asserts her independence: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being, with an independent will.” At some level, Jane may sense that marriage, even to one she truly loves, represents the loss of the independence she values. In this regard, Jane and Mr. Rochester's financial and social inequality make her situation all the more difficult. While Jane may be willing to bind herself to another person in marriage, she is repulsed by the idea of forever being dependent on or beneath someone else, as she was at Gateshead. Jane’s decision to write to her uncle, hoping to secure some fortune of her own, speaks to her dread of feeling like she is indebted to Mr. Rochester.
Even as Jane deals with her rapidly changing position, strange events continue to occur at Thornfield. Mr. Rochester’s insistence that the stranger in Jane’s room was Grace Poole rings false, and his cryptic promise to explain his actions to Jane after a year of marriage makes it abundantly clear that he is hiding something. Even in his proposal, Mr. Rochester makes a mysterious reference to some past sin, murmuring, “It will atone—it will atone.” When Jane reminds Mr. Rochester that she has “no kindred to interfere” with their wedding, he ominously responds, “No—that is the best of it.” Not only does this telling comment suggest that there might be something deeply objectionable about their match, it implies that Mr. Rochester may be knowingly taking advantage of Jane’s isolation and inexperience. One one level, Jane does sense that something is deeply amiss, admitting “if I had loved him less I should have thought his accent and look of exultation savage.” However, she is too overjoyed by the prospect of staying with Rochester to acknowledge the numerous indications that something is wrong, including her inauspicious dream of an infant.
These chapters contain some of the most overt instances of pathetic fallacy in the novel. Pathetic fallacy occurs when human feelings and emotions are attributed to or reflected in parts of nature. Throughout Jane Eyre, the weather often reflects Jane’s emotional state: for example, the storm raging outside in the first chapter of the novel reflects Jane’s misery at Gateshead, while the deep snow and bitter cold during Jane’s first quarter at Lowood mirror her frosty reception and increasing isolation. As Rochester and Jane sit in the orchard, the weather is radiant, reflecting Jane’s happiness and the beauty of her love for Mr. Rochester. As soon as she accepts Mr. Rochester’s proposal, however, a sudden storm appears. The chestnut tree Mr. Rochester proposed under is struck by lightning and cleaved in two, foreshadowing the future of their relationship.
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