Jane Eyre | Study Guide

Charlotte Brontë

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Chapter 26

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 26 of Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre | Chapter 26 | Summary

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Summary

Jane and Rochester go to church without any guests. As Jane and Rochester are about to say their wedding vows, a solicitor, Mr. Briggs, appears and objects, saying that Rochester is already married. With Briggs is Mason, who attests that Rochester married Mason's sister, Bertha, in Jamaica and that she is secreted away on the third floor of Thornfield Manor. After some resistance, Rochester admits the basic truth of Bertha Mason's existence and his entrapment. He takes the priest, Mr. Briggs, Mr. Mason, and Jane to the third-floor room to see Bertha for themselves. There, attended by Grace Poole, Bertha is behaving like a wild animal, growling and running back and forth on all fours. She attacks Rochester and tries to bite him. With Grace Poole's help, he ties the madwoman to a chair. When they leave the room, Briggs tells Jane that her uncle in Madeira is dying. He explains that, when her uncle had received her letter about her upcoming marriage to Rochester, he happened to mention it to Mason, who knew the truth. Concerned for his niece, but too near his end to travel, her uncle asked Mason to stop the false marriage.

Stunned at the turn of events, Jane shuts herself in her room. She doesn't know what to think of Rochester, but she does know that she must leave Thornfield. Feeling completely alone, she prays for God's help.

Analysis

The mysteries surrounding Grace Poole, the third floor, the attacks, and the unearthly laughter are finally explained. Rochester had carefully concealed the fact that he was married to the insane woman. Those who knew about the woman may have believed she was a mad half-sister or former mistress.

Rochester feels that, because he was tricked into marrying a woman whose extreme insanity prevents her from being a real wife, he should be allowed to break the marriage bond and seek happiness with Jane. Understanding Jane's upright character, he knows that she would never agree to be with him if she knew about Bertha.

Jane, after the revelations, feels that she doesn't completely know Rochester. She fears that what he feels for her is "only fitful passion." If this is the case, she thinks he will have no desire for her to stay at Thornfield now that his plans have been thwarted.

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