This is the Part II of the author's "The Endings of Victorian and Modern Works: Domesticity Preserved, the Family Resurrected, Domesticity Destroyed, the Family Denigrated."
he ending of Jane Eyre is perhaps the most obvious "happy" ending of the four books analyzed in this essay. The ending, which I classify as beginning when Rochester and Jane are reunited at the manor-house at Ferndean (Brontë, 366), details the manifold ways in which Jane and Mr. Rochester's lives and souls evolve and change after their reunion, through their own work and by the hand of God. They mature as individuals, but also grow exceptionally close as a couple, coming to work together with "perfect concord" (Brontë, 384.) As the novel concludes, miracles are worked, love and sight are restored, a child is born and a new haven of domestic bliss is established in Jane and Rochester's home. Emerging as an ideal Victorian companion, wife and mother, Jane stands as the perfect woman that Bertha, the mad woman in the attic and Mr. Rochester's first wife, could never be. She and Rochester establish the domestic bliss that could not found with Bertha, and come to prize it above all else but God.
The end of Jane Eyre begins with a beginning: Jane, who calls Rochester "master," and Rochester, who calls Jane "darling," come together once more, and this time for good. Seeing him for the first time in years, Jane is in "rapture" (367), although she initially keeps her presence concealed from the infirm Rochester. When she finally presents herself to Rochester, the couple is ecstatic to be together once more, fawning over each other and confirming each other's returned presence: "You are all together a human being, Jane . . . ? " (372), Rochester asks her. It is an ideal reunion. With her return, Rochester's life is instantly changed: whereas Rochester was "desolate and abandoned . . . my heart famished and my soul never to be fed" (370) without his darling, life is infused back into his "withered heart" with her return. Rochester's heart renewed, the couple goes on to define themselves anew as companions, and then lovers.
In one passage of note, Brontë uses the natural world to symbolize the renewal Jane and Rochester undergo as individuals and as a couple. On page 374, Jane, the companion-cum-renewer, takes Rochester into "cheerful fields" (374), describing the "brilliantly green" grass, the "sparklingly blue sky" (374) under the "open air" of the world. The language is alive and joyful as it describes the life and natural wonder spread before Jane and Rochester. Such descriptions seem to stand as a metaphor for their sparkling new relationship, one in which love provides endless opportunities: the natural world mirrors the perfection of their new, blossoming relationship.
When Jane encounters Rochester at Ferndean, he is deformed and alone, resigned remaining in decrepitude for the rest of his life. When Jane sees him, she decides he is barely human, tells him that "It is time some one undertook to rehumanize you" (371). Animal like, his hair is too long and his fingernails uncut. Jane sees transformation as her task, and undertakes the project with loving kindness and devotion. Treating him as a human being — simply eating dinner with Rochester and indulging in treasured after dinner conversation — enlivens both of them. In each other's company, they change and blossom: "in his presence I thoroughly lived, and he in mine," (372) remarks Jane. With her care, Rochester is indeed rehumanized and once again blossoms into a human being, and both come to be happier, more complete individuals.
At first, Jane is content to forgo marriage, willing to live as Rochester's nurse: although it seems she might be sacrificing her own happiness for Rochester's, it is clear that caring for him will indeed complete her happiness rather than detract from it. Almost disturbingly, she delights in Rochester's "avowal of his dependence" (374). Soon, however, being his nurse is not enough, and Jane marries Rochester in a simple ceremony. With this, life is complete. Jane delights in her newfound place in the domestic sphere. Marriage makes her a true woman, and as Jane says to her master-cum-husband, "I am rewarded now. To be your wife is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth" (379). At the end of the novel, the pinnacle of Jane's existence comes to be that she is married and able to devote herself to her deformed husband. The changes she undergoes make her into a more complete and ideal woman. Marriage, it seems, infuses Jane with new life, reflected in her effusive proclamations of love and devotion: "I know what it is to live entirely for and with what I love best on earth. . . .I am my husband's life as fully as he is mine" (384). So perfect is their love that as Jane and Rochester become each other's lives, so do they come to merge physically, as Jane becomes Rochester's vision and his right hand (384). With the end of the novel, Jane is only beginning in her role as a true angel.
One of the extreme changes figured into the ending of Jane Eyre is Mr. Rochester's religious conversion. At the end of the text, Rochester turns to God and crediting Him with any and all of life's blessings: "Of late, Jane — only — only of late — I began to see and acknowledge the hand of God in my room. I began to experience remorse, repentance; the wish for reconcilement to my Maker. I began sometimes to pray" (380). In the novel's ending of renewals, Rochester is born anew as a Christian man, frequently referencing his merciful God, and thanking Him for Jane and all other subsequent blessings. Also, he entreats "my redeemer to give me strength to lead henceforth a purer life than I have done hitherto" (382) — which again emphasizes the importance of personal change and growth.
While their child is one of the miracles that graces Jane and Rochester's new life, the gift of sight is also bestowed upon Rochester on the second to last page of the novel. Again, Rochester considers his sight an endowment from God: "On that occasion he again, with a full heart, acknowledged that God had tempered judgment with mercy" (385). Of course, the first thing Rochester sees with his restored sight is the perfect Jane, in her charming necklace and pale blue dress, the picture of feminine elegance. With his sight restored, the world is "no longer a void," to Rochester. Similarly, his previously "void" spiritual life is also filled, as are their lives together. Their lives blissfully changed and filled to the brim with blessings and a new baby boy who can carry his father's name and parent's legacy of happiness into the future, the novel concludes.
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: W.W. Norton. 1848.
The Endings of Victorian and Modern Works
- Jane Eyre: Victorian Ideals and God's Triumph
- New Life, Old Love in Charles Dickens Great Expectations
- Wide Sargasso Sea and the blossoming of hate
- Waterland: Families Fractured
Last updated 20 May 2004