Jane’s wedding day arrives but there is not much joy in the beginning and the bridegroom appears rather grim.
“I wonder what other bridegroom ever looked as he did — so bent up to a purpose, so grimly resolute: or who, under such steadfast brows ever revealed such flaming and flashing eyes.”
Rochester nearly drags her to the church, where the priest begins the ceremony but, lo, a man arrives claiming an impediment to the union. It is the solicitor of Mr. Mason, accompanied by said fellow, who claims that Rochester has a wife yet living. At the declaration, Rochester at first challenges the claim, then appears to accept the accusation. He leads them all to a room in Thornfield where a wild woman resides and tells the story of being tricked into marriage with her while her family hid her mental disorder. Jane discovers that her uncle had learned of her impending marriage and Mr. Mason happened to be there at the time, setting out soon after to prevent it. She retreats to her room and proceeds to examine her predicament with a heartbreaking earnestness. She sends a prayer to God in her desolation.
|The Wedding Morning
John Henry Frederick Bacon
After agonizing over the morning, Jane finally leaves her room to find Rochester in a chair outside waiting for her. He carries her downstairs, gives her food and wine to revive her and then begins to tell of his plans for their future life. When Jane appears to resist, he realizes that he has not explained how he arrived at his predicament and tells her the story of his marriage —- how he was tricked by his father, older brother and Bertha Mason’s family into making her his bride. Blinded by her looks, he agreed to the union, only to find her insane and after four years had to lock her up. Returning to England, she became the inmate of Thornfield and he regrets that he did not appeal to Jane’s magnanimity and tell her the truth earlier. He seems to think that they will still be married but Jane disavows him of that notion right away, even though her heart is in conflict while it is being torn asunder. In spite of, first his anger, and then his tormented pain, Jane resists his entreaties. That night, she leaves, walking for miles alone and then finally gets a ride in a coach to the farthest town she is able.
“Gentle reader, may you never feel what I then felt! May your eyes never shed such stormy, scalding, heart-wrung tears as poured from mine. May you never appeal to Heaven in prayers so hopeless and so agonized as in that hour left my lips; for never may you, like me, dread to be the instrument of evil to what you wholly love.”
|Lover’s Walk, Dolgelly (1867)
Thomas Stuart Smith
The coach takes Jane as far as Whitcross which is really only a marker in the road. She begins to wander, coming to a town where at first she is too reticent to beg, then as hunger begins to gnaw at her, she asks for food, all while she still aches for Rochester.
“My rest might have been blissful enough, only a sad heart broke it. It plained of its gaping wounds, its inward bleeding, its riven chords. It trembled for Mr. Rochester and his doom; it bemoaned him with bitter pity; it demanded him with ceaseless longing; and, impotent as a bird with both winds broken, it still quivered its shattered pinions in vain attempts to seek him.”
Inquiring about work, no one seems to help her and she resigns herself to a fate of death from hunger and cold. Yet at the last moment she is drawn to a little cottage where she sees a servant and two young women inside. Attracted by their calm, pleasant demeanours, she knocks on the door but to her despair, the servant Hannah, refuses her admittance. She is only saved by a young man, St. John, who returns and takes her inside, feeding her and giving her a bed for the night.
Ah, here is the ripping, the tearing away of Jane and Rochester. Brontë does an excellent job in conveying Jane’s anguish but in a way that is very in tune with her character. Her quiet suffering is almost more effective than any outward display. For a rather practical man, Rochester is in the grip of delusion, which communicates the love he has for her. He still believes that she will agree to marry him, and one wonders how much he really knows Jane. Yet his actions display a rather passionate desperation which made me pity him and feel impatience with him all at the same time. Hopefully Jane’s actions will model a deeper love to him and eventually he’ll respect her decisions. I must say this is one of my favourite parts in the book, despite the sadness and drama.
Her wandering aimlessly around the countryside is certainly not riveting, but it does illustrate the lack of compassion people seem to have for each other. The fact that she’s a young homeless girl does not seem to touch anyone’s heartstrings. I wonder if this is an accurate portrayal of human attitudes or simply a device to move the story along.
The weakest part of the book is in this section. What a coincidence that her uncle just happened to live on this particular Caribbean island, and what a coincidence that he just happens to run into Mr. Mason, who just happens to have the marriage revealed to him so he can stop it and THEN even more manipulation of the uncle by making him so sick that Jane cannot go to him, nor he to her. Not the best plot crafting by Brontë.
I didn’t know until my fourth or fifth reading of this book that St. John is pronounced, “Sin-jun”. Do any of my British blog followers, or anyone else for that matter, know the reasoning behind this creative British pronunciation?