The Moon in #JaneEyre Part Three: At Thornfield Hall II, Moor House and Ferndean

This post is the third and final one about The Moon In Jane Eyre. For a complete overview of the moon in Jane Eyre, read The Moon in Jane Eyre Part One and The Moon in Jane Eyre Part Two.

During a walk with Adele on the grounds of Thornfield Hall, we understand why the full moon is a negative omen of betrayal. Mr Rochester tells Jane about the moonlit night he surprised Adele’s mother, the French opera singer, Celine Varens, with her lover.

“It was moonlight and gaslight besides, and very still and serene. The balcony was furnished with a chair or two.”

Mr Rochester tells Jane he realised she was using him for his money, as he was paying for all her expenses, but she was unfaithful, so he left her that very night, withdrew her allowance, and challenged the young officer to a duel.

  • The first time Jane saw the door to the hidden room where Bertha was kept prisoner, in chapter XX, was a full moon.    

I had forgotten to draw my curtain, which I usually did, and also to let down my window-blind. The consequence was, that when the moon, which was full and bright (for the night was fine), came in her course to that space in the sky opposite my casement, and looked in at me through the unveiled panes, her glorious gaze roused me. Awaking in the dead of night, I opened my eyes on her disk—silver- white and crystal clear. It was beautiful, but too solemn; I half rose, and stretched my arm to draw the curtain.

And then she heard cries asking for help coming from the third storey. All the guests who were staying at Thornfield rushed out. Mr Rochester came down from the direction of the cries and sent them all to bed. Then he knocked on Jane’s door and took her upstairs to nurse Mason while he fetched the doctor.

Her visit to the tapestried room was terrifying. Behind the tapestry, which had been looped to one side she saw a hidden door and heard a snarling sound from within and Grace Poole’s voice.

Here the moon, which wakes her up and is ‘too solemn’ is warning Jane of danger ahead.

  • Jane enjoys drawing and the moon figures frequently in her illustrations. While she is at Thornfield Jane returns to Gateshead to her aunt’s, she draws some pictures including a rising moon.

Provided with a case of pencils, and some sheets of paper, I used to take a seat apart from them, near the window, and busy myself in sketching fancy vignettes, representing any scene that happened momentarily to shape itself in the ever-shifting kaleidoscope of imagination: a glimpse of sea between two rocks; the rising moon, and a ship crossing its disk; a group of reeds and water-flags, and a naiad’s head, crowned with lotus-flowers, rising out of them; an elf sitting in a hedge-sparrow’s nest, under a wreath of hawthorn- bloom.

The rising moon, and a ship crossing its disk, would suggest that Jane foresees a journey, or at least a change in her life. At this point, Jane has acknowledged that he is in love with Mr Rochester, but she believes he will marry Blanche, so she has resolved to leave Thornfield. She trusts the moon to guide her along to her new destination.

  • Shortly after her return to Thornfield Hall, Mr Rochester proposes to Jane on a full moon evening.

Jane went out to the garden as night fell. On seeing Mr Rochester, she tried to slip away, but he asked her to stay and watch the moonrise.

‘Turn back: on so lovely a night it is a shame to sit in the house; and surely no one can wish to go to bed while sunset is thus at meeting with moonrise.’

At first, he teases her by telling her she must go to Ireland, because he will marry Blanche. When Jane rises to leave, he proposes. She thinks he is lying and insists on looking at his face in the moonlight.

‘Mr. Rochester, let me look at your face: turn to the moonlight.’

Why?’

‘Because I want to read your countenance—turn!’

The light of the moon allows Jane to see that his offer is sincere, si she accepts. They stay in the garden, talking all night until the moon was almost set, and she could no longer see his face.

  • The day after she has accepted his proposal, Adele, Jane, and Rochester go shopping to Millcote. In the carriage Rochester tells Adele he will take Jane to the moon where they will live in a cave and eat manna, which grows there plentifully.

I am to take mademoiselle to the moon, and there I shall seek a cave in one of the white valleys among the volcano-tops, and mademoiselle shall live with me there, and only me.’

