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Jane Eyre | Chapter 9 | Summary

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Summary

The forbidding winter landscape gives way to flowers and sunshine, but spring also brings a typhus epidemic. More than half the students fall ill, and Lowood is transformed into a hospital. Helen Burns is stricken with consumption (tuberculosis). Jane underestimates the severity of Helen's condition until one night, when she learns that Helen is dying and is being cared for in Miss Temple's room. Longing to see Helen, Jane finds her way to Miss Temple's room, guided by the light of the moon through the windows. Helen assures Jane that she's "very happy" and ready to die. Jane asks if Helen is "sure ... there is such a place as heaven, and that our souls can get to it when we die" and whether she will see Helen again there. Helen assures Jane that she one day "will come to the same region of happiness" and "be received by the same mighty, universal Parent." Privately Jane doubts whether such a "region" exists, but she clasps her arms around her friend and they fall asleep. When Jane awakens in the morning, a nurse is carrying her back to her room. She later learns that Helen died during the night. Fifteen years later a gravestone is placed on Helen's grave, presumably by Jane, inscribed with Helen's name and the word resurgam.

Analysis

Throughout the story detailed descriptions of the landscape help establish the setting. Such details add drama and importance to events and reflect characters' emotions. The stormy night and howling winds during the red-room incident, for example, heightened the drama of Jane's experience. The bright spring reinforces Jane's brighter prospects from the end of the previous chapters but also provides a contrast to the sadness associated with Helen's impending death. The moon is a nature motif that often signals an important change in Jane's life. In this chapter the moon lights the way for Jane as she goes to Helen to say good-bye.

Helen's Christian beliefs about the afterlife help her to accept her untimely death with serenity and even joy. Jane finds Helen's spiritual beliefs appealing, but she still has doubts. The Latin word resurgam on Helen's gravestone means "I shall rise again." If Jane is responsible for the inscription, it could indicate that she eventually resolves her doubts and comes to believe as Helen did. Or it could simply be an indication of the respect that Jane has for Helen's beliefs and spirituality.

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