The Moon in Jane’s Arrival At Thornfield Hall and First Encounters with Mr. Rochester.
This post is a continuation of a previous post on The Moon in Jane Eyre Part One: At Gateshead and Lowood which has been a very popular with readers interested in Jane Eyre. Check it out if you haven’t read it yet.
The moon makes many symbolic and significant appearances at Thornfield Hall, so this post will also come in two parts. This first part refers to Jane’s arrival at Thornfield hall and her first encounters with Mr. Rochester. The rest of her stay at Thornfield Hall will be covered in The Moon in Jane Eyre Part Three.
The Third Storey and The Attic at Thornfield Hall
The moon makes its first appearance the day after Jane’s arrival at Thornfield Hall. In the evening, once her first class with Adele was over, Mrs. Fairfax offered to show her around the house. The tour ended in the mysterious and uncanny third storey, which was devoid of the moonlight:
All these relics gave to the third storey of Thornfield Hall the aspect of a home of the past: a shrine of memory. I liked the hush, the gloom, the quaintness of these retreats in the day; but I by no means coveted a night’s repose on one of those wide and heavy beds: shut in, some of them, with doors of oak; shaded, others, with wrought old English hangings crusted with thick work, portraying effigies of strange flowers, and
stranger birds, and strangest human beings,— all which would have looked strange, indeed, by the pallid gleam of moonlight. If there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would be its haunt.’
‘So I think: you have no ghost, then?’
‘None that I ever heard of,’ returned Mrs. Fairfax, smiling.
‘Nor any traditions of one? no legends or ghost stories?’
‘I believe not.”
Jane and Mrs. Fairfax continue their tour to the attic, which Jane describes as black as a vault. They walk up a very narrow staircase and then with the help of a ladder through a trap-door to the roof of the hall and a view of the surrounding countryside, which Bertha is denied.
Bertha’s room was described as ‘windowless’ and the rest of the upper floor was dark and gloomy, probably due to small windows and heavy curtains. The moon, which has been a positive omen in Jane’s life, lighting her way in dark moments, and announcing the appearance of positive characters, is denied to Bertha who must live concealed in absolute darkness.
Notice also the lies Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane when she claims there are no legends of ghosts, yet all the servants are aware of Grace Poole’s secret charge in the attic and the strange noises, which they all hear on occasions.
The lack of moon in this instance indicates a moral as well as physical darkness, as it encloses falsehood, as well as captivity and concealment.
Mr. Rochester’s Arrival
Jane arrived at Thornfield Hall in October. The following months passed by tranquilly, as Jane taught Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ‘ward’. One afternoon in January, Jane volunteered to take a letter to Hay, which was two miles away, for Mrs. Fairfax, because she thought it would be a pleasant winter afternoon walk. On her way, she sat on a style and observed Thornfield, and the surrounding countryside as she watched the rising moon. Jane tells us:
I lingered till the sun went down amongst the trees, and sank crimson and clear behind them. I then turned eastward. On the hill-top above me sat the rising moon; pale yet as a cloud, but brightening momentarily, she looked over Hay, which, half lost in trees, sent up a blue smoke from its few chimneys: it was yet a mile distant, but in the absolute hush I could hear plainly its thin murmurs of life.
The rising moon is heralding a singular event. A few minutes later, Mr. Rochester fell off his horse on the causeway. She describes their first meeting thus:
‘If you are hurt, and want help, sir, I can fetch someone either from Thornfield Hall or from Hay.’
‘Thank you: I shall do: I have no broken bones,—only a sprain;’ and again he stood up and tried his foot, but the result extorted an involuntary ‘Ugh!’
Something of daylight still lingered, and the moon was waxing bright: I could see him plainly. His figure was enveloped in a riding cloak, fur collared and steel clasped; its details were not apparent, but I traced the general points of middle height and considerable breadth of chest.
The moon is not yet full, but it is ‘waxing’ or in the first quarter growing into a full moon, indicating the initial moments of a great event. After describing him in great detail, he asks her what she was doing on the causeway. There follows an important quote regarding the moon. Jane herself admits it is a positive omen, which assists her as she walks at night, and metaphorically through her own, uncertain life. It is also significant that the mood is shining directly on Thornfield Hall, signaling it out as a safe place for her.
He looked at me when I said this; he had hardly turned his eyes in my direction before.
‘I should think you ought to be at home yourself,’ said he, ‘if you have a home in this neighbourhood: where do you come from?’
