Orphaned into the household of her Aunt Reed at Gateshead and subject to the cruel regime at Lowood charity school, Jane Eyre nonetheless emerges unbroken in spirit and integrity. She takes up the post of governess at Thornfield Hall, falls in love with Mr. Rochester, and discovers the impediment to their lawful marriage in a story that transcends melodrama to portray a woman's passionate search for a richer life than that traditionally allowed women in Victorian society.
Ten-year-old Jane Eyre is a poor orphan, treated maliciously by her aunt; her plain looks and perceptive and passionate nature do not appeal to her relatives. Eventually Jane is sent to Lowood Institution, a charitable, cheap and strictly kept school for clergyman's daughters. Jane attends this school for over eight years; after a couple years, the standard of living at the school is improved. Jane makes the friends of Helen Burns, and Ms. Temple, a teacher, while she is there. These two individuals greatly affect Jane's personality and character, especially related to personal philosophy, religion, and treatment of others.Her fellow student Helen Burns, who dies young of consumption, encourages Jane to be more humble, patient and forgiving. Jane learns to hide her temper, but the injustices of the world still burn in her soul.
Jane spends the last few years at Lowood as a teacher. Miss Temple finally marries, and Jane places an advertisement for a position as a governess in the local paper. Soon she is contacted by a Mrs. Fairfax, about the position of governess in Millcote, -shire, for a young single girl. Jane gets leave from Lowood and journeys to Millcote to take the position. There she begins as governess for Adèle Varens, a young French girl, and ward of the master of Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester. Thornfield Hall is where Jane lives, now. Mr. Rochester is about thirty-eight, with a blunt, capricious temperament. However, Jane admires and respects his honesty, and the two become friends. Jane begins to spend much time with Rochester; they grow a great friendship and affection for each other. Jane begins to realize she is falling in love with Mr. Rochester but believes that Rochester cannot love her in return because of her low status and plain looks.Simultaneous to this, it appears that Rochester is courting the hand of Blanche Ingram, in hopes of marrying her, which pains Jane, who cannot believe that Rochester loves the proud, snobbish Blanche. This turns out to simply be a ploy by Rochester to make Jane jealous, and increase her love for him.
One night, Jane hears a strange laugh in the corridor. Investigating it, she sees that Mr. Rochester's bed is on fire, and manages to quench the flames. Mr. Rochester suggests that the culprit is Grace Poole, an odd servant who lives on the otherwise abandoned third floor. One day, while Mr. Rochester is gone, a mysterious Jamaican gentleman, Mr. Richard Mason, arrives at Thornfield claiming to know Mr. Rochester. That same day, a gypsy woman arrives and wishes to speak with all the single women to tell them their fortunes. Jane is sceptical, but at the gypsy's request, goes anyway. The gypsy tells her that she is close to happiness and points out that she cares about Mr. Rochester. At the end of the conversation, the gypsy reveals herself to be Mr. Rochester, who is distressed when he hears that Mr Mason is there. That night, Jane hears horrible yells and goes up to the third floor to see Mason bleeding, stabbed and bitten. Again, Rochester hints that Grace Poole is the culprit.
Jane learns that her Aunt Reed is dying and that she wishes to speak with her, so she travels to Gateshead. Jane goes home for several weeks. Reed dislikes Jane as much as ever, but wishes to clear her conscience by telling Jane that she had once received a letter from Jane's uncle John Eyre (on her father’s side long estranged), who wished to adopt her. Mrs. Reed had spitefully replied that Jane was dead. Jane forgives her, though Mrs. Reed is unwilling to make amends with Jane and dies soon after. She returns to Thornfield Hall, to find Mr. Rochester greatly missing her. During her time at the house, she has noticed the presence of a madwoman in the attic, presumably, Grace Poole. Rochester finally tells her of his love for her. They become engaged. The ceremony approaches, and as it comes closer and closer, Rochester becomes more and more arrogant. Jane declares she will still work once they are married-she will only be his equal. Their relationship becomes off-balance. On the day of the marriage ceremony, the rite is broken up by the entrance of Mr. Mason and Mr.Mrs.Briggs. Here they reveal that Rochester has been previously married. that Mr. Rochester still has a wife living: Mason's sister Bertha. Mr. Rochester admits the whole story: Bertha is a violent lunatic under the care of Grace Poole, and it was she who lit the fire and attacked her brother. Rochester was forced into the marriage, and never loved her. The marriage doesn't go through; Jane sees Bertha, feels numb, sad, and realizes she cannot marry Rochester out of wedlock, for fear of inequality in their relationship. He begs Jane to be his wife in all but law, but she refuses. Though tempted, her strong moral compass will not let her become a mistress.
