Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapter 12

Summary

Thornfield meets up to Jane's initial expectations: calm and comfortable. Adèle is a lively, spoiled child, but she is also obedient and teachable. Jane still longs for the busy world of the city, for variety, for conversation with her peers. A restlessness exists in Jane's nature that causes her pain. Walking along the corridor of the third story of the house is her only way of easing this discomfort.

Several months pass, and one day in January, Jane takes a long walk through the fields surrounding Thornfield. As she sits on a hill, watching the moon rising, a noise breaks her reverie; a horse is coming up the lane. While Jane watches for the horse, she thinks of a North-of-England spirit Bessie had once told her about, called a Gytrash. Assuming the form of a horse, mule or large dog, the Gytrash often scared lonely travelers. After thinking this, Jane sees a huge Newfoundland dog gliding through the bushes. A man rides into view, and breaking Jane's spell. His horse slips on a patch of ice, and the man falls. Jane tells the man, who is in his late-thirties and not handsome, that she is the governess at Thornfield and helps him hobble to his horse. Then horse, man, and dog all vanish. Meditating upon the experience, Jane is happy to have offered active assistance. She returns to Thornfield and learns that the man she helped was her employer — Mr. Rochester.

Analysis

In this chapter the reader is shown another example of Jane's restlessness. The quiet haven of Thornfield has become stagnant and lonely, and the uniform, still life it offers provides "an existence whose very privilege of security and ease" that Jane is becoming unable to appreciate. Yearning for a life of excitement, variety, and intellectual stimulation, Jane isn't satisfied with the monotony of Mrs. Fairfax or the youthful simplicity of Adèle. In consequence, Jane spends much time within her own imagination, opening her inward ear to "a tale my imagination created, and narrated continuously; quickened with all incident, life, fire, feeling, that I desired and had not in my actual existence." Jane suggests that her problems are gender-related. Women need active pursuits, 0just as men do; they, too, need to stretch their intellectual limits. Like men, they suffer from rigid restraint and absolute stagnation. Indeed, Jane believes men are "narrow-minded" to suggest women should satisfy themselves with domestic pursuits. Arguing that a silent rebellion is brewing in women's minds, the novel's message is revolutionary.

Jane's momentous meeting with Rochester is significant at many levels. First, her association of Rochester's horse and dog with the mythical Gytrash brings another supernatural element into the story. The massive dog is "a lion-like creature with long hair and a huge head" (at the end of the novel, Rochester will also be described as lionish) Jane is almost surprised when it doesn't look up to her "with strange pretercanine eyes." In English folklore, the Gytrash often appears to warn people of the coming death of a friend or relative, but it also adds a mythic feeling to Jane and Rochester's first meeting that makes their later relationship seem more extraordinary. It is also significant that Rochester is disabled during their first meeting. Having fallen from his horse, Rochester requires Jane's assistance. Many critics have argued that this incident helps to establish equality between the two characters. It also foreshadows Rochester's dependence upon Jane at the end of the novel. Jane also limits Rochester's powers by emphasizing that he is neither handsome nor heroic-looking. Finally, Rochester recognizes Jane's ambiguous class and social position through his inability to guess her role in the Thornfield household; he realizes she isn't a servant, yet her clothes aren't fine enough for a lady's-maid. On Jane's part, she is happy to have left behind, even for a moment, her passive, dependent, feminine status by offering active, and necessary assistance.

Glossary

par parenthèse by the way.

Revenez bientôt, ma bonne amie, ma chère Mdlle Jeanette. Hurry back, my good friend, my dear Miss Jane.

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