Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapters 28-29

Summary

Two days later, the coachman drops Jane off in Whitcross. He couldn't take her any further because she has run out of money. Accidentally, Jane leaves her packet in the coach and is now destitute. Nature is Jane's only relative, the "universal mother" who will lodge her without money, so Jane spends the night sleeping on the heath. Too hurt by memories of her broken heart to sleep, Jane rises, kneeling in the night, and prays to God. The next morning, she follows the road past Whitcross. Walking to the point of fatigue, she finally finds a town and enters a bakery to beg for bread or a job. No one will help her, and even the parson is away, at Marsh End, due to the sudden death of his father. Finally, she finds a farmer who gives her a slice of brown bread.

That night, Jane is unable to sleep peacefully in the woods. The only food she eats the next day is a pot of cold porridge that a little girl was about to throw into a pig trough. Across the moors, she suddenly sees the light of a house. Jane follows a road leading to the house, and enters its gate, peering in the lighted window. Inside she sees a well-kept house, a rough-looking elderly woman, and two graceful ladies dressed in mourning. The women are waiting for their brother, St. John, to return home. These cultivated young women, named Diana and Mary Rivers, are practicing their German. Jane knocks on the door, but the old servant, Hannah, turns her away. St. John overhears the conversation and offers Jane shelter because he thinks she's "a peculiar case." The Rivers offer her bread and milk and allow her to stay for the night. Jane tells them her name is "Jane Elliott."

Jane spends three days and nights in bed. Diana and Mary are happy to have taken her in, believing she would have died if they had left her outside. Looking at Jane, they conclude that she is well educated, because nothing in her appearance indicates "vulgarity or degradation." On the fourth day, Jane rises and dresses in her freshly washed clothes; she is once again clean and respectable, with no traces of dirt or disorder in her appearance. Jane goes downstairs and works in the kitchen with Hannah, from whom she learns that the house is called Marsh End or Moor House and is owned by the Rivers. Jane lectures Hannah for unfairly judging the poor, and Hannah begs Jane's forgiveness for initially denying her entrance to the house; the two women slowly become friends. From Hannah, Jane discovers that the Rivers are an "ancient" family. Several years ago, their father lost much money when a man he trusted went bankrupt, so Diana and Mary were forced to find work as governesses. Mr. Rivers died three weeks earlier of a stroke.

Jane tells the Rivers some of her history. The reason for her departure from her governess position she doesn't reveal, but assures them that she was blameless in the situation. She tells them Jane Elliott isn't her real name. Knowing Jane won't want to accept their charity for long, St. John promises to find her some unglamorous job.

Analysis

Jane has reached the dark night of her soul. Leaving the carriage that has brought her to Whitcross, Jane has nothing but the clothes she's wearing. Before beginning the final section of her journey of self-discovery, Jane must strip herself of all connections with humanity and rediscover her spiritual self. In some ways, this separation from society may be her punishment for the passion that elevated Rochester above God in her imagination and for her near participation in a bigamous relationship. Nature becomes Jane's mother, and she seeks repose at this great mother's breast. For her, nature is "benign and good," a safe mother who loves Jane, even though she's an outcast. Closely aligned with nature is God, whom Jane realizes is everywhere: At those moments when closest to nature, "we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence." Like nature, Jane's God is filled with bounty, compassion, and forgiveness. The difference between Jane's loving God, and the malicious, demanding Christ of Mr. Brocklehurst or Eliza Reed is apparent. Nor is Jane's God similar to Helen Burns.' While Helen's God taught her to savor heaven over earth, Jane's God is closer to a pagan spirit, who offers both spirituality and material comfort. Jane wishes she could live in and on the natural world, but she can't. Instead, she must return to the company of humans to find food and permanent shelter. But her experience in the wilderness has begun to repair her damaged spirit.

Jane's return to the human world is difficult. Penniless and dirty, she discovers that beggars are often objects of suspicion, and "a well-dressed beggar inevitably so." Because she doesn't fit into any class, neither a "real" beggar nor a "real" lady, Jane is outside of society's pre-ordained categories, and therefore, is viewed with mistrust and rejection. As Hannah says, "You are not what you ought to be, or you wouldn't make such a noise." Hannah implies that moral transgression is the only answer for the question of Jane's destitute position. In some sense, she's right. By placing her love for Rochester above all spiritual concerns, Jane has in some ways transgressed, and her present journey charts the process of her atonement. Washed of all sins by her night on the dewy moors, Jane is now ready to reenter human community. Peering through the window of the house on the moors, Jane sees an idyllic world. Unlike the stateliness of Thornfield, in which Jane felt inferior, the rustic simplicity of this cottage is comforting. Diana and Mary, serene, intelligent, and graceful, are the models of femininity that Jane seeks, and Jane is comforted by their "power and goodness." Similarly, St. John's willingness to allow an unknown beggar into his home suggests compassion, something Jane hasn't often known. As she crosses the threshold of his house, Jane no longer feels an "outcast, vagrant, and disowned by the wide world." She is able to put aside the character of mendicant and resume her "natural manner and character"; she says, "I began once more to know myself." Jane's dark night has ended: She lost herself on the moors but has rediscovered herself in the comfort of the Rivers' home.

Jane has reached the final destination on her journey of discover; significantly, the house is called Marsh End, as Jane has reached the end of her march. This chapter develops the personalities of the residents at Marsh End. The housekeeper, Hannah, has been with the family for thirty years and works hard to protect Diana and Mary. Hannah admits she has no respect for Jane, because she has neither money nor a home. This class prejudice angers Jane, who reminds Hannah that poverty is no sin; in fact, many of the best people, such as Christ, lived destitute, and a good Christian shouldn't reject the poor. In this section, Jane recognizes the spiritual value of her experience of absolute poverty, which has stripped her of all markings of class. Now, however, she rejects the label of "beggar," showing that she, like Hannah, has prejudices against those who beg for a living. Jane has been careful to erase all signs of dirt and "disorder" from her appearance, so she can resume her proper identity. Similarly, the record she provides of Diana and Mary's conversations about her as she slept emphasizes her ladylike appearance: she is educated, her accent is pure, and her appearance doesn't indicate decadence. While Jane warns Hannah not to judge the poor, Jane is careful to erase all marks of poverty from her own appearance.

From Hannah, Jane discovers that the Rivers are ancient gentry, class-related information that will be important to Jane later in the novel. Their superiority is evident in Diana's and Mary's appearances and manners. Both women are charming, pretty, and intelligent, although Mary is more reserved than the more willful Diana. Like Miss Temple, these women provide Jane with a model of compassionate, refined, intellectually stimulating, and morally superior femininity that contrasts with the capriciousness of the Reeds and the self-centeredness of Blanche Ingram. St. John River's appearance also indicates a moral and intellectual superiority. According to Jane, his face's pure outline is Greek, and he has "a straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin." St. John's classic, handsome features contrast with Rochester's rugged appearance. The two men are like ice and fire. While St. John's blue eyes and ivory skin align him with ice, Rochester's dark hair and passionate nature connect him with fire. Jane immediately detects a restlessness or hardness under St. John's seemingly placid face, however. The differences between the two men will be further developed as the novel progresses.

Glossary

Da trat hervor Einer, anzusehen wie sie Sternen Nacht. Only one person came forward, to be watched like a crystal clear night.

Ich wäge . . . Grimms. I weigh my thoughts on a small scale, my temper and behavior with weights the size of my outburst.

Deutsch German.

bairn a child.

alias an assumed name.

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