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Jane Eyre Chapter 20 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

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

This lesson provides an overview of Chapter 20 of ''Jane Eyre.'' In this chapter, Jane awakes in the dead of night to find another horror perpetrated by the mysterious resident of the third floor.

'Good God! What a Cry!'

Jane is awoken at some late hour because she has forgotten to close her window curtain and the bright moon shines in upon her. She reaches out to close the curtain when, suddenly, 'Good God! What a cry!' The peace of the night is 'rent in twain' by 'a savage, a sharp, a shrilly sound.' Jane can tell that the sound comes from the third floor. A further struggle seems to be occurring directly over her bedchamber, and another voice calls out 'Help!' and 'Will no one come?' Finally, Jane hears someone run up the stairs and put an end to the struggle above.

The commotion wakes all of the guests, who fill the dark hallway and mill about in fear and confusion. Mr. Rochester is seen coming down from the floor above and tries to cajole his guests out of their panic. The ladies cling to him, even the older, larger ones who 'were bearing down on him like ships in full sail.' The men stand by and ask questions. 'Ladies, keep off; or I shall wax dangerous,' Mr. Rochester demands, and he tells them 'a servant has had the nightmare; that is all.' With this, Mr. Rochester succeeds in packing the frenzied herd off to bed.

Jane, however, who has slipped into the hallway unobserved, knows Mr. Rochester's explanation is just 'an invention framed to pacify his guests.' She doubtless remembers the episode of the fire and the eerie laugh, which we read about in Chapter 15 of this novel. Accordingly, instead of going back to bed, she dresses herself and prepares for further action.

The Third Floor Mystery

After some time, Jane hears a slight tap on her door and Mr. Rochester is there asking her to come with him. He demands she walk quietly and asks her to fetch a sponge and some smelling salts. He then directs her toward the third floor. Before entering, he turns to her and asks, 'You don't turn sick at the sight of blood?' This can't be a good sign...

Upon entering the third floor, Jane sees the tapestry has been pulled back to reveal a long hidden door, which now stands open. Issuing from that open door, Jane hears 'a snarling, snatching sound, almost like a dog quarreling,' which dissolves into the eerie laugh Jane has heard before and which she believes to come from the servant, Grace Poole. For this reason, Jane believes Grace to be the one at fault here.

Once the door is shut and locked on these inhuman sounds, Mr. Rochester leads Jane to Mr. Mason, who lies unconscious with half his body soaked in blood. We later learn that Mr. Mason's injuries were inflicted by a knife--and human teeth! 'She bit me,' Mason tells the doctor, 'she sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart.' This was no ordinary violence! Mr. Rochester does not seem surprised. 'I warned you, ' Rochester tells Mason, 'I said--be on your guard when you go near her.' Whatever the source of this horrific event, it is not new to Mr. Rochester or to Thornfield. What is lurking in that third floor room? Could it really be Grace Poole who has inflicted these injuries on Mr. Mason and tried before to kill Mr. Rochester by fire?

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