Jane and Rochester's First Encounter
Updated: Mar 6
The text linked below is the text this blog is analysing. We are looking at Chapter 12 starting at "A rude noise..." and ending at "all three vanished,".
Beyond this point, there will be spoilers.
Since the inception of this blog, it has always been my goal to begin to publish an analysis of some of my favourite works of literature. For those who followed my writing on Medium, you will have seen this in my series on Dracula by Bram Stoker. For this blog, I decided to begin with one of my all-time favourites, Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
This blog will assume you have knowledge of the text or have at least read the excerpt discussed. You can find it linked at the top of this post.
Jane and Feminism
One of the most common themes of Jane Eyre, which is widely discussed, is that of Feminism. In many ways, Jane is seen as a woman far ahead of her time in terms of her views and actions. For the most part, this is true, however, this section shows some examples of Jane bowing to male authority and reducing her status.
There are two clear examples of this, which are probably more examples of how Jane would normally be viewed by society, with some exaggeration, to show the growth of her character after her time at Thornfield. After all, she isn't that long away from the constricting environment of Lowood School and it's traditional Christian teachings. It makes sense that she would be still impacted by a school where girls were punished for showing pride and kept isolated from male figures apart from Brocklehurst.
The first example of Jane reducing her status is the most dramatic in its symbolism but relatively subtle. In a single sentence, Jane appears to give superiority to Rochester's dog, Pilot. Rochester falls from his horse and Pilot, being the loyal companion he is, tries desperately to find help. The only person around is Jane, and she doesn't say that she was already on her way to help him and followed Pilot to his master, instead, she starts her explanation to going to Rochester as "I obeyed him".
The second example is a bit more direct and provides a very interesting starting point in terms of the relationship between Rochester and Jane. By the end of the novel, Jane is an independent woman in her own right and on equal footing with Rochester in all ways. However, at this moment, Rochester is still very much the allusive master of Thornfield (even if Jane is unaware of it yet). Here he reduces Jane to what she would have been seen as in most families, a tool for him to use to meet his own ends. Jane has no umbrella or such with her and so in order to get to his horse Rochester states "necessity compels me to make you useful". This sentence has so many connotations attached to it. Firstly, it assumes that Jane can be of no other use to him than as a prop. Then it provides the suggestion that he would rather not have to use Jane but has no choice, parallels to how Governesses tended to be viewed by their employers. Finally, it hints at the way Rochester uses people for his own gains. Consider his use of Blanche Ingram in order to make Jane jealous and test her feelings for him.
Rochester the Deceiver
If there is one thing we learn about Rochester from the beginning it is this, he is a liar. For the majority of his appearance in the novel, Rochester will lie and manipulate to get his own way. While he will ultimately be punished for this sin, we get a very good introduction to this trait of his in this section.
Here we see Rochester taking the fact Jane has never met him before nor had a description of him to see what information he can get out of her. He is trying to begin to assess her character without the constrictions of Master and Servant. However, it is a cruel trick to play on Jane who simply assumes him to be a traveller. While this could be considered purely subtext, the fact that he specifically asks Jane if Rochester is home proves that he knows exactly what he is doing. This lie is further compounded by his statement to "Return as fast as you can", almost as if he is anxious to see her reaction when she realises who he is.
Bronte is clearly telling the reader that this is a man not to be trusted. He will continue to lie for his own amusement and gains until it will consume him in a raging Inferno.
Horror and Supernatural Elements
Throughout the novel, we are put at ill-ease by Bronte's use of suspense. We are treated to several elements more commonly found in Horror novels. By building up the tension as we hear the sounds of the "tramp, tramp" of the horse approaching, you begin to feel uncomfortable about what is about to appear. Bronte pairs this with Jane remembering the ghost stories she was told by Bessie when she was a young girl. The lines between reality and fantasy are then further blurred with the appearance of Pilot, almost exactly like the creature from Bessie's tales.
The most effective element, however, is the actual changing of the scenery around Jane. What was once a calm and comforting evening has been disturbed in more ways than just the noise. The moonlight has made it so that the woods appears as a mass of shadow and Thornfield is cast in an eerie light. This place that so far has appeared as a source of comfort for Jane has now been highlighted as if in a spotlight, a sign that things are about to change and not necessarily for the better.
Finally, we have the way that Rochester and his animals leave. Bronte uses the phrase "...all three vanished..." giving us a further supernatural feel to the whole encounter. Jane then quotes Thomas Moore as she tries to reconcile the unease she feels now that she has been left alone. It's almost as if she is questioning herself whether or not that encounter had actually occurred.