‘From just below; and I am not at all afraid of being out late when it is moonlight: I will run over to Hay for you with pleasure, if you wish it: indeed, I am going there to post a letter.’
‘You live just below—do you mean at that house with the battlements?’ pointing to Thornfield Hall, on which the moon cast a hoary gleam, bringing it out distinct and pale from the woods that, by contrast with the western sky, now seemed one mass of shadow.
‘Whose house is it?’
‘Do you know Mr. Rochester?’
‘No, I have never seen him.’
‘He is not resident, then?’
‘Can you tell me where he is?’
Jane herself describes the moon as an element of security. It is her home, the place where she feels safe, which, at the moment, is Thornfield Hall. The moon lights her path, showing her the way to her errand and back home. It has also enabled her to scrutinise Mr. Rochester carefully, pointing out to her a person who will have a great influence on her life. We saw in part one, that Miss Temple was introduced to Jane in a similar way.
On her way back from posting the letter, she lingers at the gates of Thornfield Hall before entering. She watches the moon and the stars in awe, aware that something of great importance has occurred, although she is not yet able to fathom what has happened.
I lingered at the gates; I lingered on the lawn; I paced backwards and forwards on the pavement; the shutters of the glass door were closed; I could not see into the interior; and both my eyes and spirit seemed drawn from the gloomy house—from the grey-hollow filled with rayless cells, as it appeared to me—to that sky expanded before me,—a blue sea absolved from taint of cloud; the moon ascending it in solemn march; her orb seeming to look up as she left the hill-tops, from behind which she had come, far and farther below her, and aspired to the zenith, midnight dark in its fathomless depth and measureless distance; and for those trembling stars that followed her course; they made my heart tremble, my veins glow when I viewed them.
Little things recall us to earth; the clock struck in the hall; that sufficed; I turned from moon and stars, opened a side-door, and went in.
She soon realizes that the man she met was her employer. The following day, Mrs. Fairfax informs her that Mr. Rochester requires her presence for tea in the drawing-room. Mr. Rochester makes the usual inquiries an employer might make about her family, past life, and how she came to work at his house.
The conversation then takes a strange turn and he accuses her of being a witch and using magic, with the help of her ‘people’ and the moonlight, to throw him off his horse in their first meeting the previous day. She tells him jokingly there are no such beings in England any more.
‘I thought not. And so you were waiting for your people when you sat on that stile?’
‘For whom, sir?’
‘For the men in green: it was a proper moonlight evening for them. Did I break through one of your rings, that you spread that damned ice on the causeway?’
I shook my head. ‘The men in green all forsook England a hundred years ago,’ said I, speaking as seriously as he had done. ‘And not even in Hay Lane, or the fields about it, could you find a trace of them. I don’t think either summer or harvest, or winter moon, will ever shine on their revels more.’
He also asks her to play the piano and show him her drawings, and comments on one of them in particular:
These eyes in the Evening Star you must have seen in a dream. How could you make them look so clear, and yet not at all brilliant? for the planet above quells their rays. And what meaning is that in their solemn depth? And who taught you to paint wind. There is a high gale in that sky, and on this hill-top. Where did you see Latmos? For that is Latmos. There! put the drawings away!’
The second painting he examines belongs to a Greek legend. It portrays the evening star and a hill with a woman’s bust rising into the sky, which he immediately identifies as Selena was a goddess of Greek mythology associated with the moon and even regarded as the personification of the moon. He asks Jane, “Where did you see Latmos? For that is Latmos.”
Selena is commonly depicted with a crescent moon, as in this picture, often accompanied by stars; or a lunar disc.
In Greek legend Latmos, or more correctly Mt Latmos, is where the goddess Selene first saw and fell in love with Endymion, vowing to protect him for ever. He tells her to leave him, as soon as he realizes that he has associated her with the goddess. It is interesting that Jane, herself, does not make this association. It is his own fear of the emotions she has stirred in him that makes him practically throw the three women out of the room.
It is interesting to notice how Mr. Rochester has a contrasting view of the moon to Jane’s. He fears the moon and considers it a negative omen. Mr. Rochester associates the moon with female love or lust, which he fears, and witchcraft, which he also associates with love spells. The reader is aware that he is a tormented man, and that this torment is due to unfavourable experiences with women. We have no proof yet, but it seems he does not want to fall prey to another woman brought to him by the moon. He probably also associates the moon with his wife’s lunacy, but of course, at this point, the reader is not yet aware of any of these events.
In part three we will learn more about why Mr. Rochester considers the moon as a negative omen.