Jane Eyre Chapters 21-24 Summary

     Jane is having constant dreams of an infant and from the stories she has heard about the meaning of a child in a dream, she is worried that it might bring her some bad news. Her dreads soon become a reality when she learns that her cousin Jack has committed suicide, while sadness and pain for a lost son sent Mrs. Reed into some sort of shock from which she cannot recover. Jane decides to go to Gateshead and asks Mr. Rochester for a permission. He allows her to go, reluctantly, though, giving her only little money, to make sure that she comes back soon.

     In Gateshead, Jane notices that many things have changed since she left. The house lacks furniture and it is not as luxurious as before. Also, her cousins, Eliza and Georgiana, both quiet and in a bad mood, are almost unrecognizable in comparison with Jane's memory of them as children. Their hostility is still present, but lulled with Mrs. Reed's wish to see Jane.

     While approaching Mrs. Reed's bed and seeing her for the first time after so many years, Jane addresses her with "dear aunt," although she vowed long time ago never to call her an aunt again. Mrs. Reed reflects on Jane's childhood and hatred she felt since the moment she first saw her as a baby, but sudden thoughts of her deceased son, John, leads her into psychosis, interrupting the conversation. Several days passes until Jane gets another opportunity to talk to her aunt. Meanwhile, she tries to entertain herself by drawing and reading books, but with Eliza and Georgiana in the same room, the atmosphere is somewhat tensed and culminates with a fight, when they vow never to talk to each other again after mother's death.

     Before Mrs. Reed's death, she manages to take the burden off her shoulders by unravelling the secret she has kept for many years. She hands Jane a letter written long time ago, signed by Mr. John Eyre, asking about little Jane, hoping to find her and take her with him to Madeira. She then admits to have answered the letter by informing Mr. Eyre that Jane died of typhus in Lowood, hoping to prevent Jane from having a better life. Although surprised by her deed, Jane forgives her and Mrs. Reed dies peacefully.

     On her return from Gateshead, Jane gets the news that Mr. Rochester has gone to buy a new carriage for a wedding. She dreads that he might get married soon, which would not only break her heart, but separate her from the people who became dear to her. However, she realizes that Rochester is not visiting his future bride, nor starting any preparations and gets a ray of hope that Rochester and Blanche broke up, or that the whole marriage thing is just a rumor.

     Chapter 23 opens with a beautiful summer day in Thornfield. Jane enjoys outdoors until Rochester brings up the issue of her departure from Thornfield after his wedding. He promises to find her another place to live and work, somewhere in Ireland, but Jane is shaken already and starts crying, admitting that she cannot bear to be far from him or Thornfield Hall. She is unaware that he is just putting her to another test by inventing the story about his future marriage to Blanche. He admits that relationship with Blanche, who got very disappointed with the information that he is not as wealthy as she hoped, was just a farce. Jane is not buying into the story, accusing him of playing games with her, but Rochester's persistence assures her that this time he is completely honest. After a discussion, he proposes to her, and Jane accepts the proposal. Although everything suggests that better days are coming, one symbol predicts a change for the worse- a chestnut tree. Jane notices the tree writhing and growling, wondering what ails it. The following morning little Adèle tells her that the tree was struck by lightning and split in two.

     Still oblivious to the truth, Jane is head over heels in love with Rochester. She is not concerned with Mrs. Fairfax's disapproval of her engagement with Rochester, believing that Mrs. Fairfax just needs some time to process it all. With the wedding on its way, Rochester feels free enough to shower Jane with jewelry and dresses, but she opposes, insisting to keep, not just the same clothes, but the daily routine also, as if they were not to get married soon. Sudden twist in their relationship reminds her of her status and makes her uncomfortable, so she decides to write a letter to her uncle, Mr. Eyre, hoping that he might name her as his heir, which would equate her and Rochester's status. Although Jane's social status makes her subordinated to Rochester, it becomes obvious that she has power over him, since he fulfills her every wish.

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