In the final pages of Jane Eyre, one encounters a mystery more impenetrable than the madness of Jane Poole. As many have noted, Charlotte Bronte has given us a novel of character, rejecting plot as the driving force in her story. One reads Jane Eyre to watch the slow unfolding of the person she becomes in relation to different people at different times and under different circumstances. As Jacques Barzun points out, many readers have a better understanding of Jane, because of the roundness in which they come to view her character, than of their own friends . For this reason, the ending of Jane Eyre is particularly shocking: why would Charlotte Bronte leave us with something as irrelevant as a letter quoting the last words of the Bible?
Jane has described her own happily-ever-after and now makes the sudden unexpected leap to concluding the story of St. John's missionary endeavors. She describes his work in a great swell of biblically allusive rhetoric, and tells us that he is nearing the end of his life.
[...] must look for a deeper solution to the mystery of the letter. In this essay, I will offer one possible solution. But I will do more than sleuth. I will try to demonstrate that this ending is the final corner of a frame that marks the primary allusivity of the novel. One Solution Jane Eyre is a novel about eschatology. I mean eschatology in a practical sense. The subject a reader most properly comes away chewing on is this: how does narrative construal influence one's attitude and actions during the storm and stress of life? [...]
[...] An artistically taken photograph is allusive in this way, both implying the world beyond its borders and signifying the importance of what it has been chosen to display. Even music is allusive in this way, implying harmonies, implying rhythm. Imagination, of course, is the faculty that fills in the suggestive blank. In literature, many things comprise the frame—among them are the starting and stopping place of the narrative itself; the collective tone or theme of metaphors and images; and the allusive speech, actions, and descriptions of characters, places, and events. [...]
[...] The Importance of the Letter Given the largely eschatological undertones, overtones, and formal clues that we can find throughout the novel, the ending of Jane Eyre begins to make sense. Bronte seems to have chosen a uniquely honest path, refusing to mitigate by the convention of a happy ending the tension that shapes her book. The happy ending is there, but as a last impression that ending is over-shadowed by the troubling, grim commitment of St. John to his version of the eschaton. [...]
[...] The Pilgrim's Progress is more explicitly referenced as well, throughout the novel. St. John, for example, is described as having sterness of the warrior Greatheart, who guards his pilgrim convoy from the onslaught of Apollyon,” which is a reference Christiana's Journey, the sequel to Pilgrim's Progress. St. John himself, of course, bears the name of the apostle who wrote the pre-eminently eschatological book—the apocalypse, Revelation. As I have already mentioned, the closing lines of his final letter quote the closing lines of the final letter of that other St. John. [...]
[...] Following the climactic unveiling of Rochester's secret wife, a scene occurs in which Jane announces that she must leave him. This is her advice to her former fiancee: as I do: trust in God and yourself. Believe in heaven. Hope to meet again there.” She offers Rochester the eschaton of Helen Burns (an eschaton she herself proves to be too passionate to accept), but he responds with an alternate version of the consequences of her departure. “Then you snatch love and innocence from me? [...]
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