Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapter 32

Summary

After working with her students for a while, Jane discovers some intelligence among them. Jane is even surprised by their progress and begins personally to like some of the girls — and they like her. Jane teaches them grammar, geography, history, and needlework. Despite her popularity within the community and her growing happiness with her job, Jane is still troubled by strange dreams at night in which she always meets Rochester. Rosamond Oliver visits the school almost every day, usually when St. John is giving his daily catechism lesson. Although he knows Rosamond loves him, and he obviously loves her, St. John is not willing to sacrifice his heavenly ambition for worldly pleasure. When Rosamond learns that Jane can draw, she asks her to make a portrait.

St. John visits Jane while she is working on Rosamond's portrait. He has brought her a book of poetry, Sir Walter Scott's Marmion. While St. John gazes at Rosamond's picture, Jane offers to make him a copy, then, being bold, she suggests that he marry Rosamond at once. For exactly fifteen minutes, St. John imagines himself yielding to Rosamond, allowing human love to overwhelm him with its pleasures. Although St. John loves Rosamond wildly, he knows she wouldn't be a good wife for him, and he'd probably tire of her in twelve months. Rosamond wouldn't make an effective missionary's wife, and St. John isn't willing to relinquish his goals, because he is a cold, hard, ambitious man. As they sit talking, St. John suddenly notices something on Jane's blank piece of paper. She doesn't know what it is, but he snatches the paper, then shoots Jane a "peculiar" and "inexpressible" glance. He replaces the paper, tearing a narrow slip from the margin, then bids Jane "good-afternoon."

Analysis

Both Jane and St. John suffer from unrequited love in this chapter. While Jane is pleased with her "useful existence," she isn't fully satisfied with her new, safe life, and her repressed desires manifest at night in strange dreams: "dreams many-coloured, agitated, full of the ideal, the stirring, the stormy." Filled with adventure and romance, these dreams often lead her to Rochester. Similarly, St. John's "repressed fervour" for Rosamond shows in a subtle glow in this "marble-seeming features." A statesman, priest, and poet, St. John is unable to limit himself to a single passion or to "renounce his wide field of mission warfare" for the tamer pleasures of love. For St. John, missionary work won't involve compassion or joy, but "warfare."

This chapter also provides us with a short explanation of the role of art in modern life. Looking at the copy of Sir Walter Scott's poem Marmion, Jane calls it "one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate public of those days — the golden age of modern literature." Scott's poetry belonged in the era of Romanticism, and it isn't surprising Jane should view the Romantics as the ideal of modern literature. Her own narrative inherits many themes and landscapes from them: the hills and moors of Scott and the romantic and passionate hero of Byron. In the Victorian era, the artist seemed in danger of becoming caught in the capitalist marketplace, as the industrial revolution ushered in a new focus on profitability. Jane assures her reader that neither poetry nor genius are dead, "nor has Mammon gained power over either, to bind or slay." Even in a capitalist age, art will maintain its freedom and strength: "they not only live, but reign and redeem: and without their divine influence spread everywhere, you would be in hell — the hell of your own meanness." These quotes indicate Brontë's own anxieties about the position of the artist in the modern world, yet she vehemently maintains art's spiritual power, which keeps it separate from mundane contamination. Art and genius are "[p]owerful angels, safe in heaven" that will redeem and enlighten.

Glossary

lusus naturae a freak of nature; something with some abnormal characteristic. [Latin]

Cui bono? To what good? [Latin]

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