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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 12

Several months go by. Jane is satisfied with her work, but she finds the quiet life at Thornfield rather boring. In her spare time, she often goes up to the roof to walk along the battlements and daydream. Her everyday life may be dull, but her imagination is constantly churning with dreams of adventure in faraway places. "It is vain to say that human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility," Jane tells us, "they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it."

Sometimes she paces the corridor on the third floor, where she often hears the eerie laughter that frightened her the first time she came to this part of the house. She finds it hard to believe these sounds come from Grace Poole, who's an untalkative but quite respectable-looking woman whenever Jane sees her in the halls.

One wintry afternoon, Jane is on her way to the post office when she stops on the hill above Thornfield to watch the sunset. This peaceful scene is soon interrupted by the sound of hoofbeats. However, the first creature to appear out of the woods is not a horse but a huge black-and-white dog with a head like a lion's. It crosses Jane's mind that perhaps she is seeing a Gytrash-a supernatural being that attacks travelers after dark.


This scare lasts only a few seconds. Then a man on horseback comes into view. The horse slips on the icy road, the rider is thrown to the ground, and Jane rushes to help him. The stranger isn't badly hurt, and he refuses Jane's offer to go for help. He asks who Thornfield belongs to and seems quite puzzled when Jane admits that although she is the governess there she has never seen the owner, Mr. Rochester. The stranger then asks Jane to fetch his horse, which is grazing nearby; but Jane, unused to horses, is afraid to get near the spirited-looking animal. Instead, she helps the rider to limp to the horse's side and get mounted again, and she goes on to mail her letter.

It's not until later that evening, when Jane sees the same black-and-white dog sitting happily in front of the fire at Thornfield, that she finds out the stranger was none other than Mr. Rochester himself!

This first encounter with Mr. Rochester seems to justify Mrs. Fairfax's description of him as peculiar. Why doesn't he introduce himself to Jane right away? Is he just being playful? Is he feeling embarrassed at meeting one of his own employees under such awkward circumstances? Or is it a little bit cruel of him to tease a shy, unsophisticated governess in this way? Most readers, like Jane herself, find the brooding, unconventional Mr. Rochester very attractive. For a few, however, he remains unconvincing, a two-dimensional character, and even unpleasant.

NOTE:

In this very personal story, even the weather echoes Jane's moods. The icy cold, moonlit night creates an aura of suspense surrounding Jane's first impression of Mr. Rochester. Also, just before dark, Jane was watching a brilliant crimson sunset-many readers have noticed that the color crimson, or red, seems to be associated with strong, passionate feelings throughout the novel. Can you remember other examples in the chapters you've already read? For instance, look back at the very beginning of the book. And as you read on, keep looking-you'll find lots of places where Bronte uses the weather or nature to create mood.

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