Jane Eyre Chapters 12 through 21
Starting in at Chapter 12 we have Jane safely ensconced at Thornfield. Things are so quiet and secure there that she actually has a chance to feel a little bored of the limited society and wishes she had more of an opportunity to see the world. Our little bird has flown the nest and seemingly landed in a gilded cage. Of course, things don't stay so sedate for long. In fact, on the day that she finally sets out to see the town, she runs smack into a tall dark stranger who's been thrown from his horse, when it skidded on a patch of ice. And, who should that stranger turn out to be? Well, it's none other than our lord and master, Edward Fairfax Rochester. And so we end any opportunity for Jane to ever be bored again.
I've always had a soft spot for poor, tortured Rochester. I know, not everyone sees him that way. But, as we get to know him, we see the little chinks in his armor, as he reveals more of himself. Rochester's burden is heavy. He wasn't supposed to inherit Thornfield. That honor, upon his father's death, went to his older brother. No, as we'll find out later (I'm just hinting here, not spoiling, I hope) Rochester, Sr. sent his younger son off to increase the family holdings, and in a very sordid way. When the elder brother dies, Rochester does, indeed, inherit Thornfield. But, after all he's been through, it holds little joy for him.
But, he doesn't just have family and familial responsibility woes. In the course of his world travels, he's endured heartache. He met a woman, believed that she loved him, showered her with gifts, paid her way, and discovered that she was kind of a ho. Not only that, but he overheard her being a deceitful two-faced, kind of ho, bad mouthing him. Can you blame the guy for feeling like he just can't win? I get that he always seems so put upon. Not only did she break his heart, she later up and died and left him with her child. While Adele may or may not (I've always assumed not) be his, as is his way, he's taken responsibility for her. And, while he's not exactly father material to this child who is either his from a two-timing showgirl, or the child conceived by a romantic rival with the woman he loved, he's still better to her than those rotten creeps,the Reeds, ever were to Jane.
Sure, Rochester is not a happy man, he comes off so brooding and gruff, when I really believe it's just that he's always got the weight of the world on his shoulders and can never really share his burdens. But, our little Jane not only begins to gradually warm him up and give him a respite from all of his secret woes, but she gets something she's never had before. Until Rochester returned, her quiet cozy little world consisted primarily of Adele and Mrs. Fairfax. The addition of the bold and worldly Rochester gets our girl all kinds of stirred up. I know, people say that Rochester isn't really nice to her and plenty of people don't really like him. But, I think Bronte really does and she tells us in so many ways. The household staff likes and respects him. Sure, they do seem really in the know about his past and his situation, but you can't call them gossips because they share none of that with the new little governess. Readers notice how Jane falls hard for Rochester, too fast and, they think, with too little provocation. But, we already know that Jane loves in return for being loved. Despite how little opportunity she's had for it in the past, it's been established as her way.
For me, this reread has been mostly concentrating on the two Janes. I've never taken notice of the separation between them before. The Jane telling the story is constantly peppering us with the details about the Jane she was and her ignorance of what was going on at Thornfield. I've always just plowed through the story swooning at the romantic bits and thrilling at the eerie, scary bits and laughing at how really smart and funny Rochester is and what it brings out in the little Quaker like maiden who is in his employee. I never stopped to see that the Jane narrating is paving the way for what is to come. Her past ignorance, would be our current state, but we've got the benefit of her experience and she's holding our hand as she leads us through her tale. I believe Jane Eyre to be one of the most reliable narrators ever written.
We end this section with Jane, confused by her feelings for Mr. Rochester. She loves him and knows they'd be good together, but that everyone expects him to marry that stuck up snot, Blanche Ingram. So, she's pretty sure that's what will happen. In that case, she takes a stand for herself and requests leave to find a place, and that Adele be protected from Blanche. (You know that she's one of those people who pinch babies, the epitome of the wicked, evil stepmother). After advocating for herself and her charge, should the dreaded and seemingly inevitable happen (and re-readers, are you paying attention to all that Rochester says and all that he leaves out? That Charlotte Bronte was a clever little minx), she gets her closure from Aunt Reed. Never once stooping to her level, even unto the bitter end. Could truer words be spoken? Mrs. Reed was absolutely bitter to the very end.
Well, that's all I have to report today from the ongoing saga at Thornfield Hall. Until next week, when I'm pretty sure that things are going to get shaken up again. Just as every other time I've read it, I love this book!