by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre Volume 2, Chapter 11 Summary
READ THE BOOK: Volume 2, Chapter 11
- In the morning, Sophie dresses Jane in her wedding gown and plain veil (since the fancy veil was destroyed by the mysterious vampire-like woman in the previous chapter).
- Mr. Rochester is impatient to get to the church and then to start off for London for the beginning of the honeymoon.
- The church is just past the gate of Thornfield, so Rochester and Jane walk the short way there. They have no attendants, family, or friends there for the wedding—just the usual servants.
- Rochester is practically marching Jane to the church, holding her arm in an iron grasp. As they arrive in the churchyard, he realizes he’s being cruel to her, and lets her catch her breath.
- While they’re waiting in the churchyard, Jane notices two men, strangers. They slip around the corner of the church. Mr. Rochester doesn’t see them.
- Jane and Rochester enter the church; the priest is there waiting, and so are the two strangers. The wedding ceremony begins.
- When the priest gets to the part where he asks if anyone knows any reason why the bride and groom "may not lawfully be joined together in matrimony"—you know, the "speak now, or forever hold your peace" bit—one of the strangers comes forward and says he does know a reason.
- Rochester stands frozen and rigid, refusing to turn and look at the stranger.
- The reason that Rochester can’t marry Jane, according to the stranger, is that Rochester is already married to someone else.
- Jane looks to Rochester, but all he does is hold her close to him and ask the stranger to describe his supposed wife.
- The stranger, a lawyer named Mr. Briggs, reads a statement from Richard Mason, which claims that, fifteen years before, Rochester married a woman named Bertha Mason in Jamaica, and that he has a copy of the marriage certificate to prove it.
- Rochester says that the statement proves he was once married, but not that his wife is alive today.
- Briggs says that he has a witness who saw Bertha alive three months before. The second stranger comes forward—and it’s Richard Mason.
- Rochester is so furious that the priest has to remind him he’s in church before he does something to Mason.
- Mason says that he is Bertha’s brother and that he saw her at Thornfield hall in April (it’s now just after mid-summer, sometime in late June).
- The priest, Mr. Wood, says that he has lived in the area for a long time and never heard of a Mrs. Rochester at Thornfield. Mr. Rochester says he made sure nobody would hear about her.
- Somewhat angrily, Rochester explains that he was, in fact, trying to commit bigamy, and that he realizes how sinful and immoral this makes him.
- Rochester reminds Wood, and everyone else there, that they may not have heard of a Mrs. Rochester, but they probably have heard that there’s a strange lunatic kept at Thornfield Hall. Some of the rumors are that the lunatic is his half-sister; other people say she’s his former mistress; but now he admits that she is his wife, Bertha Mason.
- Bertha, according to Rochester, is insane; madness runs in her family, and he was tricked into marrying her before he realized that she had inherited it. He invites everyone in the church to come back to Thornfield and see just what his "wife" is like.
- Rochester also emphasizes to them that Jane didn’t know about Rochester’s previous marriage and thought that the wedding was completely legal.
- Rochester, Jane, Mr. Wood, Mr. Briggs, and Mr. Mason walk back to Thornfield. Rochester sends away the carriage, because they won’t need it—there isn’t going to be a honeymoon.
- Rochester takes everyone up to the third floor and unlocks the door of the room where Mason was bitten and stabbed.
- They go through a second door into the next room and find Grace Poole cooking something over the fire and Bertha on the other side of the room, moving on all fours, growling and behaving like a wild animal.
- Rochester asks Grace how her patient is doing, and Grace says that she’s all right today—but when Bertha sees Rochester, she goes crazy. Rochester protects Jane by coming between her and Bertha, and Bertha attacks Rochester, trying to bite his cheek.
- Rochester and Bertha struggle until he gets her arms behind her back, and Grace Poole helps him tie her to a chair.
- Rochester asks everyone to consider the kind of "marriage" he’s likely to have with Bertha and to compare her to Jane. Then he throws everyone out of the room except himself, Grace, and Bertha, and stays behind to give some instructions.
- As Jane and the others leave, Mr. Briggs tells her that he and Mr. Mason know her uncle, Mr. John Eyre, who is currently living in Madeira.
- Mason and John Eyre were friends, and when Jane wrote a letter to her uncle telling him that she was going to marry Mr. Rochester, Mason heard about it and came back to England to prevent Rochester from committing bigamy.
- Mr. Briggs tells Jane that her uncle is dying, but that he will probably die before she could reach him if she went to Madeira to see him.
- Mr. Briggs, Mr. Mason, and Mr. Wood leave, and Jane locks herself in her room. She takes off the wedding dress and puts on one of her regular, plain dresses. Then she starts to try to think about what’s just happened.
- All Jane’s hopes have been crushed, and although she still loves Mr. Rochester, she doesn’t trust him in the same way. She knows she has to leave Thornfield.
- Jane thinks of a prayer, but can’t seem to say the words, and she feels hit by a flood of anguish and depression. Cheery, eh?
READ THE BOOK: Volume 2, Chapter 11