July Nights in Jane Eyre
‘July nights are short: soon after midnight, dawn comes’. Chapter XXV.
In a previous post, I discussed the positive symbolism of the month of June, however, July nights are mentioned twice in Jane Eyre, and both foresee negative events for Jane.
She begins Chapter XXV by reminding us that June, ‘The month of courtship had wasted: its very last hours were being numbered.‘ It is now the beginning of July, at nine o’clock in the evening, and Jane is alone at Thornfield Hall, because Mr. Rochester has travelled to London, on business.
It was a windy, grey evening, and Jane was feeling troubled and restless. She went out in the grounds, and descending the laurel walk, where Mr Rochester had proposed, she faced, ‘the wreck of the chestnut-tree; it stood up black and riven: the trunk, split down the centre, gasped ghastly.’ An omen of what was to happen the following day, her wedding day, when it would be disclosed that Mrs. Rochester already existed, in the attic, at Thornfield Hall.
When Mr. Rochester returned, she told him she had seen a strange being, like a ‘foul German spectre—the Vampyre‘ in her room. She describes a monster who put on her veil, and even approached her bedside with a candle, before leaving her room. The reader and Jane will soon learn it is Mrs. Rochester (Bertha Mason). Her future groom convinces her it was Grace Poole, a servant, and promises to tell Jane why he employs her, a year and a day after their wedding. Jane is satisfied with his proposal.
In Chapter XXVII, on the evening after the wedding farce, Jane decides she must leave Mr. Rochester and Thornfield Hall. He is already married, and although he offers her a place by his side, as his mistress, Jane naturally refuses his ‘dishonest’ proposal, and escapes from Thornfield Hall, in the middle of a July night. She will return a year later to find a ruin, instead of a grand house.
I have no doubt Edward Rochester was in love with Jane Eyre, nevertheless, I find it impossible to accept his behaviour towards Bertha and Jane. Bertha is incarcerated and treated like an animal, while he consistently lies to and manipulates Jane.
Jane Eyre was nineteen when she met Edward Rochester, who was over forty. She was almost a ‘child’ by today’s standards.
In my novel, All Hallows at Eyre Hall, Jane is forty-two, and she is about to discover the man she really married, the man we all suspected Rochester really was, and Jean Rhys had already described in Wide Sargasso Sea.