Friends, Jane Eyre is killing me in all the best ways. The passion and tension of the scenes between Jane and Rochester as she acts on, acknowledges, and struggles with her love for him are BREATHTAKING. As in, I literally had to put the book down at the end of the chapter so I could breathe.
Yes, I have been reading this book for almost two months, but that is the joy of returning to a novel that I know so well and already love. I can take my time and really relish the story, the language, and my new observations because I do not have that persistent, ravenous sense of "hurry, hurry, hurry....what will happen? I MUST find out!" I already know how the story ends, so now the pleasure comes in the getting there, not in being there.
I think Chapter XVII is a new favorite. This is the chapter when Jane finally admits to herself (and by extension to the reader) that she loves Edward Fairfax Rochester:
'He is not to them what he is to me,' I thought: 'he is not of their kind. I believe he is of mine--I am sure he is--I feel akin to him--I understand the language of his countenance and movements: though rank and wealth sever us widely, I have something in my brain and heart, in my blood and nerves, that assimilates me mentally to him. Did I say, a few days since, that I had nothing to do with him but to receive my salary at his hands? Did I forbid myself to think of him in any other light than as a paymaster? Blasphemy against nature! Every good, true vigorous feeling I have gathers impulsively round him. I know I must conceal my sentiments: I must smother hope; I must remember that he cannot care much for me. For when I say that I am of his kind, I do not mean that I have his force to influence, and his spell to attract; I mean only that I hae certain tastes and feelings in common with him. I must, then, repeat, continually that we are for ever sundered--and yet, while I breathe and think, I must love him.'
I love that she says she can't help but love him while she breathes and thinks, for if Jane Eyre is anything, she is a thinking woman. This internal dialogue happens at the beginning of the first evening that Jane has to endure with the rest of the party (Blanche Ingram and company), and as the night progresses, Jane becomes more and more miserable and tries to escape. Mr. Rochester, of course, is reluctant to let her go because he, too, is in love with her. Jane says that Rochester "made me love him without looking at me," but, of course, he does look at her because he loves her. Until this reading, I didn't realize that Bronte very subtly lets the reader know along the way that Rochester is feeling exactly what Jane is feeling; I didn't notice on previous reads, I think, because I was just so caught up in the exquisite feeling of not knowing what would happen.
The fact that the feelings are mutual is very clear at the end of this same chapter. Please indulge me by allowing me one last quote which is a new favorite:
'Return to the drawing-room: you are deserting too early.'
'I am tired, sir.'
He looked at me for a minute.
'And a little depressed,' he said. 'What about? Tell me.'
'Nothing--nothing, sir. I am not depressed.'
'But I affirm that you are: so much depressed that a few more words would bring tears to your eyes--indeed, they are there now, shining and swimming; and a bead has slipped from the lash and fallen on to the flag. If I had time, and was not in mortal dread of some prating prig of a servant passing, I would know what all this means. Well, tonight I excuse you; but understand that so long as my visitors stay, I expect you to appear in the drawing-room every evening; it is my with; don't neglect it. Now go, and send Sophie for Adele. Good night, my---' He stopped, bit his lip, and abruptly left me.
I seriously could live off of the end of this chapter. So much pain! So much angst! So much tension! I love it!