‘She will have nothing to eat: you will starve her,’ observed Adele.

‘I shall gather manna for her morning and night: the plains and hillsides in the moon are bleached with manna, Adele.’

‘She will want to warm herself: what will she do for a fire?’

‘Fire rises out of the lunar mountains: when she is cold, I’ll carry her up to a peak, and lay her down on the edge of a crater.’

I suggest Mr Rochester is using moon symbolism and metaphor to describe the sexual relationship he hopes to have with Jane, but his dream-like description of their honeymoon is open to diverse interpretations.

  • One full moon night, a month after the proposal while Mr. Rochester was absent from home on business, Jane experienced a disturbing event.   

She woke thinking it was daylight, but when she opened her eyes, there was candlelight on the dressing-table. Jane supposed Sophie had come in, but the closet door, where her wedding dress and veil were hanging, was open, and she heard a rustling noise. She thought it was Sophie, but and a form she had never seen before emerged from the closet. She describes a monster; a tall, corpulent woman with thick, dark hair hanging long down her back, wearing a white dress.  She had bloodshot eyes with black eyebrows, purple skin and swollen dark lips. She took Jane’s veil tore it in two, threw it on the floor and trampled on it.

Then she stood by her bedside, glared at her, thrust up her candle close to her face, and extinguished it under her eyes. Jane was terrified and lost consciousness.

Mr Rochester was gone and she was terrified of staying inside the house that night without him, so she went out in the moonlit night in search of him. As before, Jane looks to the moon to guide her to a better place.

The following day, after their interrupted wedding, Mr Rochester has asked her to stay with him despite being married and suggested they live as husband and wife in his house in France. Jane of course refuses, she is too clever to become another woman abandoned by Rochester when he tires of her. Jane is in a desperate quandary. She doesn’t want to leave Mr Rochester, but neither can she stay and be his mistress.

That night, while she’s in her room sleeping, she dreams of a moon in the sky which becomes a white human form, her mother who gazes at her and says, ‘My daughter, flee temptation.’

Jane replies, ‘Mother, I will,’ and leaves Thornfield Hall that very night.

The moon, personified advises her on what she should do. In this instance, the moon takes the human form of her mother and tells Jane to leave in order to avoid temptation.

We cannot be sure if Jane is referring to her biological mother or Mary, the mother of God, her spiritual mother, or perhaps both. As the symbolism of the Virgin Mary is a major part of catholic doctrine and Jane is an Anglican, I would be inclined to assume that she is referring to her own mother. This is the only time Jane actively thinks about or refers to her mother in the novel.

At Moor House in Morton, the night before her cousin St John left for India, Jane, who had already turned down his proposal, has an auditory extrasensory experience.

In the evening while St John, Mary, Diana, and Jane are reading before prayers, the May moon is shining brightly through the uncurtained window, rendering almost unnecessary the light of the candle on the table.

It was later that full moon night when one of the most dramatic scenes in the novel takes place. 

‘The room was full of moonlight. My heart beat fast and thick: I heard its throb. Suddenly it stood still to an inexpressible feeling that thrilled it through,  and passed at once to my head and extremities. The feeling was not like an electric shock, but it was quite as sharp, as strange, as startling: it acted on my senses as if their utmost activity hitherto had been but torpor, from which they were now summoned and forced to wake. They rose expectant: eye and ear waited while the flesh quivered on my bones.

Jane heard Mr Rochester’s voice cry out her name three times. 

‘I am coming!’ she cried. ‘Wait for me! Oh, I will come!’ and the following day she returned to Thornfield Hall.

  • Days later, when she finds him in Ferndean Mr Rochester tells her that a few nights earlier, while he was watching the full moon, he called her name three times in desperation.

‘Did you speak these words aloud?’

‘I did, Jane. If any listener had heard me, he would have thought me mad: I pronounced them with such frantic energy.’

He also tells her he heard her reply.

‘As I exclaimed ‘Jane! Jane! Jane!’ a voice—I cannot tell whence the voice came, but I know whose voice it was—replied, ‘I am coming: wait for me.’

