The Heroine’s Journey: Ordeal

Our heroine has journeyed to the underworld and is now ready to confront her greatest fear. All could be lost as she is pushed to the edge in a life or death moment.

In the heroine’s journey this stage is the descent into darkness and atonement with the Great Mother: a quest for integration and apotheosis. This is where the heroine discovers she is her own mother, that her greatest challenge is herself. The heroine may be tempted to give up and not finish her quest. She must confront the failure of the false father and ‘slay the dragon of female inferiority’. In other words, she must reconcile with the dark side of the feminine – the maiden confronts the crone.

Jane Eyre’s Ordeal

Mr Rochester returns with Miss Ingram and other guests. He orders Jane to be in the drawing room later. Jane attends, as directed, and stays silent while the guests bitch about governesses. Rochester seems to be ignoring her and Miss Ingram is vacuous. Jane leaves but Rochester follows her out, demanding to know why she’s not talking to him. Suddenly Richard Mason turns up and Rochester is clearly troubled.

Rochester messes with Jane's head

That night there are more strange sounds in the house and Jane goes to see what has happened. Mason has been badly injured. Rochester asks Jane to dress the wound while he goes to get a doctor, forbidding Jane and Mason from speaking to each other. While he’s away Jane notices a draft coming from behind a curtain hanging on the wall. She listens at the wall and hears a thump.

Rochester returns with the doctor who takes Mason away. Rochester talks to Jane about his past, hinting again at a grave error he made which he is now paying for, and telling her how she revives him. Jane misunderstands, thinking he is talking about Miss Ingram. He puts her straight and Jane admits she would do anything that was right to secure his happiness. Jane runs off, not knowing what to make of what has just happened, but finally allows herself to smile.

Jane receives news that her aunt, Miss Reed, is ill and has been asking for her. She finds Rochester in the garden messing about with Miss Ingram and asks for her wages so she can visit her aunt. Rochester asks if she trusts him and she says she doesn’t. Jane visits her aunt who tells her she has an uncle, John Eyre. She writes to him, overjoyed to have found a living relative.

She returns to Thornfield to find Rochester waiting for her. But Mrs Fairfax tells her Rochester is making preparations to return to Europe and she is sure there’ll be a wedding announcement soon. Jane tries to keep her cool but she’s clearly upset. She gives her congratulations to Rochester and tells him she will seek a new job. After some more confusion and misunderstandings, Rochester proposes and she accepts, and they kiss under the tree. A storm is blowing in and they arrive back at the house in the rain. Jane is ecstatic.

Mrs Fairfax warns Jane to be careful, but Jane is in a daze, wandering the gardens where everything seems unreal. The wedding day arrives and she gets into her white dress. Rochester marches her to the church, back to his usual gruff and moody self. The wedding is interrupted by the arrival of Richard Mason and his lawyer who informs them that Mr Rochester is already married to Mason’s sister.

Rochester marches Jane back to Thornfield to meet his wife, Bertha, who is locked in a room for her own protection as she is insane. Rochester calls her his own demon. Bertha spits at Jane, a drop of blood landing on her pristine white wedding dress. Jane strips off the dress and cries, and puts back on her old plain dress.

So Jane is finally confronted by the truth. Rochester has been lying to her. Her feelings have been awakened but she has been dragged down into the horror of the confrontation with the dark feminine in the form of poor insane Bertha locked away in shame. All her hopes have been destroyed, the dream is over. It is hard to see what possible reward could come of this sad turn of events.

Next: Jane Eyre’s Reward

One comment

  1. “slay the dragon of female inferiority” Very well put! We all (women) need to do that in our quest for whole personhood. And how hard that is, because we fear losing femininity and yet it is what hobbles us.


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