Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapters 24-25

Summary

The next morning, Jane wakes, wondering if the previous night was just a dream. She feels transformed; even her face looks different, no longer plain. Believing Jane has taken an immoral turn, Mrs. Fairfax is cool and quiet at breakfast, but Jane feels she must let Rochester give explanations. When she walks up to the schoolroom in search of Adèle, Jane finds Rochester instead. He calls her "Jane Rochester," which she finds frightening, and tells her the wedding will be in four weeks. Jane doesn't believe the wedding will actually happen — it would be a "fairy-tale," too much happiness for a real human.

Rochester vows to make the world recognize Jane's beauty, but she worries that he's trying to transform her into a costumed ape. Jane is upset by Mrs. Fairfax's response to the news of the engagement. Rather than being delighted with the relationship, Mrs. Fairfax warns Jane to maintain a distance from Rochester, because she's worried about the differences between their ages and social classes. Later that day, Jane and Rochester drive to Millcote to make purchases for the wedding, and Adèle rides with them. They shop for silk and jewels, making Jane feel like a "doll." She vows to write her uncle in Madeira when she returns home, reasoning that she'd be more comfortable accepting Rochester's gifts if she knew she'd one day have her own money to contribute to the relationship. That evening, Rochester sings Jane a romantic song, but she has no intention of sinking into a "bathos of sentiment." She plans to keep her distance until after the wedding vows.

In Chapter 25, all of the preparations are ready for the wedding, which takes place the next day. Jane cannot bring herself to label her luggage with the cards that say "Mrs. Rochester," because this person doesn't yet exist. Together, they eat their last dinner at Thornfield before leaving on their European honeymoon. Jane can't eat, but tells Rochester about a strange occurrence that happened the previous night, while he was away: Before Jane went to bed, she discovered a hidden gift from Rochester — an expensive veil from London that she doubts can transform her from a plebian to a peeress. As she slept, she dreamt of a child, too young and feeble to walk, who cried in her arms. Rochester walked on a road ahead of her, but she was unable to catch him. The dream then took her to Thornfield Hall, which had become a "dreary ruin," with nothing remaining but a "shell-like wall." Trying to get a final glimpse of Rochester, she climbed the wall of Thornfield, but it collapsed, causing her to fall and drop the child. When she woke, she saw the figure of a woman in her room, someone she didn't recognize. The woman, whose face was ghastly, "savage," vampirish, threw Jane's veil over her own face. After gazing at herself in the mirror, the woman took the veil off, ripped it in two, and trampled it. Then the woman walked over to Jane's bed and peered into her face, causing her to faint for the second time in her life. When Jane woke in the morning, she discovered the veil on the floor, torn in two, so she knows the experience wasn't a dream.

Rochester thanks God that Jane wasn't harmed and then suggests that the woman must have been Grace Poole. In a state between sleeping and waking, Jane simply didn't recognize her. He promises to explain everything in "a year and a day" after their marriage. Rochester insists that Jane sleep in Adèle's bed this night, with the door securely fastened.

Analysis

Now that Jane has accepted Rochester's proposal, he seems intent on transforming her into the ideal object of affection. Already that morning, he has sent to London to have the family jewels sent to Thornfield for Jane, and he wants her to wear satin, lace, and priceless veils. Jane worries she'll lose herself if "tricked out" in these "stage-trappings." Not only does he want to make Jane a "beauty," Rochester also wants her to be his "angel" and "comforter." Jane reminds him that she simply wants to be herself, not some "celestial" being. A flaw has become apparent in Rochester's approach to love. While he claims to dislike fortune-hunting women, such as Céline Varens or Blanche Ingram, he seems to be trying to turn Jane into one of them. In fact, she argues that if she accepted his demands, he would soon grow tired of her. As "performing ape," Jane would be no better than a kept woman, an elegantly clothed object performing for her master. Instead, Jane wants to maintain both her personality and her independence. What Rochester values in Jane is her pliancy, which allows him to shape her into the woman he desires, something that wouldn't have been possible with a powerful woman like Blanche. Rochester still has much to learn about love.

