April 7, 2011

Thoughts, Re-reading Jane Eyre: Happily Ever After

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Unidentified BrideSpoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers! Spoilers!

Is this the end of Jane?

Worn out, indeed, I was; not another step could I stir.

So Jane has herself in a pickle: she left Thornfield with barely any money and then left her stuff in the carriage she road in her escape. Where was her head? Oh yeah... Jane wanders around in the moors for a few days until she comes upon some village where the locals aren't exactly welcoming. You would think someone would be curious enough to call the cops about a well-bred lady begging for food. Or maybe not.

When Jane is on her last leg, she collapses on the steps of the house of two young women. The housekeeper tries to shoe her away, but the brother comes to her rescue. They take her in and nurse her back to health. Jane takes on an alias to protect herself from being found by Mr R. She finds out this generous family is Mary, Diana and St John Rivers, children of a well respected but poor man who has just died. St John is a clergyman with an ambition to go to India as a missionary. Jane likes the two girls. They are almost kindred spirits. But the girls are going off to be governesses and what will become of Jane?

St John offers her the position as school mistress to the local girls, most of them illiterate. Beggars can't be choosers. Jane takes on the task in her own Jane-ish way, winning over hearts and minds. Go Jane! Meanwhile, the money behind the school, Miss Rosamond Olivier, is in love with St John and he with her but he's being stubborn about it. He has a higher calling and pretty Rosamond won't tempt him away from it. Jane doesn't understand this (and neither do I). He's free to love who he wants to and yet pushes his feelings away.

Believe it or not!

Circumstances knit themselves, fitted themselves, shot into order: the chain that had been lying hitherto a  formless lump of links was drawn out straight...

Now be prepared to suspend your disbelief! St John figures out who Jane really is and guess what? She's now a rich lady. Why? Her rich uncle died and left her all his money. How does St John know this? He's her cousin! Wow! What a small world! Instant family, just add water. Jane shares her wealth with her new relatives and everyone lives happily ever after.

Well, not yet. Jane is still thinking about Mr R. What has happened to the guy? St John is still thinking of India and wants Jane to go with him as his wife. Say what? Yes. He's been grooming her for the job on the sly (the school, teaching her Hindustani, judging her every move). On paper, St John seems like a good catch for Jane. He's handsome, pious, intelligent and driven. But he's cold-hearted, doesn't love Jane, and will likely work her to death. Jane wants to go with him to India but as a free woman. He won't have it. He lays on the guilt and gives her the cold shoulder. The guy is an ass.

Just as Jane is about to give in to St John's constant guilt trips, she hears a voice on the wind: "Jane! Jane! Jane!" She knows then she must find out what happened to Mr R.

Return to Thornfield


Reader, I married him.

Jane makes her way back to Thornfield only to find it a burned out ruin. A few months after she ran off, Bertha burned down the house. In an attempt to rescue her from the flames, Mr R was seriously injured. He's now blind and missing a hand. Jane rushes to Ferndean, Mr R's farm, to be with him. They are reunited and it feels so good. Finally, Jane gets to have her Mr R. Within 3 days, they are married and then have babies.

It's interesting to see how the roles of Jane and Mr R change by the end of the novel. Jane is now a wealthy woman. Mr R is reduced to living in a small house, dependent on his 2 remaining servants. He can't leave where as Jane is free to go as far as India if she chooses. She holds all the cards. She can just turn around and leave him in dire straits. She also plays the jealousy game he once played with her, dangling St John's proposal before him. She's quick to end it though.

Mr R redeems himself. All his nefarious deeds are wiped away. First, he heroically tries to save his mad wife and is injured after he fails. This gives him plenty of time to think. To ponder his wrongs and ask forgiveness. "I thank my Maker, that, in the midst of judgment, he has remembered mercy. I humbly entreat my Redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto!" He hasn't lost all his fire though. He's still a cranky old thing, capable of sparring with Jane.

Final Thoughts

I don't think there is anything like reading Jane Eyre for the first time, not knowing anything about the story. I wish I could read it for the first time again. However, re-reading it has its advantages too. Since I already know what is going to happen, I can pay attention to the details. In my younger days, the romance aspect spoke to me more than it does today. I can see that Mr R is not perfect, but his flaws are what makes him appealing. I never did like a perfect hero. Jane doesn't feel she must change him. When she leaves, she knows his life is in his own hands. He is responsible for what he does not her. Mr R changes because he has time to contemplate his wrongs. When Jane returns, he has a chance to redeem himself.

With every reading, I gain more respect for Jane. She becomes a more confident woman as the novel progresses but she never loses her 'Janeness'. She says what she feels. At this time, women weren't supposed to act as Jane does. She doesn't go around swooning. She saves the hero many times, instead of waiting to be saved by him. She's practical, intelligent but kind and giving. She doesn't wallow in self-pity for long. I wish the young women in novels today were more like Jane.

I do always wonder: what would Jane have done if she found that Bertha was still alive? Would she have stayed with him anyway? What do you think?

Previous Posts:

Gateshead
Lowood
Moving to Thornfield
Party People
One Wedding and a Funeral

2 comments :

  1. Yup, total ass. On so many levels.

    I don't think Jane would've stayed had Bertha still been in the attic. Because, you know, there's that whole issue of Morality, and I don't think Jane could've bucked convention to that extent.

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  2. I have loved reading your reactions to this reread. I think Jane would have stayed nearby to help Rochester as a helper, friend. She would not have compromised her morality. But I'm glad she didn't have that struggle because it all worked out so perfectly. I don't think she'd have gone to India with St. John. You're right, St. John was awful.

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