Fearing that Rochester will detain her, and not trusting herself to resist temptation, Jane sneaks out of Thornfield in the middle of the night. She travels by coach as far as money will take her, then tries to find work and beg for food. She is rescued by St. John (pronounced "Sin-jin") Rivers, a handsome young clergyman, and his two sisters. By a remarkable coincidence, Jane discovers that the Riverses are her cousins, and that their mutual uncle, John Eyre, has died and left Jane his fortune. Jane shares the money with her cousins. Jane goes to live at Moor House with her cousins. They are happy for a while, and St. John begins to teach Jane Hindostanee. Jane finds him intelligent and greatly admires him, but nevertheless is inwardly wary of his cold power over her.St. John, who plans to go to India as a missionary, asks Jane to accompany him as his wife. However, while Jane has a sisterly affection for St John, she knows he cannot love her as Rochester did. She tries to reject him, but his force of personality and moral persuasion are difficult to refuse.
Suddenly, she hears a sudden spectre of Rochester's voice calling her from the near garden supernaturally. She takes it as a sign, and the next day leaves from Whitcross in a coach to see what has happened to Rochester. She hurries to Thornfield, which has burned to the ground. She finds out and sees that Thornfield Hall is a ruin; it burned down last fall from a fire Bertha Mason started. During the fire, Bertha killed herself from jumping from the battlements;Rochester was blinded and lost one of his arms from falling timber, when helping servants out of the house. He turned to depression and utter isolation after her disappearance. Now he lives with two servants, John and Mary, at Ferndean Manor, thirty miles away. Jane journeys there that night, sees Rochester and makes herself known to him. He almost does not believe it is her, but finally is convinced, and blesses the Lord for returning Jane to him. He is utterly happy, and so is she, and despite his blindness and being a cripple, she accepts his hand in marriage. They marry three days later. Jane brings Adèle to a closer school and makes frequent visits. Mary and Diana marry and see her on a regular basis. St. John goes off to India. Jane gives birth to one baby boy of Rochester's. The novel ends with Jane telling us that she has been married to Rochester for ten years; she is happier than she could ever be, because they love each other so much, they are each other's better half and never tire of each other and that Mr. Rochester has regained some of the sight in his remaining eye.. They are perfectly suited for each other, and Jane is happy spending her life loving and helping Rochester, being his 'prop'.
Main character of entire novel. Young orphan who grows up, goes to school, works, marries, creates a life for herself.
Jane displays genuine affection, goodness and complete lack of vindictiveness, even against Mrs. Reed and her family. Her goodness attracts affection from good people such as Miss Temple and later St John and his sisters. Her generosity speaks in giving away 75% of her money. She receives the generosity of St. John and his sisters and her uncle who she has never met. Her joy in discovering family is much greater than her joy in inheriting money. Her unpretentious character refuses Rochester’s efforts to dress her up and pass her off as a glamorous high society woman for her marriage. She insists on being her plain old simple self and being accepted for that alone.
Both she and Rochester have extraordinary insight into character and are able to read people perceptively from their facial expressions and behavior. Jane has a wonderful frankness that charms by being completely free of both pretense and malice as when she readily says she does not find him handsome. Jane’s genuine affection enables him to recover vision in one eye. She has the strength of personality, intelligence and skill to handle Rochester when he demands and threatens she stay with him after confessing he is already married. Her frankness and strength is what he admires so much in her. She so admires strength, that she nearly succumbs to St. John’s demands that she marry him, even though there is no emotion on either side.
Rochester is strong, passionate and intelligent. He uses strength and roughness to bully people. Jane is the first who is not intimidated by him. His goodness is shown by his adopting Adele and maintaining his mad wife instead of abandoning her and his efforts to save her life during the fire, which cost him an arm and an eye.
