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Jane Eyre : Textual Analysis of Chapter 26

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Introduction

Jane Eyre : Textual Analysis of Chapter 26 In the pages leading up to Chapter 26 Jane is in a state of emotional turmoil. She has accepted her master's proposal, although she has shown signs that she is mentally unprepared to be re-christened 'Mrs. Rochester'. The passage starts just as Jane and Mr. Rochester are arriving at the church, and Jane describes 'the gray old house of God' rising before her. The opening sentences themselves give us an insight to Jane's mental condition. Throughout the novel Bront� depicts Jane as pious and God-fearing. On Rochester's proposal, she declares their equality in the eyes of God; 'It is my spirit that addresses your spirit, as if... we stood at God's feet, equal, as we are!' However in this instance she seems to regard the church with more weariness and contempt, calling it 'gray' and 'old'. Jane also calls the church a 'temple', and coupled with her reference to the altar, there may be barbarous undertones, with the 'temple' suggesting some kind of pagan religion, and the altar a sacrifice: the identity of the victim would be obvious. Jane's apparent shift in attitude towards The Church shows her unrest, as she is seeing it as a condemning force rather than a liberating one. Some of the language Jane uses to describe her surroundings suggests that she feels the presence of a predator. There is something sinister in the way she describes the church as 'rising calm', like some kind of stealthy animal with its prey in its sights. Could Rochester be the predator and Jane the prey? ...read more.

Middle

The wedding begins, and both Rochester and Jane are damned by the first words of the ceremony that Jane describes: '...ye will answer at the dreadful Day of Judgement when the secrets of all hearts shall be disclosed', as both have 'secrets' weighing on their hearts. Jane's secret has already manifested itself in the veil-stamping antics of Bertha, her apparent alter ego. This secret, although she seems reluctant to admit it even to herself, is that she is not ready to marry Mr. Rochester, despite her love for him. Rochester's secret is that he is already married, despite his wife's madness and his love for Jane. At this point Bront� completes her intense crescendo of suspense. She has built up the scene applying almost the same formulae as a director would to a modern-day film. It is obviously a momentous point in the novel and the reader will be anxious to see the couple married. Exploiting this anxiety, she mentions the final clich�d words of the ceremony, before the reader learns of its abandonment; 'His lips unclosed to ask, "Wilt thou have this woman for thy wedded wife?"' By lingering on these details that have not yet passed, Bront� also has the effect of creating a literary 'slow motion', so as to further augment the suspense. The 'existence of an impediment' is declared, and we witness Jane encountering yet another barrier between herself and happiness. The resulting movements of Mr. Rochester are a relatively rare insight into his feelings. ...read more.

Conclusion

Bront�'s imagery and literary techniques often show strong influences of the Gothic, and she uses them effectively to produce a chilling atmosphere of suspense. From the offset, the depiction of the church gives an strong sense of Gothic. Other sources such as 'the dreadful Day of Judgement' force the reader's mind into the realms of the Gothic due to their weighty implications. Images such as Jane's 'dewy forehead' enhance this factor, and their significance is magnified due to the intricacy of this description, compared to the more factual, less intense narrative in other parts of the novel. The events described in this passage mark a turning point in the novel, and this seems to be for the worse. Yet there is a strong underlying optimism. The Priest says: 'If you know of any impediment why ye may not lawfully be joined together... ye do now confess it; for ye be well assured that so many as are coupled together otherwise that God's word doth allow, are not joined together by God, neither is their matrimony lawful.' The implications of this are powerful. Had the wedding been allowed to continue, Jane and Rochester would not have been married in God's eyes. This would bear strong significance for Jane, whose reliance on her faith is fundamental to her person; the abandonment of the wedding could therefore be dubbed 'the best of a bad situation.' After all, Jane's encounter with the Rivers family asserts her independence and earns her first friends, which may have been part of the final preparation she needed to marry her master. 1,900 words ...read more.

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