On the morning of the wedding, as Rochester hurries Jane to the church, Jane notices two strangers in the churchyard. The strangers also attend the ceremony. When the priest asks if anyone has any objections to the marriage about to take place, one of the strangers stands up and announces that there is an "impediment" to the marriage. Rochester insists that the ceremony proceed, but the clergyman refuses.
Rochester thought he was above the civil laws represented by the lawyer, and the religious laws represented by the church. He refused to repent his actions or reveals his secrets. Now, with the unraveling of his marriage, he must pay the price for his arrogant self-centeredness.
The stranger identifies himself as Mr. Briggs, a London lawyer, and reveals that Rochester is already married. 15 years ago in Jamaica, Rochester married a Creole woman, Bertha Mason, who still lives in Thornfield. The other stranger turns out to be her brother, Mr. Mason, who timidly comes forward to confirm the story.
Like Bertha, Mr. Mason is characterized negatively—as scheming, timid, and strange-looking—because of prevailing class prejudices against his West Indies origins and mixed-race background.
Rochester is furious. He concedes that the story is true, but stresses that neither Jane nor anyone else knew of Bertha. His wife is insane, he says, and is kept locked away on the third floor of Thornfield. He brings everyone back to Thornfield and they go up to the third floor. Behind a secret door stands Grace Poole and a disheveled "lunatic" pacing in the shadows. This is Bertha, who seems half-human, half-animal to Jane. Bertha attacks Rochester and he wrestles her into a chair. He goes on to explain that her family hid her insanity until after their marriage.
Bertha is made out to be a violent and insane monster, but there is method in her madness: all of her violence is directed against the people who took away her freedom, love, and identity. Her rage is unchecked. She is all feeling, no judgment. Ironically, Rochester, who has kept Bertha secretly locked up, claims to be a victim of families hiding their secrets.
Mr. Mason then reveals to Jane that he learned about her wedding plans with Rochester from a business acquaintance—Jane's uncle. After receiving Jane's letter, John Eyre sent Mason to save her from the sham marriage. John Eyre could not make the trip, as he is dying of consumption (tuberculosis).
Even though the fault would be Rochester's, Jane's reputation and future prospects would be ruined by this marriage.
Jane locks herself into her room. Feeling that all her hopes have been destroyed, she succumbs to a flood of sorrow over the troubles and betrayals that she has endured. She turns to God, and prays.
Jane is tested when she loses her entire family at Thornfield. Alone again, she calls upon the faith that Helen taught her.