He is idealistic, honest, proper, dogmatic, ambitious and incapable of affectionate emotions. His natural goodness is demonstrated by the generosity with which he takes in Jane and cares for her when she falls on his doorstep. He shows the same care in tending to the needs of his parishioners, regardless of the risks to his own health. His refusal to reveal that he is also an Eyre speaks of his genuine unselfishness and idealism. He is passionately committed to sacrifice himself for the upliftment of the ‘heathens’, whatever the risks to himself. His intense ambition is to please God and be righteous according to his own understanding. He resorts to vital power and domination to claim Jane when he cannot do it by reason.
- Mrs. Reed: Jane's harsh and cruel aunt who takes Jane in against her will, because of a promise made to her husband, Jane's late uncle.
- Eliza Reed: Mrs. Reed's second daughter who is rather more serious and quiet; she eventually becomes a noviate and then a Catholic nun.
- John Reed: Mrs. Reed's arrogant and spoiled son who likes to beat Jane for punishment and amusement.
- Georgiana Reed: Mrs. Reed's attractive and self-absorbed first daughter, who eventually marries well in London.
- Jane's mother: Jane Reed, who married against her family's wish, was disowned, and who died when Jane was a baby.
- Jane's father: John Eyre, a clergyman, who died with his wife.
- Bessie: The nurse at Gateshead
- Abbot: The maid at Gateshead.
- Mr. Reed: Mrs. Reed's late husband, and Jane's late uncle on her mother's side.
- Dr. Lloyd: The doctor who comes to see Jane after she has been ill in the Red-Room. He suggests to Mrs. Reed that Jane go to school.
- Mr.Brocklehurst: The cruel, intolerant, overzealous and money-pinching master of Lowood Institution, a pastor, who humiliates Jane in public, when she comes to Lowood.
- Miss Miller: One of the teachers at Lowood.
- Miss Maria Temple: The superintendent of Lowood Institution, whom Jane wishes to emulate, and who cares for both Helen and Jane.
- Miss Scatcherd: The history teacher at Lowood, who often punishes Helen Burns with a whipping.
- Helen Burns: The overly mature, fatalistic, religious best friend of Jane while she is at Lowood; Helen dies early from tuberculosis at Lowood.
- Reverend Nasmyth: The man whom Miss Temple eventually marries.
- Mr. Edward Fairfax Rochester: The master of Thornfield Hall, traditional Gothic male hero, and eventual husband of Jane Eyre.
- Mme Pierrot: Jane's French teacher at Lowood Institution.
- Leah: The maid at Thornfield Hall, who assists Grace Poole often.
- Grace Poole: The woman whom Rochester hires to watch over and care for his mad first wife, Bertha.
- Pilot: Rochester's dog.
- Rowland: Rochester's dead elder brother.
- Miss Blanche Ingram: The beautiful, cold, snotty, arrogant and condescending upper-class woman whom Rochester leads to believe he wishes to marry.
- Mesrour: Rochester's horse.
- Mr. Mason: Bertha Mason, Rochester's first bride's, brother. He is from Jamaica, West Indies.
- Sibyl: The gypsy fortune-teller character played by Rochester.
- Doctor Carter: The surgeon who cares for Mr. Mason when Bertha attacks him.
- Bessie's sister: She dies.
- Robert Laven: Bessie's husband and the coachman of Gateshead Hall.
- Uncle John Eyre: The uncle of both Jane, St. John, Diana and Mary, who dies, lived in Madeira, and leaves Jane a fortune of twenty-thousand pounds.
- Mr. Briggs: The solicitor from London who handles Jane's fortune, and breaks up Rochester's attempt at a bigamous marriage.
- Bertha Mason: Rochester's first wife from Jamaica, who is mad and he keeps in his attic of Thornfield Hall. It was an arranged marriage.
- St. John Rivers: Jane's cold, exacting, distant and intellectual cousin who was the pastor of Morton Parish. He asks Jane to marry him and go to India to do missionary work; she refuses and he goes alone.
- Diana Rivers: The beautiful, refined and caring first sister of St.John, and Jane's cousin.
- Mary Rivers: The quieter, more cautious but equally intelligent second sister of St.John, and also Jane's cousin.
- Hannah: The older woman/maid who lives with Mary and Diana at Moor House.
