Volume 2, Chapter 11 / 26

Synopsis of Volume 2, Chapter 11 / 26

The day of the wedding arrives but the ceremony is interrupted by a solicitor from London, who declares that the marriage cannot go ahead because Rochester has a wife still alive, living at Thornfield. Fifteen years earlier, Rochester married Bertha Mason in Jamaica. Mr Mason is her brother and it was she who attacked him when he visited the house three months earlier.

Rochester admits that the accusation is true and returns to the house with Jane, Mason, the solicitor and the clergyman. He leads them to a locked attic where he shows them his wife, who is insane and bestial and is watched over by Grace Poole. Madness runs in her family but this was kept from Rochester until after they were married.

Jane's uncle in Madeira, having received a letter from Jane telling him that she is to marry Rochester, has sent Mason to rescue her from marrying a bigamist.

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Accompanying teaching resources

Commentary on Volume 2, Chapter 11 / 26

Oliver Cromwell at the Battle of Marsden Moorslain at Marston Moor, in the time of the civil wars The Battle of Marston Moor, near York, was fought on 2 July 1644. It was a key battle in the English Civil War and ended in victory for the forces of Parliament against the Royalists.

the dreadful Day of Judgement A reference to the Christian belief about the end of the world when God will judge all souls and consign them to either Heaven or Hell.

any impediment … joined together in matrimony Words from the marriage ceremony in the Book of Common Prayer.

a Creole This word can be used to describe a native of the West Indies of any race, but it is likely that Charlotte Brontë is suggesting that Bertha's mother is of mixed ethnicity. See Critical approaches: Post-colonialism.

quenchless fire and deathless worm An allusion to Jesus' warnings in Mark 9:47-48:

‘And if thine eye offend thee, pluck it out: it is better for thee to enter into the kingdom of God with one eye, than having two eyes to be cast into hell fire: Where their worm dieth not, and the fire is not quenched.'

The words are spoken by Jesus to his disciples: he says the quenchless fire and undying worm are among the torments of hell for those who fail to repent their sins by rejecting those parts of themselves that lead them to commit wrongdoings.

mouth of hell The hell that Rochester refers to is the sight of his wife in her madness, suggesting that she has become a kind of devil or person possessed by evil spirits. It is is Jane's ability to look calmly at such horrors that so attracts him to her.

priest of Gospel … with what … judged Matthew 7:2 Rochester addresses the local vicar defiantly, suggesting that he should not be judged too harshly (according to Christian principles) for wanting to have a better life with Jane.

Funchal the capital of the island of Madeira.

haughty parishioner A parishioner is a member of a parish of the Church of England, an area within which a vicar or other member of the clergy has responsibility for all who live there.

the first born in the land of Egypt An allusion to Exodus 12:23-30 which describes a plague that passed over Egypt, killing the first-born of all species, except the children of the Israelites.

‘Be not … help'; ‘the waters … overflowed me' Quotations from Psalms 22:11 and Psalms 59:2. In Chapter 4 (Volume 1, Chapter 4), Brocklehurst is horrified to discover that Jane does not like the Psalms, but here she quotes from two that appeal for help in times of trouble.

Investigating Volume 2, Chapter 11 / 26
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