Chapters 17 and 18
Jane cannot help missing Rochester and she longs for his return.
A letter is received giving the servants notice that Rochester will return
in a few days to continue the party at Thornfield. There is now great activity from all the servants, cleaning, polishing, cooking etc.
Jane also learns that Grace Poole receives five times more in salary than
the other servants, thus adding to the mystery.
A party of eight ladies and five gentlemen arrives, and Jane and Ad'le are
summoned to the Drawing Room to join in the festivities. Ad'le is excited by the party, but Jane keeps away from the company and occupies a window seat concentrating on her knitting.
Blanche Ingram is indeed beautiful, but she is also proud, and punctuates
her conversations with sarcasm.
At the piano, Blanche plays whilst Rochester sings and Jane takes the
opportunity to slip away unobserved. Rochester notices her missing and goes after her saying that it is his wish that she attends while his guests are at Thornfield.
The festivities continue with organized games, charades and play-acting.
Jane spends her time observing the company and it is clear that Rochester does not love Blanche. She assumes that if they do marry it will be more for social rank and political reasons than for love.
Mr. Rochester has to leave on some business and in his absence; Mr. Mason
arrives from the West Indies claiming to be an old friend of Rochester. One of the servants advises the company that there is an old gypsy outside, and they decide to let her in to tell their fortunes.
Bront' provides us with two different viewpoints regarding the company of
partygoers – one from Ad'le and one from Jane.
Ad'le views the party and those attending with great excitement.
This must be a real break in routine for her and this will provide an insight to her of what she might expect when she grows up to adulthood. All she can see is fine ladies and handsome gentlemen, dancing, singing and playing musical instruments.
Jane’s view is totally different. She would not be there if it was not
for her master’s insistence.
She feels intimidated by Lady Ingram in particular. She is a formidable beauty, tall and elegant, and Jane regards herself as plain, mainly due to her small size. She sees the revelers for what they are, as privileged, shallow people, who are deliberately rude to her because she is a Governess, and they are dismissive of the servants.
Bront' uses much symbolism in the play-acting and games of charades indulged
in by the partygoers, in particular Rochester and Blanche. They engage in role-play where Blanche is Mary Queen of Scots, and Rochester suggests, “Who would not be the Rizzio of so divine a Mary?”
(Rizzio was Mary Queen of Scots musician, and it was widely rumored that they had an affair, but he was regarded as quite an effeminate man.) Blanche replies as Mary Queen of Scots, “A fig for Rizzio! It is my opinion, the fiddler David (Rizzio) must have been an insipid sort of fellow; I like black Bothwell better: to my mind a man is nothing without a spice of the devil in him;” (Mary Queen of Scots married Lord Bothwell who was widely suspected of murdering her first husband, Darnley.)
One must assume that although Rochester goes along with this ‘play’, he
perhaps is not impressed with Blanche’s preference for the evil Bothwell over the artistic Rizzio.
Another character is introduced into the complex storyline in the form of
Mason. Jane immediately feels apprehensive about this man. Perhaps she has a premonition that he will bring her unhappiness.
This, together with the introduction of a gypsy, gives a further hint of
The reader must feel some sympathy for Jane having to witness the apparent courtship between the man she
loves and the woman who is superior to Jane both in looks and social standing.