Jane Eyre Chapter 16 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson provides a summary of Chapter 16 of ''Jane Eyre,'' in which the plot twists yet again in several directions. Things which seemed certain in the last chapter are called into question, and courses which seemed set are altered.

Mr. Rochester's Cover Story

Despite actual events, Mr. Rochester tells the household staff that the fire in his bedroom was started by his own carelessness. He claims to have fallen asleep with his candle still lit. Jane knows this isn't true, but Mr. Rochester has sworn her to secrecy on the matter. Because the laugh Jane heard before discovering the fire had been attributed to Grace Poole, she is firmly convinced that this lady must be the one who started the fire. She is utterly perplexed as to why Mr. Rochester would create this false story instead of accusing Grace of the crime. She goes so far as to wonder if Mr. Rochester and Grace Poole are or once were lovers, despite Grace's 'square, flat figure, and uncomely, dry, even course face.'

A Conversation with Grace Poole

Previously in the novel, Grace Poole was introduced to Jane as a servant whose job is primarily to sew things. Mrs. Fairfax also attributes the eerie laughter Jane has sometimes heard to Grace Poole. On the night of the fire, Mr. Rochester confirms Jane's suspicions that Grace was the arsonist to blame for the crime. It is understandable, therefore, that Jane is surprised to find Grace Poole seated serenely in Mr. Rochester's room the very next morning, sewing him new curtains for his bed.

Jane engages Grace in conversation, hoping to squeeze out of her some indication of her guilt. 'Has anything happened here?' Jane asks, feigning ignorance. Grace simply recounts Mr. Rochester's tale of falling asleep with his candle lit. Indignant at Grace's coolness, Jane tells her that she heard a laugh at the time of the fire. Grace questions Jane cagily, trying to tell if Jane had seen anything further. Jane lies, saying she bolted her door and stayed in her room. Grace lectures Jane on why she should bolt her door every night.

Waiting for Mr. Rochester

After parting from Jane so affectionately the night before, Jane is at first nervous to see Mr. Rochester the next day. As the day wears on without his presence, however, she becomes quite eager to see him. Had she imagined his affection? Could he possibly return her feelings? She waits with pointed anticipation for a visit from him, but it never comes.

Hopes Dashed

Still wishing to see Mr. Rochester, Jane joins Mrs. Fairfax for tea. Jane's hopes suffer a considerable blow when Mrs. Fairfax casually remarks on the fine weather and says 'Mr. Rochester has, on the whole, had a favorable day for his journey.' Unbeknownst to Jane, Mr. Rochester departed early that morning and traveled some miles to visit friends. Mrs. Fairfax speculates that he is likely to stay away for a week or longer.

Furthermore, Jane learns that the beautiful Blanche Ingram will be in attendance among the party Mr. Rochester has joined. Blanche and Mr. Rochester have been acquainted for some time, and Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane of the lovely duets they sang together at Mr. Rochester's Christmas party. This intelligence causes Jane to reevaluate her own interaction with Mr. Rochester.

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