Allusions to fairy tales continue in this chapter. Rochester tells Adèle that Jane is the fairy from Elf-land whose errand is to make him happy. This fantasy reminds the reader that one of Rochester's primary hopes from this marriage is that it will somehow purify him: For example, he wants to revisit all of his old haunts in Europe, tracing all of his old steps, but now "healed and cleansed" by his angelic Jane. By recreating her as fairy or angel, Rochester fulfills his own fantasy of magically erasing his past transgressions and beginning a fresh, new life.

But what does this fantasy offer Jane? Reduced to muse or "doll," Jane has no power over her own future. Jane makes this idea apparent when she claims Rochester gives her a smile such as a sultan would "bestow on a slave his gold and gems had enriched." Insisting that he prefers his "one little English girl" to the "Grand Turk's whole seraglio," Rochester points to Jane's powerlessness, her reduction to sex slave. Rather than becoming slave, Jane vows she will become a missionary, preaching liberty to women enslaved within harems. While her comments imply a Eurocentric understanding of eastern culture — the enlightened Englishwoman coming to the rescue of poor, imprisoned Turkish women — she insightfully implies that the position of English women isn't much better than that of their Turkish counterparts; both are enslaved by male despotism, which makes women objects of male desire, rather than thinking, independent subjects.

Chapter 25 is filled with prophetic symbols and dreams, as Brontë prepares the reader for the climactic Chapter 26, in which Jane discovers Rochester's secret. As in the previous chapter, nature reflects the coming tragedy. The wind blows fiercely and the moon is blood-red, reflecting an excess of passion. The cloven chestnut tree symbolically foreshadows Jane's future with Rochester, both their impending separation and their ultimate union. Jane's visions of Thornfield's desolation prefigure its charred remains after Bertha Mason torches it. Critics have often seen the child in Jane's dreams as a representation of Jane's fear of marriage or of childbearing. Throughout these chapters, Jane's anxieties about a loss of identity within her marriage are apparent. Thus, her dream of the small child, "too young and feeble to walk," could easily represent her immature self, unable to create an independent identity. When she tries to speak to Rochester, she is "fettered" and "inarticulate" — she feels she will have no power and no voice within the relationship.

As with previous changes in Jane's life, this one is foreshadowed not only by dreams, but also by the appearance of a ghostly apparition, Bertha Mason. This strange woman who rends the wedding-veil in two has been viewed by critics as Jane's double. While the powerless child reflects Jane's feelings of helplessness, Bertha shows Jane's rebellion. Bertha does Jane a favor — Jane didn't like the veil nor the sense that Rochester was trying to alter her identity by buying her expensive gifts, and her resistance is enacted through Bertha's actions. Bertha's vampiric appearance suggests that she is sucking away Rochester's lifeblood, but she also has a sexual power: The "blood-red" moon, a symbol of women's menstrual cycles, is reflected in her eyes. Like Blanche Ingram, Bertha is a woman Rochester can't control, a woman with "savage" and, probably sexual, power. Small and naïve, Jane can't compete with these women. In the final image of this scene, Jane curls up in bed with Adèle — significantly, Rochester has suggested Jane spend the night locked in the nursery, once again emphasizing her childish, dependent status and his desperate attempts to shelter her from Bertha's potent and sexualized rage.

Glossary

sans mademoiselle? without Miss?

Oh, qu'elle y sera mal—peu confortable! Oh, things will be unpleasant for her there—uncomfortable!

un vrai menteur a real liar.

conte de fée a fairy-tale.

du reste, il n'y avait pas de fées, et quand même il y en avait besides, there were no fairies there, and even if there were.

pour me donner une contenance for me to give myself airs.

tête-à-tête an intimate conversation.

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