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Jane Eyre | Chapter 38 : Conclusion | Summary

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Summary

Jane and Rochester marry and settle down at Ferndean. Mary and Diana are pleased about Jane's marriage and plan to visit. St. John never mentions Jane's marriage, but he continues to write to her now and then. Jane finds a boarding school nearby for Adèle, who often comes to visit.

Ten years after marrying Rochester, Jane writes that they are happier and closer than ever. They have a son, and Rochester has regained partial sight in one eye. Diana and Mary are both happily married. St. John Rivers, who followed his missionary path, never married. He writes to Jane that he expects to be called soon to "his sure reward"—he is dying.

Analysis

Chapter 38 is the only one that has a title: "Conclusion." Brontë might be playing with multiple meanings of the word. Not only does the chapter conclude the work, but perhaps she—through Jane—is offering conclusions about the novel's meaning for the reader to consider.

Rochester finally receives his redemption, as indicated by the restoration of his sight and the birth of a son. Of course, he had to suffer a physical wound for that to happen, and he will bear the scar for the rest of his life. But he is a happier and better man than ever before. Jane has the love and the family that she has always craved. Far from feeling restricted by marriage, Jane feels "supremely blest" and "as free as in solitude, as gay as in company."

Some critics see Rochester's injury as a symbolic castration, an injury that limits his potent masculinity and thus makes him more acceptable to the spinsterish Brontë as a mate for her heroine. In this reading he is more than humbled and chastened by his injuries; he is diminished but also made threatening. Rochester's blindness fits into a long tradition of characters who see more clearly after they lose sight. When Oedipus finally sees the truth of his actions, he blinds himself. The Duke of Gloucester from King Lear only sees the truth of which of his sons is loyal when he is blinded. Rochester, blinded, has seen the error of his ways. Jane succeeds in finding a physician who can partly restore his sight; that is, it is through her that he can see more clearly.

That the last words are given to St. John and suggest his acceptance of his impending death solidifies the religious theme—and echoes the death of the Christ-like Helen earlier in the book. Like her, St. John exemplifies the Christian virtues that Brontë cherishes—faith in God, trust in his forgiveness, and humility. The sanctimonious Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst, on the other hand, reach no such glorious state.

Adèle's path reflects on Jane's early life. She was unhappy at the first school where she was placed—Jane "found the rules of the establishment were too strict, its course of study too severe, for a child of her age." Able to spare the girl the misery she suffered, at least initially, at Lowood, Jane pulled her from the school and placed her in another. No longer powerless, Jane uses her authority to benefit others.

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