Last Updated on October 1, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1140
Having fled Thornfield, Jane spends all of her money to catch a ride in a passing coach. After accidentally leaving her parcel of provisions in the coach, Jane is forced to wander through the moors and sleep outdoors without any food. Eventually, Jane reaches a small town and attempts, unsuccessfully, to find work. Growing desperate, Jane resorts to begging for food, an experience she finds utterly degrading. Nearly everyone Jane approaches refuses to help her, though she does not blame them for being suspicious of a beggar dressed in such fine clothes. At one point, she tries to exchange her gloves and handkerchief for bread, but the woman at the shop refuses accept them. Jane approaches several houses, but none need servants.
Exhausted and nearly starved, Jane stumbles across the moors until she sees a light in the distance. She follows the light to its source and sees a house. Spying through the window, Jane sees two young women reading what appears to be German. Listening to their conversation, Jane surmises that the two young ladies are named Mary and Diana and that the old woman sitting with them is their servant, Hannah. They appear to be waiting for their brother St. John to arrive. Jane knocks on the door and asks Hannah whether she may speak with the mistresses. Thinking her a beggar, Hannah rebuffs her, though Jane proclaims, “But I must die if I am turned away.” All hope lost, Jane sinks on the doorstep and begins to cry. Prepared to die, she announces her faith in God’s will. Suddenly, the young ladies’ brother, St. John, appears, having overheard her proclamation. Suspecting that she is no ordinary beggar, he allows Jane to enter the house. Jane, too weak to explain her story, merely tells them that her name is “Jane Elliott.” She is fed and quickly shown to a room to rest. She thanks God before falling into a deep sleep.
For three days, Jane is too weak to rise from bed. She is cared for by Hannah and the two sisters. Though she is too exhausted to speak, Jane hears them speculate about her fine clothes and educated speech. St. John suspects that she is a lady who has become separated from her friends. He remarks that she appears “sensible, but not at all handsome.” When Jane finally rises, she goes downstairs to sit with the servant, Hannah. Jane informs Hannah that she is not a beggar but an educated woman. Hannah apologizes for mistaking Jane for a beggar, but Jane admonishes her for her uncharitable attitude toward the poor. Hannah admits she is in the wrong, and the two reconcile. From Hannah, Jane learns that the house is called “Moor House” and belongs to the Rivers family. After their father lost most of his money on a bad business deal, the Rivers children were forced to set off and find work. Hannah reveals that St. John Rivers is a parson, while both Diana and Mary Rivers are governesses. The three of them are only staying at the house temporarily because it was their father’s and he has recently died. When Jane finally has the chance to speak with the sisters and St. John, she refuses to tell them where she has come from and admits that “Jane Elliot” is not her real name. She tells them that she is highly educated but is willing to do any sort of work. St. John promises to help her find a position. He asks whether she is married, and Jane, remembering the events at Thornfield, blushes uncomfortably before admitting that she is not.
Jane's flight from Thornfield nearly takes her life, and as she wanders through the moors, she is overcome by feelings of both physical and emotional isolation:
Not a tie holds me to human society at this moment—not a charm or hope calls me where my fellow-creatures are—none that saw me would have a kind thought or a good wish for me.
In her solitude and desperation, Jane turns to God, and her choice to follow the light that takes her to the Rivers’ house has spiritual connotations, symbolizing Jane’s decision to “walk in the light” by living correctly and following God. Indeed, it is Jane's faith that ultimately saves her when St. John, a deeply religious man, hears her proclaim, “I believe in God. Let me try to wait His will in silence.” Moved, he takes pity on her and lets her in. Jane views God as her guide in times of hardship, and her unwavering faith in God’s mercy is what sees her through her perilous and humiliating journey from Thornfield to Moor House.
Though Jane does not often speak of her religious beliefs, she is quite sensitive to those around her who profess to be Christian yet act cruelly and uncharitably toward others. Young Jane was powerless to challenge hypocritical Christians—like Mr. Brocklehurst and Mrs. Reed—at Lowood and Gateshead. Now as a self-assured adult, she speaks out against this hypocrisy when she observes it in Hannah, informing her that as a Christian, she “ought not to consider poverty a crime.” Jane’s forceful declaration that “some of the best people that ever lived have been as destitute as I am” recalls her childhood conversation with Mr. Lloyd, in which she claimed that she would rather live with her unwelcoming relatives than live with a poor family that was kind to her. Jane has since met many kinds of people and experienced poverty herself; thus, she now comprehends that goodness and morality are far more important than wealth.
At Moor House, Jane once again finds a home. After worrying that leaving Thornfield would also mean leaving behind all opportunity for human connection, Jane is pleasantly surprised by the kindness and generosity of the Rivers family, especially Mary and Diana. Their position as governesses puts them on equal footing with Jane, and through the companionship of these educated yet poor women, Jane is finally relieved of the loneliness of her unusual social position. Though Jane enjoys the company of the sisters, she knows that the family’s stay at Moor House is only temporary. Wishing, as always, to become more self-sufficient, Jane asks St. John to help her find a position. Jane’s willingness to do humble work—“I will be a dressmaker; I will be a plain work-woman; I will be a servant, a nurse-girl, if I can be no better”—demonstrates the depth of her desire to be financially independent, and her resiliency shines through in these chapters. Though she is still heartbroken by what occurred at Thornfield, she is determined to view her new situation as an opportunity to become truly autonomous, free from all the ties and obligations of her former life.
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