One of the reading questions for this last section of Jane Eyre addresses the mystery of why Jane leaves Rochester after discovering his secret. I too had wondered the same, because it seemed strange that after Jane’s acceptance of all Rochester’s flaws, it seems that if she were to follow her character trend she would welcome his sincere and desperate apology. After all, Rochester gives good reason for his dishonesty and tells Jane the entire history of the circumstances surrounding his marriage to Bertha Mason. So what is Jane’s true motive behind her decision to run away from Thornfield and from Rochester?
Brontë keeps the reader unsure, wavering throughout Chapter XXVII by illustrating Jane’s every thought and conscious decision as they come to her. She says in the beginning that she must leave Thornfield, then not a page later admits to the reader that she “forgave him at the moment and on the spot” (344). Again we see how torn she is when she says “I must leave him, it appears. I do not want to leave him – I cannot leave him” (345).
But the underlying reason for Jane’s final choice is that, for the first time in her life, she has the upper hand and the opportunity to say no and be the creator of her own destiny. As a child, though she had retaliated against Ms. Reed or Mr. Brocklehurst, this retort only had an effect on her own mental well-being, but did not ultimately alter or fix her situation. Here however, Jane feels an “inward power, a sense of influence, which supported [her]” (349). Though she clearly still loves Rochester and feels badly that she is hurting him, she has it set in her mind what she wants and needs to do to be empowered. The most telling line in this chapter is after Rochester pleads, “Oh, Jane, this is bitter! This- this is wicked. It would not be wicked to love me,” to which she replies, “It would be to obey you” (364). This quote reiterates Jane’s courage and her stubborn character; she is unwilling to forgive his deceit even for the sake of love, because to her it is a matter of principle that she has to uphold to prove to herself that she has some power, control, and most of all the independence she has yearned for in her life.