Jane Eyre Chapter 19 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 19 of ''Jane Eyre.'' In this chapter, Jane is called in to see the gypsy fortune teller, and we learn that things are not always as they seem!

Not Buying It

After all the other ladies have had their turn, Jane is very interested to see the 'Sybil', or fortune teller, but only out of curiosity. She doesn't buy the hype which sends the other ladies into fits of giggles, and she doesn't put any stock in the gypsy's ability to actually tell fortunes. As Jane enters, we see her in full command of herself. The gypsy is surprised by Jane's calm, collected deportment, and they have this amusing exchange:

'Why don't you tremble?' the gypsy asks.

'I'm not cold,' Jane frankly replies.

'Why don't you turn pale?'

'I am not sick.'

'Why don't you consult my art?'

'I'm not silly.'

In addition to retaining complete composure, Jane effectively tells the woman her 'art' is 'silly.'

Despite Jane's skeptical approach, the gypsy persists in trying to tell her fortune. Jane is not easily convinced, producing rejoinders such as, 'Prove it,' and, 'You might say all that to almost anyone.'

fortune teller

Mr. Rochester's Fortune

After trying unsuccessfully to extract information from Jane about how she feels about Mr. Rochester, the gypsy changes tactics and tries instead to give Jane information about him. She tells her that Mr. Rochester and Blanche are soon to announce their engagement and speculates they will be 'a superlatively happy pair.' Of Mr. Rochester, she says, 'He must love such a handsome, noble, witty, accomplished lady.' However, she intimates that Blanche only loves Mr. Rochester for his money--which calls into question the gypsy's assertions about their impending happiness. Jane puts an end to it though with another spicy response, 'I did not come to hear Mr. Rochester's fortune: I came to hear my own: and you have told me nothing of it.'

Jane's Fortune

'Your fortune is yet doubtful,' the gypsy says as if to defend her failure to produce a reading for Jane. She goes on to say, 'Chance has meted you a measure of happiness...She has laid it carefully on one side for you...It depends on yourself to stretch out your hand, and take it up.' This comment makes us wonder if the fortune teller might be speaking of Mr. Rochester. The gypsy then has Jane kneel on the rug before her that she might examine Jane's face. In her eyes, the fortune teller sees loneliness. In Jane's mouth, she reads a reluctance to express true feeling. In her brow, the gypsy sees that Jane will rule her emotions, no matter how strong, with prudence and judgment.

The Gypsy Uncloaked

Perhaps it is the accurate reading the gypsy gives Jane, or maybe it is the old woman's inexplicable shift in tone and sentence structure, such as, 'I wish to foster, not to blight, to earn gratitude, not to wring tears of blood,' that causes Jane's perspective to shift. Suddenly she sees the gypsy woman in a new light, recognizing her identity. She notes, 'The old woman's voice had changed: her accent, her gesture, and all were familiar to me as my own face in a glass.' Thus awakened, Jane observes the woman's hand, noting 'it was no more the withered limb of eld than my own.' Furthermore, she notices a ring on the little finger which she had seen countless times before. This is not an old gypsy woman but Mr. Rochester in disguise!

A Stranger

Now that Mr. Rochester's identity is revealed, he and Jane talk together as the friends they are. It is likely Jane and the reader both may have more specific speculations about just what that 'measure of happiness' could be which lay within Jane's grasp if she would grab onto it. Had Mr. Rochester contrived this entire scheme just to tell Jane these things?

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