have now been married ten years. I know what it is to live entirely
for and with what I love best on earth. I hold myself supremely
blest—blest beyond what language can express; because I am my husband’s
life as fully as he is mine. No woman was ever nearer to her mate
than I am: ever more absolutely bone of his bone, and flesh of his
flesh. I know no weariness of my Edward’s society: he knows none
of mine, any more than we each do of the pulsation of the heart
that beats in our separate bosoms; consequently, we are ever together.
To be together is for us to be at once as free as in solitude, as
gay as in company. We talk, I believe, all day long: to talk to
each other is but a more animated and an audible thinking. All my
confidence is bestowed on him, all his confidence is devoted to
me; we are precisely suited in character—perfect concord is the
This, one of the final passages of Jane
Eyre, summarizes the novel’s “happy ending.” Its implications
have generated much debate over the way Brontë chose to conclude
her book. Some critics view Jane as having sacrificed her autonomy—no
longer her own person, she and Rochester have merged, sharing one
heart, each possessing the “bone” and “flesh” of the other.
One might also argue that Jane relinquishes her powers
of thought and expression—two characteristics that have defined
her for most of the novel. Suddenly, the otherwise imaginative Jane equates
her “thinking” to her conversations with Rochester—she even finds
the conversations “more animated.” Similarly, although ten years
have elapsed since the wedding, the otherwise eloquent Jane suddenly
claims that she is unable to find any “language” to “express” her
experiences during this period.
Other critics interpret this passage in a more positive
manner. It can be read as Jane’s affirmation of the equality between
her and Rochester, as testimony that she has not “given up” anything.
The passage is followed in the novel by a report on St. John Rivers.
Jane writes: “his is the spirit of the warrior Greatheart . . .
his is the ambition of the high master-spirit. . . .” (Greatheart
serves as guide to the pilgrims in Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress.)
Emphasizing St. John’s desires for “mastery” and his “warrior” characteristics,
Jane describes a controlling patriarch. While Rochester may have
been such a figure at the beginning of the novel, his character
has changed by its conclusion. He has lost his house, his hand,
and his eyesight to a fire, and the revelation of his youthful debaucheries
has shown him to be Jane’s moral inferior. Rochester can no longer
presume to be Jane’s “master” in any sense. Moreover, Jane has come
to Rochester this second time in economic independence and by free
choice; at Moor House she found a network of love and support, and
she does not depend solely on Rochester for emotional nurturance. Optimistic
critics point to Jane’s description of St. John as her reminder
that the marriage she rejected would have offered her a much more
stifling life. By entering into marriage, Jane does enter into a
sort of “bond”; yet in many ways this “bond” is the “escape” that
she has sought all along. Perhaps Brontë meant Jane’s closing words
to celebrate her attainment of freedom; it is also possible that Brontë
meant us to bemoan the tragic paradox of Jane’s situation.