Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapters 18-19

Summary

With guests at Thornfield, life is cheerful. One night, they are preparing for a game of charades. Rochester's group goes first, pantomiming a marriage ceremony with Rochester and Blanche as the happy couple. They then enact the story of Eliezer and Rebecca, and end with Rochester as a prisoner in chains. Colonel Dent's team correctly guesses the overall meaning of the three charades: Bridewell, an English prison. No longer interested in the charades, Jane watches the interactions between Rochester and Blanche. Their intimate style of conversing leads Jane to believe they will soon marry.

But Jane doesn't believe they love each other. Rochester is marrying for social and political reasons, while Blanche is marrying for money. Mr. Mason an old acquaintance of Rochester's, arrives one day. Jane immediately dislikes Mason's "unsettled and inanimate" face. From Mason, she learns that Rochester once lived in the West Indies.

A gypsy woman, old Mother Bunches, arrives from a nearby camp and wants to tell the fortunes of "the quality." Lady Ingram wants the old woman sent away, but Blanche insists upon having her fortune told. After fifteen minutes with the old woman, Blanche returns, and has obviously received disappointing news. Mary Ingram and Amy and Louisa Eschton have their fortunes read together and return laughing, impressed by Mother Bunches' intimate knowledge of their lives. Finally, the gypsy insists upon telling Jane's fortune. Jane isn't frightened, just interested and excited.

Jane enters the library and finds the gypsy woman seated snugly in an easy chair. She sits in front of the fire, reading something that looks like a Prayer Book. Despite Jane's protests to the contrary, the gypsy woman tells Jane she is cold, sick, and silly. Jane, she foretells, is very close to happiness; if Jane made a movement toward it, bliss would result. Soon the gypsy's speech has wrapped Jane in a dream-like state, and she is surprised by how well the old woman knows the secrets of her heart. The gypsy also explains that she (the gypsy) crushed Blanche's marriage hopes by suggesting Rochester isn't as wealthy as he seems. The gypsy then reads each of Jane's features, as the voice drones on it eventually becomes Rochester's. Jane tells Rochester the disguise was unfair and admits she had suspected Grace Poole of being the masquerader. Before leaving, Jane tells Rochester about Mason's arrival; he is visibly upset by this news. Rochester worries that Mason has told them something grave or mysterious about him. Later that night she hears Rochester happily leading Mason to his room.

Analysis

More aspects of Blanche Ingram's bad behavior are presented in this chapter. For example, she pushes Adèle away with "spiteful antipathy" and her treatment of Jane isn't much better: She "scorned to touch [Jane] with the hem of her robes as she passed" and quickly withdrew her eyes from Jane "as from an object too mean to merit observation." Jane concludes that Blanche is an inferior example of femininity because, like Céline Varens, she is showy, but not genuine. Her heart is "barren," her mind is "poor," and she lacks "freshness," the one trait Rochester claims to be searching for. Qualities Jane admires in women include force, fervor, kindness, and sense.

The chapter contains many prophetic events. Linking marriage with imprisonment, the charade foreshadows the circumstances of Rochester's marriage that has trapped him for life with a mad woman; Rochester is stuck in a "Bridewell" of his own creation. The arrival of Mr. Mason also prefigures change. Immediately disliking the tame vacancy of Mason's eyes, Jane compares him with Rochester, finding they differ like a gander and a falcon. Mason's difference lies in foreignness; recently arrived from the West Indies, Mason appears to suffer from a heat-induced languor. Mason will play a pivotal role in the plot of the story, and his presence provides another example of how foreigners are denigrated in this novel.

In posing as a gypsy woman, Rochester is assuming an ambiguous role — a position of both gender and class inferiority. In his disguise, he is almost denied admittance to his own home, and is referred to here by Jane as "mother" rather than "master." Many critics argue Jane's relationship with Rochester is marked by ambiguities of equality and independence: In their first meeting, for example, Rochester is dependent upon Jane to return to his horse. As gypsy woman, Rochester breaks gender boundaries and further aligns himself with mystical knowledge. During this tale, Rochester wears a red cloak, connecting with other red images in the novel and showing his connection with the element of passion. Given the class differences between them, Rochester can't reveal his feeling for Jane in plain English, but must keep his words, like his face, veiled. As his language becomes plainer, more directly revealing the secrets of her heart, it paradoxically leads her not into reality, but into a dream state: Jane says the gypsy's strange talk leads Jane into "a web of mystification."

Rochester's almost supernatural powers are highlighted in this scene: His ability to weave a magical web around Jane with words and, more importantly, his ability to look almost directly into her heart so she feels an "unseen spirit had been sitting for weeks by my heart watching its workings and taking record of every pulse." He has also seen through Blanche's heart, recognizing her fortune-hunting mission. His witch's skill is being able to peer deeply into women's hearts, extracting their secrets: Notice that he does not tell the fortunes of any of the men in the party.

Glossary

Voilà Monsieur Rochester, qui revient! Look, it's Mr. Rochester returning!

surtout an overcoat.

le cas an occasion.

diablerie witchcraft

ad infinitum endlessly

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