Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapter 37

Summary

Jane rushes to Ferndean, a building buried deep in the woods. While she watches the building, the door slowly opens, and Rochester reaches out a hand to see if it's raining. She notes that his body hasn't changed, but his face looks "desperate and brooding." After Rochester has returned to the house, Jane knocks on the door. Mary is surprised to see her so late at night and in this lonely place.

Mary is taking a tray with candles and a glass of water to Rochester, and Jane volunteers to carry it instead. As she walks into the parlor, Rochester's dog, Pilot, is excited to see Jane, almost knocking the tray from her hand. Rochester wonders what is wrong. Realizing Jane is in the room with him, Rochester initially thinks she is only a disembodied voice. He grabs her hand, and wraps her in his arms. She assures him she's not a dream and promises to stay with him forever.

The next morning, as they wander through the woods, Jane tells Rochester the story of her experiences during the year they've been apart. Rochester is jealous of St. John Rivers, believing she has fallen in love with her handsome cousin. Jane assures him she could never love the cold and despotic St. John. He proposes to her, and she accepts. Rochester then apologizes for trying to make Jane his mistress; he now regrets that decision. He reveals that four nights earlier, during a low point in his life, he had frantically called Jane's name and thought he heard her answer. Jane doesn't tell him about her similar experience, because she doesn't want to upset him in his weakened state. Rochester thanks God for his mercy, vowing to live a purer life from then on.

Analysis

Jane has now reached her final destination: Ferndean. Her description of Ferndean emphasizes its isolation. It is deep in the woods, unsuitable and unhealthy. Recall that earlier in the novel, Rochester chose not to send Bertha there, because he didn't want her to hasten her death. The woods surrounding the building are thick, dark and gloomy, as if lost in a fairy-tale realm; Jane can barely find an opening through the dense trees to the house. Here, Jane and Rochester create the "private island" he longed for earlier in the novel.

In describing Rochester, Jane uses language Rochester often used in the past to characterize her: he is a "wronged" bird, a "caged eagle." But now their positions are reversed: Jane is free, and he is fettered. In their first conversation, Jane emphasizes her independence: "I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress." While earlier Rochester treated Jane as object — his possession — he now accepts her independent subjectivity; thus, when he proposes marriage this time he says, "Never mind fine clothes and jewels, now: all that is not worth a fillip." Like Jane, Rochester needed to "pass through the valley of the shadow of death" in order to become the perfect mate; his fire and virility are tamed and he becomes the ideally docile husband. Rochester suffers more than Jane — blinding, maiming, and complete isolation — because his sins were greater than hers. In fact, critics have often noted that both Bertha and Rochester can be viewed as victims of the forces Jane uses to acquire identity and independence; Bertha's life is sacrificed, as well as Rochester's vision, so that Jane can have her ideal, non-threatening relationship.

Ensconced in Ferndean's desolation, the lovers have also achieved spiritual isolation. While Jane emphasizes Rochester's atonement for the sin of trying to make Jane his mistress, she also reminds readers of the ideal telepathic bond between the lovers. This psychic sympathy leads Jane to hear Rochester's frantic call for her, and for Rochester to pick her response out of the wind. In fact, he even correctly intuits that her response came from some mountainous place. Jane cannot find the words to explain this awful coincidence to Rochester: His mind is already dark, and doesn't need the "deeper shade of the supernatural." Yet the reader's mind evidently doesn't suffer the same deficiency as Rochester's, because Jane is happy to share this odd occurrence with her audience. In some sense, Jane seems to be patronizing Rochester here. If their minds are supposedly in "perfect concord," why can't she share this information with Rochester? Although Brontë used this psychic affinity to emphasize the spiritual bond between the lovers, critics have often argued that the novel relies too heavily on coincidence.

Glossary

faux air false appearance.

jeune encore still young.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How does Jane save Rochester from the fire?




Quiz