Summary and Analysis Chapter 27



Later that afternoon, Jane awakes, wondering what she should do: Leave Thornfield at once is the answer. At first, she doesn't think she can leave Rochester, but an inner voice tells her she both can and should. Jane leaves her room, tripping over Rochester, who sits in a chair outside the door. He carries her down to the library, offering her wine and food. Rochester plans to lock Thornfield up, send Adèle away to school, and escape with Jane to a villa in the south of France, where they would live "both virtually and nominally" as husband and wife. Jane won't accept his logic; if she lived with him, she would be his mistress, a position she doesn't want. Afraid of his passionate nature, Jane calls to God for help.

Rochester tells Jane the history of his family: His greedy father left all of his estate to Rochester's older brother Rowland, so that the property wouldn't be divided. When Rochester left college, he was sent to Jamaica to marry Bertha, who supposedly would receive a fortune of thirty thousand pounds. Bertha was a beautiful woman, tall and majestic like Blanche Ingram. Bertha seemed to be a dazzling woman and Rochester was aroused by her. He mistook this lust for love. Before he knew it, they were married. After the honeymoon, Rochester learned that Bertha's mother was shut in an asylum and her younger brother was mentally challenged. Ultimately, Bertha's excesses led her into premature insanity. Rochester contemplates suicide, but then decides to return to Europe with Bertha. Both his father and brother are dead, and no one else knows of his marriage. Rochester spends the next ten years searching for a woman to love, but finds only mistresses. From his story, Jane realizes she can never live with Rochester; she would become simply another of his now-despised mistresses.

That night, Jane dreams her mother, transformed from the moon, whispers into her heart, "My daughter, flee temptation." Jane does. She packs up a few trinkets, grabs her purse, which contains a mere twenty shillings, and steals away. Walking past Rochester's room, Jane knows she could find a "temporary heaven" there, but she refuses to accept it. Instead, she sneaks out of the house, beginning a journey far away from Thornfield.


In this chapter, Jane learns more about Rochester's past, particularly his relationship with Bertha. Much of this information hinges on the problem of excessive sexuality. As Rochester constantly reminds Jane, he is not "cool and dispassionate"; instead, he seems to devour her with his "flaming glance." His passionate nature seems to have contributed to his marriage, and to his current problems. When he first arrived in Spanish Town, Rochester found Bertha dazzling, splendid, and lavish, all qualities that excited his senses. But he soon discovers that she is sexually excessive: "coarse," "perverse," "intemperate," and "unchaste." Rochester implicitly suggests his inability to control Bertha then (as now) hinges on her sexuality: She chose her own sexual partners, refusing to maintain the monogamy required by British moral standards. While he criticizes Bertha's sexual excess, Rochester participates in his own with his three mistresses — Céline, Giacinta, and Clara — and his current attempt to make Jane part of the harem. When he tries to accuse Jane of flinging him back to "lust for a passion — vice for an occupation," she reminds him that these are his choices. She senses that his passion is out of control — he's in a "fury" and glowing like a furnace, with "fire" flashing from his eyes — and Jane needs to walk away from the relationship until he has learned self-control and until she can enter the relationship on a more equal footing.

These are not lessons Jane wants to learn. To keep herself from the "temporary heaven" of Rochester's bedroom, Jane hears prophetic voices that guide her on the path of moral righteousness. When the chapter begins, a voice instructs her to leave Thornfield at once. Later, a kinder voice, the moon transformed into the "white human form" of her mother, insists she flee the temptations in Rochester's thorny field. Therefore, Jane sets out on the next stage of her quest: to regain her personal identity, almost lost through her consuming passion for Rochester. Significantly, when she leaves Thornfield, Jane takes only a few trinkets with her — no extra clothes, nothing to remind her of her past life, nothing associated with the "visionary" bride she had almost become. Jane is slowly stripping herself down to nothing, so she'll be able to rebuild herself from nothing. Her future is now "an awful blank: something like the world when the deluge was gone by." Just like the passengers on Noah's Ark after the rains subsided, Jane is beginning life with nothing but a great emptiness.