Rochester states that, ‘In spirit, I believe we must have met…perhaps your soul wandered from its cell to comfort mine.’

So here at the end of the novel, the moon becomes a positive omen for both, carrying their voices and feelings across space, simultaneously. From then on, they will both remember the night of the full moon they contacted each other supernaturally, and as a result they were reunited. The moon’s final appearance in the novel is the central element to the grand finale. Jane and Rochester’s love is like the tide, controlled by the moon, who pulls them together in the novel’s final happy ever after.

If you enjoyed my posts on The Moon in Jane Eyre, be sure to read all my other posts on Jane Eyre here.

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Autumn in Jane Eyre

The autumn months of September, October and November witness major events in both Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester’s lives.

Jane Eyre starts narrating her autobiography in autumn, specifically in November, ‘a drear November day’ she calls it. The novel has an oppressive and gloomy beginning in which she tells the reader about her loveless and lonely childhood at Gateshead, with her heartless Aunt Reed and bullying cousins, Georgina and John.

Jane is trapped in a freezing outdoor climate with an equally frosty atmosphere inside the house, as she states in her very first paragraph.

‘There was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further out-door exercise was now out of the question.’

And there we have one of the major themes in the novel, freedom, or in this case lack of freedom represented by the confinement she is subject to outside, due to the weather, and inside as she is denied access to family reunions and even locked in a room.

However, Jane’s experience of Autumn is not always so miserable.

Eight years later, after graduating at Lowood and taking on a teaching position there, she decides she wants to widen her horizons, so she advertises for a job as a governess.

‘…towards the close of a pleasant autumn day, I found myself afoot on the road to Lowton. A picturesque track it was, by the way; lying along the side of the beck and through the sweetest curves of the dale: but that day I thought more of the letters, that might or might not be awaiting me at the little burgh whither I was bound, than of the charms of lea and water.

My ostensible errand on this occasion was to get measured for a pair of shoes; so I discharged that business first, and when it was done, I stepped across the clean and quiet little street from the shoemaker’s to the post-office: it was kept by an old dame, who wore horn spectacles on her nose, and black mittens on her hands.

‘Are there any letters for J.E.?’ I asked.

And this is when she receives Mrs. Fairfax’s reply, offering her a job at Thornfield. Jane travels to Thornfield Hall that same autumn, specifically in October and she finds everything there pleasing.

She arrives in the evening, but she describes her first morning there as a ‘a fine autumn morning; the early sun shone serenely on embrowned groves and still green fields; advancing on to the lawn, I looked up and surveyed the front of the mansion. It was three storeys high, of proportions not vast, though considerable: a gentleman’s manor-house, not a nobleman’s seat: battlements round the top gave it a picturesque look. Its grey front stood out well from the background of a rookery, whose cawing tenants were now on the wing: they flew over the lawn and grounds to alight in a great meadow, from which these were separated by a sunk fence, and where an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.’

Jane is finally feeling calm and happy which contrasts to the opening chapter which starts with a dreary autumn.

The reader and Jane can presume that her luck is changing and that a better life full of new opportunities lies ahead. She has her duties, which enable her to earn a salary, but she is not trapped at Thornfield. She is her own boss. No one bullies her. She’s starting to live her life as a free person, which is what Jane desires.

One of her most famous phrases in the novel is:

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Jane is a prisoner at the beginning of the novel, and she’s started her road to freedom once she arrives at Thornfield Hall.

The following November, Jane learns that she has inherited a fortune from her uncle John Eyre, a wine merchant who lived in Madeira, when St John gives her the solicitor’s letter and she confesses her real identity. It’s also when she learns St John and his sisters Mary and Diana are Jane’s cousins.

Another crucial event to the plot, which took place in autumn was the fire which burnt down Thornwood Hall. It occurred during the harvest, so probably between late September and early October.

It was a ‘dreadful calamity’ as Jane is told when she returns to find Rochester, but really, it meant that Rochester had become a widower and consequently a free man. It was a perfect end to her rival, the first Mrs Rochester, and although Mr Rochester was injured, he survived and was able to remarry.

