Equality of Mind in Jane Eyre

In Chapter XXVII, the roles of Rochester as master and Jane as a subservient figure are flipped. Rochester is very distressed by having his dreaded secret revealed and is desperate for Jane to understand his motivations of deceiving her. Meanwhile, despite her immense pain, Jane has complete composure over her external appearance. Jane’s lack of emotion is torturing Rochester; it is the first time in the novel that the reader sees Rochester in a position where he is not in control of himself. Although Rochester has continually argued that he views Jane as his equal, this episode seems to help Jane prove her equality to Rochester.

The conversation that takes place in Chapter XXVII makes a distinction between physical and emotional strength. In the scene prior to this long conversation, Jane continually allows Rochester to lead her about, and because of her small nature, it is physically easy for him to do so. Rochester threatens, “Jane! Will you hear reason? . . . because, if you won’t, I’ll try violence.” (p. 349) Rochester continues to make references to the fragility of her frame. He says he “could bend her with [his] finger and thumb” (p.366). This seems to be Rochester’s final attempt to regain some sort of control over the situation (both as master and a man), but Jane’s lack of fear makes it clear that she will remain in charge: emotional strength conquers physical strength.

By making a distinction between emotions and the physical reality, Brontë seems to be making the point that although Jane is a woman and is smaller and weaker than Rochester is, she can still feel and think just as much and just as strongly as he can. By nullifying Rochester’s references to violence, Brontë uses this conversation to strike down the barrier of the body, which would traditionally divide Rochester and Jane (man and woman) from being looked upon as equals, so that a focus can be laid on the minds of the two individuals.


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