Hathaway Brown School
Instructor: Elizabeth Armstrong
The Ending of Jane Eyre
The Ending of Jane Eyre
Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, is a classic novel written during the 1800s, with the popular recurring themes of gothic, coming of age, romance, and social criticism out of which individual independence is the most critical. Although Brontë accurately depicts women's lives and hardships during the Victorian era, she fails to truly capture strong, feminist morals. The novel ends with Jane and Mr. Rochester's marriage which is hypocritical to Jane's values in life: Jane wants to find happiness through independence and the exploration of the world, but Rochester's ultimate goal is to find true love with a woman that will stay with him forever. The ending of Jane Eyre is inadequate because it does not reflect the true purpose of Jane's coming of age. Her goal in life is autonomy, not echoing societal norms that indicate marriage and children are the only way women can achieve success in life.
Jane should not find satisfaction as she returns to Rochester because she is not his equal but inferior to him. She is returning to an unhealthy relationship with a clear distinction of an unbalance in status. Her false sense of equality that is attained through her physical advantage, does not address the fact that she returns to their old relationship of Jane, compliant and Rochester, authoritative. After hearing Rochester's voice calling out to her, she runs away from her cousins to come back to Rochester. Jane explains their heartfelt reunion as,
The muscular hand broke from my custody; my arm was seized, my shoulder—neck—waist—I was entwined and gathered to him.
'Is it Jane? What is it? This is her shape—this is her size—'
'And this her voice,' I added. 'She is all here: her heart, too. God bless you, sir! I am glad to be so near you again.'
'Jane Eyre!—Jane Eyre,' was all he said.
'My dear master,' I answered, 'I am Jane Eyre: I have found you out—I am come back to you.' (500) (my emphasis)
Ironically, Jane compares Rochester to a caged eagle because Rochester had previously mentioned several times that Jane was like a caged bird. This moment truly shows Jane's newfound confidence as before she was timid and passive about Rochester's comments, but now they have switched roles Jane almost mocking Rochester with his lack of dominance. Although Jane seems like she has finally attained her individuality, she acts hypocritically by returning to an old relationship that has previously proved to be toxic. Furthermore, after seeing Rochester's liabilities, she willingly gives up her autonomy to replace Rochester's deficit authority. She has only known what it is like to have him as a superior which is why she feels the need to become subservient to him to make up for the balance of power to become unequal, herself lower, and Rochester higher. Because Jane runs away and comes back of her own free will, she has a distorted view of having obtained her essential desires of liberty and self-thought. She does not understand that the guise of freedom is only coming from Rochester's dependence due to his disabilities. Jane may have more physical advantages than Rochester, but her emotional, mental liberties are non-existent as she calls Rochester her "dear master" signifying her clear subservience to him. She lets Rochester grab her, "arm was seized, my shoulder—neck—waist—I was entwined and gathered to him" ignoring that there is no consent; it is a resemblance to Rochester's first proposal when he forces Jane to comply with his unwanted affection. Jane, also, oddly refers to herself in third person as Rochester confirms that Jane has come back. She says, "'And this her voice,' I added. 'She is all here: her heart, too.'" It is as if she tries to make a distinction between the Jane at Moor House, who speaks coherently, to the Jane with Rochester, who speaks passively. She tries to create psychological distance where her true self, the one who wants freedom, is exceptionally different from the Jane who wants to obey Rochester's every word. Jane is under the influence that Rochester respects her as an equal, but in reality, his impairment is the critical key to Jane's inability to become truly self-sufficient.
Also through marriage, Jane forfeits her sovereignty as she can no longer express her own emotions or acknowledge her sacrifice. Although she firmly asserts that she wants to explore the world and broaden her limited experience, she chooses her ending to be marriage.
I have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely blest—blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh. To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. All my confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to me; we are precisely suited in character—perfect concord is the result. (519) (my emphasis)
Contrary to all her previous statements, Jane says that she is happy that she is married and has a child. It is the polar opposite of what she has consistently mentioned throughout the novel of finding herself and experiencing the whole world that she was deprived of from her isolated childhood. It may seem as if Jane is finally Rochester's equal through the expression of "I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine". In reality, she surrenders all of her identity to him which is why they are united and at a "perfect concord". They are physically, mentally, emotionally attached to each other in every way possible literally and figuratively. There is no sense of identity or personality because she is so dependent on him which ultimately takes away all her accomplishments of finding herself and finding happiness by being the owner of her own life. She inculcates and influences the idea of not being able to live without Rochester on herself by binding and obligating herself to him. Also, the language of the last chapter is unlike Jane's usual description and tone. Jane has constantly used vivid imagery and minute details to accurately depict each scene with the same level of emotional intensity. However, the last chapter is very brief, a little bit rushed, and there is an abrupt ending with unclear meanings. It is as if Brontë intended to show that once Jane gets married, she loses certain qualities that she used to have such as her strong will and eloquence. Jane says she is "blest beyond what language can express". It is so strange that she cannot convey her own happiness, but only through Rochester is she able to do so. Her assertive personality when she was younger, describing every situation like her fear from the Red Room, her first encounter with Mr. Brocklehurst, or her familial love towards Bessie and Miss Temple is not apparent as an adult. She gives up her fluency and instead replaces it with her time with Rochester. "to talk to each other [Jane with Rochester] is but a more animated and an audible thinking" indicates that Jane replaces thinking and talking on her own with conversations with Rochester. Everything that is fundamentally basic to an individual is replaced with Rochester. She can only talk and speak when Rochester is present because she no longer has the capacity to do it herself. She emphasizes that "No woman was ever nearer to her mate than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone and flesh of his flesh" because they are together as one in every way possible. In addition to thinking and speaking together, Jane has the responsibility of taking care of Rochester acting as his guide in everyday life. Jane does not have the freedom to leave Ferndean whenever she wants or meet whoever she wants. She creates responsibilities for herself that tie her down, her role as an aid to Rochester and a mother to her children. Jane submits all her liberties and follows the basic paths that are expected of women during her time period.
Through the ending of the novel, Jane reverses the growth and improvement she makes to accomplish her purpose. She yearns and strives for independence, yet she obstructs her own chances through marriage which creates restraints and limits to what she can and cannot do. As she comes back to Rochester, her passive attitude returns along with the idea of always having to be together with him. Jane does not realize that the small amount of autonomy she earned through running away cannot be preserved with her relationship; she can only choose one or the other. Rochester, marriage, children are all a guise of happiness that Jane believes to be true, but underneath the facade are long-lasting social standards, expectations, and traditions that in the end, even Jane could not break.