Literary Romantic Moment: Jane Eyre Returns to Mr. Rochester
The Book: Jane Eyre
The Pairing: Jane Eyre and Edward Fairfax Rochester
The Moment: Jane Returns to Mr. Rochester
Jane Eyre fans likely all have that one favorite moment from the book between the titular heroine and her true love, the mysterious Mr. Rochester. Some love the proposal scene best or their first meeting, some prefer their quiet talks, the time Jane saved his life or even their angst-ridden goodbye scene. I have always had a special fondness for the moment when Jane returns to Mr. Rochester after their long and difficult separation. Perhaps because of the parallels this scene shares with a similar one in any version of the Beauty and the Beast fairytale. It may be that, at least in the eye of society, Jane and Rochester are closer to being equals than they ever were before, so the power dynamic feels more fairly weighted. There is also nothing to keep them apart but their own selves. It is a passionate reunion which means a great deal to both parties, a meeting that previously neither had believed was likely or even possible.
Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester
The timeless tale of a young, downtrodden governess who develops first an understanding, a close friendship, then a deep love with her unusual and Byronic master. Two individuals who by rights, at least at the time, would have nothing in common and yet establish a connection stronger than even the laws of physics. Alas, just as all is well and a wedding is certain, skeletons fall out of closets and Jane must leave or risk a life of sin that would make her lose all respect for herself.
After leaving Rochester, Jane finds herself at the mercy of the elements on the moors after leaving her belongings on the coach. She eventually stumbles half-dead onto the doorstep of her long lost half-cousins. After some time spent convalescing, she becomes very close with her newfound family. She also inherits a large sum of money from her uncle in Madeira. A sudden loveless proposal from one of them brings a jarring reminder of the man whom she has loved and lost. Jane realizes she must seek out Mr. Rochester again, even if only to see that he is alive. She departs. After finding Thornfield to be a blackened ruin, she learns that Mr. Rochester has removed to Fearndean Manor, having isolated himself after losing Jane and being injured in the fire that ruined his home. She lets herself into his room, carrying the tray that Mary would usually bring to him. Since he lost most of his sight in the fire, she remains silent, allowing him to discover her presence for himself.
The Romantic Moment
She finds Mr. Rochester in the room sitting by the fire with his dog Pilot. She approaches with the water glass tray. Pilot is pleased to see her.
Jane Eyre: Lie down! (Quietly.)
Mr. Rochester is curious but dismissing this unusual behavior from the dog as his being excitable.
Mr. Rochester: Give me the water, Mary.
Jane comes closer. Pilot follows, still excited to see his lost friend. Rochester senses the dog’s excitement is unusual.
Mr. Rochester: What is the matter?
Jane Eyre: Down, Pilot!
He stops for a moment but drinks the water. Jane, like the audience, is holding her breath.
Mr. Rochester: This is you, Mary, is it not?
Jane: Mary is in the kitchen.
He puts out his hand in alarm.
Mr. Rochester: Who is this? Answer me- speak again!
Mr. Rochester gets more distressed, attempting to see with his damaged eyes. Jane persists in her ruse, most likely willing him to guess it is she. She is perhaps trying to savor the moment before he understands.
Jane: Will you have a little more water, Sir. I spilt half of what was in the glass.
Mr. Rochester: Who is it? What is it? Who speaks?
Jane: Pilot knows me, and John and Mary know I am here. I came only this evening.
Mr. Rochester begins to understand but can’t believe it could be.
Mr. Rochester: Great God! –What delusion has come over me? What sweet madness has seized me?
Jane: No delusion-no madness: your mind, sir, is too strong for delusion, your health too sound for frenzy.
Mr. Rochester: And where is the speaker? Is it only a voice? Oh! I cannot see, but I must feel, or my heart will stop and my brain burst. Whatever-whoever you are-be perceptible to the touch or I cannot live.
He reaches out his hand and she takes it in both of hers.
Mr. Rochester: Her very fingers. Her small slight fingers! If so, there must be more of her.
He sits up and reaches for her, taking her in his arms.
Mr. Rochester: Is it Jane? What is it? This is her shape-this is her size—
Jane: And this is her voice. She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, sir! I am glad to be so near you again.
Mr. Rochester: Jane Eyre-Jane Eyre.
He speaks in wonder, not quite able to comprehend it.
Jane: My dear master. I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out- I am come back to you.
Mr. Rochester: In truth? In the flesh? My living Jane?
Jane: You touch me, Sir,-you hold me, and fast enough: I am not cold like a corpse, nor vacant like air, am I?
Mr. Rochester: My living Darling! These are certainly her limbs, and these her features; but I cannot be so blest, after all my misery. It is a dream; such dreams I have had at night when I have clasped her once more to my heart, as I do now; and kissed her, as thus- and felt that she loved me, and trusted that she would not leave me.
Jane: Which I never will, sir, from this day.
