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Jane Eyre | Chapter 36 | Summary

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Summary

The next day, after getting a note from St. John containing a request for her "clear decision," Jane travels to Whitcross and by coach to the vicinity of Thornfield. A day and a half later, she finds that Thornfield Hall is no longer the stately mansion she remembers; it is a "blackened ruin." Jane returns to the Rochester Arms (the inn where the coach stopped) and learns that Thornfield burned down in the autumn, two months after she had fled. Rochester, despondent, had been living "like a hermit" at Thornfield. He'd sent Adèle off to school, and Mrs. Fairfax had gone to live with friends. Late one night Bertha escaped from her room and set fire to Thornfield. Rochester attempted to save her, but she jumped from the roof to her death. Rochester helped the servants get out of the building, but the main staircase collapsed as he came down it. He lost his eyesight ("one eye was knocked out" and the other became sightless) and his left hand as a result. Jane learns that Rochester is now living at Ferndean, his remote manor house. She immediately arranges for a chaise to go there.

Analysis

Whatever has become of Rochester, Bertha Mason's death is significant to Jane: it provides hope for her dreams. Bertha's death removes the huge obstacle to her marriage to Rochester—as her uncle's bequest had made her more likely to be comfortable with such a match because it guaranteed her independence.

Rochester's behavior after Jane's departure and his heroism during the fire attest to the depth and sincerity of his feelings and his strength of character. Fire has played a destructive role here, causing Rochester to lose not only Thornfield but also his sight and his hand. This can be seen as punishment for Rochester's transgressions. Will Rochester now find the redemption he'd been seeking? Will he sink further into despair? Or will he erupt into anger?

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