Curiously Mr Rochester had married Bertha Antoinette Mason in Autumn, too.

‘I affirm and can prove that on the 20th of October A.D.—(a date of fifteen years back), Edward Fairfax Rochester, of Thornfield Hall, in the county of—, and of Ferndean Manor, in—shire, England, was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason, merchant, and of Antoinetta his wife, a Creole, at—church, Spanish Town, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in the register of that church—a copy of it is now in my possession. Signed, Richard Mason.’’

So for Rochester his ill fated and according to his account, mistaken marriage, began and ended in autumn, specifically in October.

The novel ends in summer, but it is because of the events which occurred the previous autumn that they are both free at last.

Jane has refused St John’s offer of marriage and she has inherited a fortune, while Rochester has lost his main property but he is still a wealthy man and overall, he is free from his ‘mad’ wife.

‘I sat at the feet of a man, caring as I. The veil fell from his hardness and despotism. Having felt in him the presence of these qualities, I felt his imperfection and took courage. I was with an equal—one with whom I might argue—one whom, if I saw good, I might resist.’

They are both financially, emotionally and legally free, so they are able to marry for love and live as equals.

Jane believes she has her happy ending and urges her readers to believe it too, but as Orson Wells once said, “If you want a happy ending, that depends, of course, on where you stop your story.”

 

I couldn’t let it go.

Jane Eyre leaves too many spaces between the lines. There are countless unanswered questions about Bertha, the first Mrs Rochester’s life and death, her brother, Richard’s role in his sister’s marriage and confinement, and Mr Rochester’s abundant lies and manipulation. On the other hand, what about Jane’s intelligence and fiercely independent nature, would she be content to spend the rest of her life exclusively devoted to an ailing and irritable husband in a remote, manor house?

There was so much that I wanted to explore, and that’s what led me to write The Eyre Hall Trilogy, but I warn you, it is not for any unconditional fans of Mr. Rochester.

 

Letter G #AtoZChallenge #JaneEyre’s Gardens

This post is part of this year’s April Challenge to write a post a day. I’ve chosen to write about my greatest literary passion: Jane Eyre. Today it’s all about Jane Eyre’s Gardens. Jane will tell us all about the gardens in her life, in her own words.

G

The first garden I can remember was at my Aunt Reed’s house, Gateshead Hall. There was a glass-door in the breakfast-room, which led onto the shrubbery and the path leading to the gate and the fields, where the sheep fed on short, blanched grass. I remember it was almost leafless, so it must have been the end of autumn, because when I walked out further, there was another part of the plantation with leafless, silent trees, and falling fir-cones. I can see a few autumn, russet leaves swept by the winds. I spent nine springs and nine summers in that house, and yet I cannot recall ever seeing a single flower. No child should be forced to have such a colourless childhood.

Snowy garden

When I first arrived at Lowood Institution, when I was ten years old, it was winter, and I did not enjoy being forced out to the garden for fresh air in the freezing, snow-covered garden, especially since our clothes were insufficient to protect us from the severe cold. We had no boots, and our shoes were soaked and our numbed hands covered in chilblains, as were our feet.

The garden was a wide enclosure, surrounded with high walls, and a covered verandah along one side. There were broad walks and a middle space divided into scores of little beds which these beds were assigned as gardens for the pupils to cultivate.

When April arrived, I had settled in. I had some friends and I had grown to enjoy the classes and the lessons. We could at last endure our daily hour in the garden, and when it was sunny, it was pleasant. I was overjoyed to plant in my garden the seeds we were given and some roots I had dug up in the forest.

The brown flower beds turned green, and flowers peeped out amongst the leaves: snow- drops, crocuses, purple auriculas, and golden-eyed pansies. The vegetation matured in May and Lowood became green and flowery, at last. The great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life; woodland plants sprang up profusely.