- Jane Elliot: The pseudonym which Jane takes on when she arrives at Moor House.
- Miss Rosamond Oliver: The beautiful and childlike heiress with whom St. John is in love. She eventually marries Mr. Granby.
- Mr. Granby: Wealthy Morton resident who marries Rosamond.
- Mary and John: Couple who takes care of Rochester at Ferndean Manor, when he is blind and crippled.
Character of Life
Having lost both her parents soon after birth, Jane had to endure 10 years of persecution by her aunt, Mrs. Reed, before she is sent away to Lowood School. Her strength of the character emerges from her suffering of early years. At Lowood Miss Temple and Helen befriend her with kindness – she has outlived the need for cruelty and it has bread a strong, self-reliant, shy, unpretentious kind character in her.
Mrs. Reed’s prejudice and meanness is replaced by Miss Temple’s objectivity and fairness, which Jane acquires from her. Her best friend, Helen, dies of TB – Jane still carries misfortunre. From Helen she acquires a pure and simple goodness and faith in God. When Brocklehurst loses his position and power over the school after the fatal plague, Jane is finally freed from persecution and enjoys more humane treatment for the first time in her life. Evil gives rise to good.
Rochester falls and injures his leg at first sight of her. She is there to help Rochester when he falls from the horse – foreshadowing her future role in helping lift him from the depths to which he later falls psychologically. She is awakened in the night and there to save Rochester’s life when his wife Bertha starts the fire in his room. Her aunt, who banished her and so mistreated her, is forced by conscience to call her back and reveal the existence of her uncle’s letter. It is actually Jane who professes her love (proposes) not Rochester. He has teased and taunted her into expressing her emotions, placing the onus on her out of his sense of guilt that what he does is wrong.
The chestnut tree, Rochester proposes to her under is destroyed by lightning the very same night, split in two, signifying their own later separation. The marriage veil which Rochester gave her is destroyed. This was the sole gift she had accepted, she who wanted to avoid all semblance of social artifice and device. It gets destroyed. She refused to be what he wants to pretend she is. The night before their wedding, she dreams of carrying a small baby down a long road looking for Rochester and then sees Thornfield Hall burnt to the ground and deserted.
When she is on the verge of marrying a bigamist, Mason comes to warn her and prevent a violation of her conscience. Jane being sincerely frank and good, she is protected from believing his false representations. Jane is brought at the moment of desperation and starvation to the very house of our sole living relatives. On the verge of surrendering to St. John’s demands for marriage, she hears Rochester’s call which he actually issues at that very moment, and he hears her response. Their love is that true and intense. When Jane rejects a married Rochester and runs away, the same night Bertha burns down the hall and jumps to her death and Rochester loses an arm and use of both eyes.
Jane is unable to marry Rochester until he is maimed and blinded and she becomes into an inheritance. The social gap between them was too wide to be bridged without his falling even further (after marrying a mad woman) and her rising.
- Jane has a vivid imagination and romantic side which cause her to be passionate, "strange" as the Reeds call her, and more emotionally and verbally advanced than other children her age. She is also extremely perceptive, analytical and self-aware.
- Jane, after yelling at Mrs. Reed, realizes the later negativity of her words, despite their satisfactory nature at the time of performance.
- Breaking down after her public censure, Jane admits her human need for love and affection to Helen. Her words and emotions reveal the great passion of her personality, and the drama of her imagination.
- Jane strongly expresses her newfound knowledge of her love for Rochester, unabashedly or dishonestly.
- Jane expresses herself very distinctly at seeing Rochester as she comes over the road, toward Thornfield. The symptoms add up, she is in love.
- Jane realizes she must look out for herself and live according to the values she has placed as significant in her life. Rochester finally becomes human for her--no longer an idol--the only locale of equality.
- Both Jane and Rochester have suffered greatly in their earlier lives. She by her Mrs. Reed’s treatment and the rigors of Lowood School; he by his father’s preference for his brother and marriage to a mad woman. Can we say that their shared suffering is a source of their attraction and sympathy?
- How can a girl who suffered ill treatment from the time of her birth emerge with such genuine emotions and natural goodness, devoid of vindictiveness or meanness?
- How can a man who has such keen insight into human nature have married so blindly and foolishly?
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