Chapters 23 and 24
It is now midsummer, and the harvesting is complete.
Jane and Rochester walk in the late evening in the gardens and their paths
meet. He broaches the subject of Jane’s future if he marries Lady Ingram, who has suggested that she could obtain a position in Ireland as Governess to five daughters of a family she knows.
Jane bursts into tears at the thought of separation from Thornfield and Rochester. Rochester comforts her and says, “I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you – especially when you are near to me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame.”
Just then, a nightingale sings in the wood. Jane is too upset to
Rochester asks her why she is grieved so, and she responds by saying that she is sad to leave Thornfield - that she loves Thornfield. Rochester holds her in his arms. He kisses her and proposes marriage.
At first Jane cannot believe it, Rochester swears an oath that he is
sincere, and she agrees to marry him.
The moon that had illuminated this scene suddenly gives way to black clouds,
and there is a clap of thunder and a bolt of lightning that sends them scurrying to the house.
Inside Thornfield, the pair are drenched and Rochester helps Jane out of her
wet outer garments and they kiss repeatedly. Mrs. Fairfax watches on incredulously.
Jane awakes the next day wondering if it was a dream, but Rochester confirms
that they are to be married in four weeks. He has already written to his London banker to send the family jewels for the wedding. Jane requests a quiet wedding without pomp.
When Jane confronts Mrs. Fairfax, she is concerned about the differences in their social standing and age, and she reminds Jane, “All is not gold that glitters.”
The happy couple and Ad'le travel into Millcote to search for a wedding
dress, but Jane chooses a rather subdued dress.
She writes to her uncle in Madeira advising him of her impending marriage.
Although deeply in love with Rochester, Jane insists that they must follow
the proprieties, and she rejects his ardent advances. Jane admits to herself that this is difficult because “He stood between me and every though of religion, as an eclipse intervenes between man and the broad
sun. I could not, in those days, see God for his creature: of whom I had made an idol.”
The Gothic theme returns to the story in dramatic fashion as thunder and
lightning just after Rochester’s proposal. This represents God’s view of this unholy alliance – one remembers the words of the wedding service, “those that God has joined, let not man put asunder”.
One of the casualties of this storm is the old horse-chestnut tree in the
grounds, which is split in two by a bolt of lightning.
This has various symbols and is returned to again at the end of the story. The splitting of the tree symbolizes the split that will occur between Jane and Rochester; the damage that the tree has suffered will mirror the damage that Rochester suffers through fire also; and it symbolizes separation and tragedy.
There was also reference made to magic when Rochester requests Jane to cast
a spell over him to make him handsome, presumably for Blanche Ingram. You will note that Jane thinks that love is what is required for a lasting relationship, and not shallow considerations such as good looks
Jane wishes to have a fairly low-key wedding, and clearly she is concerned
about her own shortcomings. It is almost as if she fears that having an elaborate wedding will build up her hopes too high, only for them to be dashed. Perhaps this has something to do with the veiled
warning that she receives from Mrs. Fairfax.