Mr. Rochester: Never will, says the vision? But I always woke and found it an empty mockery; and I was desolate and abandoned-my life dark, lonely, hopeless-my soul athirst, and forbidden to drink-my heart famished and never to be fed. Gentle, soft dream, nestling in my arms now, you will fly, too, as your sisters have all fled before you: but kiss me before you go-embrace me , Jane.
Jane: There sir- and there.
She kisses his eyes, sweeps his hair from his brow. He suddenly realizes that she is really there.
Mr. Rochester: It is you-is it Jane? You are come back to me then?
Jane: I am.
Mr. Rochester: And you do not lie dead in some ditch under some stream? And you are not a pining outcast among strangers?
Jane: No, sir: I am an independent woman now.
Mr. Rochester: Independent! What do you mean, Jane?
Jane: My uncle in Madeira is dead, and left me five thousand pounds.
Mr. Rochester: Ah, this is practical-this is real! I should never have dreamt that. Besides, there is that peculiar voice of hers, so animating and piquant…, it cheers my withered heart; it puts life into it- What, Janet! Are you an independent woman? A rich woman?
Jane: Quite rich, sir. If you won’t let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close … and you may come and sit in my parlor when you want company of an evening.
Mr. Rochester: But as you are rich, Jane, you have now, no doubt, friends who will look after you, and not suffer you to devote yourself to a blind lameter like me?
Jane: I told you I am independent, sir, as well as rich: I am my own mistress.
Mr. Rochester: And you will stay with me?
Jane: Certainly-unless you object. I will be your neighbor, your nurse, your housekeeper. I will find you lonely: I will be your companion-to read to you, walk with you, to sit with you, to wait on you, to be eyes and hand to you. Cease to look so melancholy, my dear master; you shall not be left desolate by me, so long as I live.
He goes quiet. Jane is worried that she had overstepped her boundaries and tries to withdraw from his embrace, embarrassed.
Mr. Rochester: No- Jane; you must not go. I have touched you, heard you, felt the comfort of your presence: I cannot give up these joys. I have little left in myself-I must have you. The world may laugh-may call me absurd, selfish-but it does not signify.
Jane: Well, sir, I will stay with you: I have said so.
Yes- but you understand one thing by staying with me; and I understand another. You, perhaps, could make up your mind to be about my hand and chair-to wait on me as a kind little nurse …, and that ought to suffice for me no doubt. I suppose I should now entertain none but fatherly feelings for you: do you think so? Come-tell me.
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Jane is amused but does not say so, choosing to remain enigmatic.
Jane: I will think what you like, sir: I am content to be only your nurse, if you think it better.
Mr. Rochester: But you cannot always be my nurse, Janet: you are young-you must marry one day.
Jane: I don’t care about being married.
Mr. Rochester: You should care, Janet: If I were what I once was, I would try to make you care.
He becomes gloomy again. Jane realizes why he won’t ask her to marry him. She takes courage and tries to distract him from his melancholy.
Jane: It is time someone undertook to rehumanise you for I see you are being metamorphosed into a lion, or something of that sort.
He shows her his ruined hand.
Mr. Rochester: It …is a ghastly sight! Don’t you think so, Jane?
Jane: It is a pity to see it; and a pity to see your eyes-and the scar of fire on your forehead: and the worst of it is, one is in danger of loving you too well for all this; and making too much of you.
Mr. Rochester: I thought you would be revolted, Jane.
Jane: Did you? Don’t tell me so-lest I should say something disparaging about your judgement.
Jane and Rochester have supper together.
“There was no harassing restraint, no repressing of glee and vivacity with him; for with him I was at perfect ease, because I knew I suited him; all I said or did seemed either to console or revive him. It brought to life and light my whole nature: in my presence I thoroughly lived; and he lived in mine.”
After supper asks questions. She is evasive due to the late hour. He turns pensive.
Mr. Rochester: How can it be that Jane is with me, and says she loves me? Will she not depart as suddenly as she came? Tomorrow I fear, I shall find her no more.
Jane tries to cheer him up by changing the subject.
Jane: Have you a pocket comb about you, sir?
Mr. Rochester: What for, Jane?
Jane: Just to comb out this shaggy black mane. I find you rather alarming, when I examine you close at hand: you talk of my being a fairy: but I am sure, you are more like a brownie.
Mr. Rochester: Am I hideous, Jane?
Jane: Very, sir: you always were, you know.
Mr. Rochester: Humph! The wickedness has not been taken out of you wherever you have sojourned.
Jane: Yet I have been with… far better people than you… quite more refined and exalted.
Mr. Rochester: Who the deuce have you been with, Jane?
Jane: You will not get it out of me to-night; sir.
Mr. Rochester: You mocking changeling-fairy born and human-bred! You make me feel as I have not felt these twelve months.
Jane: Now, I’ll leave you; I have been travelling these last three days, and I believe I am tired. Good night.
Mr. Rochester: Just one word, Jane: were there only ladies in the house where you have been?
She laughs to herself and leaves.
Photo Credits: The BBC
Quotations are taken from (Jane Eyre) by Charlotte Bronte. (Edition: London: Marshall Cavendish Partworks Ltd, 1986)
Which is your favorite moment? Did you like this one?