Orchard spring

It doesn’t seem possible, but I imagined it was the first time I had seen the sweet explosion of spring. The garden glowed with flowers: hollyhocks sprung up tall as trees, lilies opened, tulips and roses were in bloom; the borders of the little beds were gay with pink thrift and crimson double daisies.

In June, the flowers smelt so sweet as the dew fell. The evenings were so warm and serene, I knew this was where I had to be. Nevertheless, as the years passed, when I went upstairs to my room and opened the window and looked out, I yearned to travel beyond the hilly horizon, over those most remote peaks I longed to surmount. I hadn’t left Lowood in eight years and I longed to follow it farther, which I did when Miss Temple married and left.

Thornfield Hall didn’t have a garden, as such, it had a lawn in front of the building and grounds leading onto a great meadow, which was separated by a fence. Beyond there was an array of mighty old thorn trees, strong, knotty, and broad as oaks, at once explained the etymology of the mansion’s designation.

There was an Eden-like orchard, which was full of trees blooming with flowers. A very high wall shut it out from the court, on one side; on the other, a beech avenue screened it from the lawn. A winding walk, bordered with laurels and terminating in a giant horse- chestnut, led down to the fence At the bottom was the fence, and beyond, the fields and the winding path which led to Hay.

Proposal garden

The orchard with gooseberry trees, large plums, and cherry trees, was my favourite place to wander unseen, and it was pleasantly shady in spring and summer. There was a delicious fragrance of sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose. It was here, one June evening, when trees laden with ripening fruit, that Mr. Rochester proposed to me, the first time, by the light of the rising moon.

After leaving Thornfield Hall, when it was discovered that Mr. Rochester had a wife, who was locked in his attic, I wandered about like a lost and starving dog, crossing fields on foot to get as far away from Thornfield as was possible, I knocked on a clergyman’s door. It was Moor House, in Morton, where the Mary, Diana, and St. John Rivers lived. It was a small grey, antique house with a low roof and latticed casements. The garden was dark with yew and holly and there were no flowers.

I stayed there until I recovered my strength and found a job as a teacher. My new home was a cottage with whitewashed walls and a sanded floor half hour from Morton. There was a small school room and a kitchen with had four painted chairs and a table, a clock, a cupboard. Above, there was a small chamber with a bedstead and chest of drawers. There was a tiny garden with a wicket, which shut me in from the meadow beyond. It looked very scanty when I arrived, but I was going to plant some roots in spring.

Jane Teacher

I was glad of this opportunity to make a living on my own as a school-teacher and when I looked at the quiet fields before my cottage, I knew I should be happy, but I cried of loneliness. I stayed at the school until the end of autumn, when I discovered I had inherited a small fortune from my Uncle John in Madeira, and that the Rivers were my cousins on my father’s side. So, I returned to Moor House to live with them, until one night I heard Edward calling me, and I returned to Thornfield Hall.

Thornfield had been burnt down by Mrs. Rochester, Bertha Mason. I eventually found Edward at his Manor House, Ferndean. It was an isolated and sombre place. There was no garden, there were no flowers, no garden-beds; only a broad gravel-walk girdling a grass-plat, and this set in the heavy frame of the forest. The house presented two pointed gables in its front; the windows were latticed and narrow, and the front door was narrow too.

When I found Edward, he was crippled and blind, and feeling rather sorry for himself. He said he was like the old lightning-struck chestnut tree in the Thornfield orchard, but I told him he it wasn’t true, to me he was as green and vigorous as the last time I had seen him.

Mr. Rochester Blind

The second time he proposed to me was also in the open air. I led him out of the wet and wild wood into some cheerful fields, which I described to him. They were brilliantly green with flowers and hedges and the sky was sparklingly blue. He sat in a hidden and lovely spot, on a dry stump of a tree, and I sat on his knee, while I told him about my travels since I had left Thornfield.

I told him I was an independent, rich woman and that I could build a house next to his. This house would have a beautiful garden, which he would one day be able to see when he recovered his eyesight. I think that might happen. I would call it Eyre Hall, in honour of my uncle, John Eyre.

Jane and Rochester friends