1.1 Introduction 1.2 Jane's childhood 1.3 Lowood 1.4 Thornfield Hall 1.5 Other employment 1.6 Proposals
2 Characters 3 Context 4 Adaptations and influence 5 Reception 6 Notes 7 References 8 External links
This article's plot summary may be too long or excessively detailed. Please help improve it by removing unnecessary details and making it more concise. (October 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
Introduction The novel is a first-person narrative from the perspective of the title character. The novel's setting is somewhere in the north of England, late in the reign of George III (1760–1820).[a] It goes through five distinct stages: Jane's childhood at Gateshead Hall, where she is emotionally and physically abused by her aunt and cousins; her education at Lowood School, where she gains friends and role models but suffers privations and oppression; her time as governess at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with her Byronic employer, Edward Rochester; her time with the Rivers family, during which her earnest but cold clergyman cousin, St. John Rivers, proposes to her; and ultimately her reunion with, and marriage to, her beloved Rochester. Throughout these sections, the novel provides perspectives on a number of important social issues and ideas, many of which are critical of the status quo. Jane's childhood
Young Jane argues with her guardian Mrs. Reed of Gateshead, illustration by F. H. Townsend
The novel begins with the titular character, Jane Eyre, aged 10, living with her maternal uncle's family, the Reeds, as a result of her uncle's dying wish. It is several years after her parents died of typhus. Mr. Reed, Jane's uncle, was the only member of the Reed family who was ever kind to Jane. Jane's aunt, Sarah Reed, dislikes her, treats her as a burden, and discourages her children from associating with Jane. Mrs. Reed and her three children are abusive to Jane, physically, emotionally, and spiritually. The nursemaid Bessie proves to be Jane's only ally in the household, even though Bessie sometimes scolds Jane, rather harshly. Excluded from the family activities, Jane leads a very unhappy childhood, with only a doll and books with which to entertain herself. One day, as punishment for defending herself against her cousin John Reed, after the latter knocks her down, Jane is relegated to the red room in which her late uncle had died; there, she faints from panic after she thinks she has seen his ghost. She is subsequently attended to by the kindly apothecary Mr. Lloyd to whom Jane reveals how unhappy she is living at Gateshead Hall. He recommends to Mrs. Reed that Jane should be sent to school, an idea Mrs. Reed happily supports. Mrs. Reed then enlists the aid of the harsh Mr. Brocklehurst, director of Lowood Institution, a charity school for girls. Mrs. Reed cautions Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane has a "tendency for deceit", which he interprets as her being a "liar". Before Jane leaves, however, she confronts Mrs. Reed and declares that she'll never call her "aunt" again, that Mrs. Reed and her daughters, Georgiana and Eliza, are the ones who are deceitful, and that she will tell everyone at Lowood how cruelly Mrs. Reed treated her. Lowood At Lowood Institution, a school for poor and orphaned girls, Jane soon finds that life is harsh, but she attempts to fit in and befriends an older girl, Helen Burns, who is able to accept her punishment philosophically. During a school inspection by Mr. Brocklehurst, Jane accidentally breaks her slate, thereby drawing attention to herself. He then stands her on a stool, brands her a liar, and shames her before the entire assembly. Jane is later comforted by her friend, Helen. Miss Temple, the caring superintendent, facilitates Jane's self-defence and writes to Mr. Lloyd, whose reply agrees with Jane's. Jane is then publicly cleared of Mr. Brocklehurst's accusations. Helen and Miss Temple are the two main role models that positively guide Jane's development, despite the harsh treatment she has received from many others. The 80 pupils at Lowood are subjected to cold rooms, poor meals, and thin clothing. Many students fall ill when a typhus epidemic strikes, and Jane's friend Helen dies of consumption in her arms. When Mr. Brocklehurst's maltreatment of the students is discovered, several benefactors erect a new building and install a sympathetic management committee to moderate Mr. Brocklehurst's harsh rule. Conditions at the school then improve dramatically. The name Lowood symbolizes the "low" point in Jane's life where she was maltreated. Helen Burns is a representation of Charlotte's elder sister Maria, who died of tuberculosis after spending time at a school where the children were mistreated. Thornfield Hall Further information: Thornfield Hall After six years as a student and two as a teacher at Lowood, Jane decides to leave, like her friend and confidante Miss Temple, who recently married. She advertises her services as a governess and receives one reply, from Alice Fairfax, housekeeper at Thornfield Hall. Jane takes the position, teaching Adèle Varens, a young French girl. One night, while Jane is walking to a nearby town, a horseman passes her. The horse slips on ice and throws the rider. Despite the rider's surliness, Jane helps him to get back onto his horse. Later, back at Thornfield, she learns that this man is Edward Rochester, master of the house. Adèle is his ward, left in his care when her mother abandoned her. It is not immediately clear whether Adèle is Rochester's daughter or not. At Jane's first meeting with him within Thornfield, Mr. Rochester teases her, accusing her of bewitching his horse to make him fall. He also talks strangely in other ways, but Jane is able to stand up to his initially arrogant manner. Mr. Rochester and Jane soon come to enjoy each other's company, and spend many evenings together. Odd things start to happen at the house, such as a strange laugh, a mysterious fire in Mr. Rochester's room (from which Jane saves Rochester by rousing him and throwing water on him and the fire), and an attack on a house guest named Mr. Mason. After Jane saved Mr. Rochester from the fire, he thanked her tenderly and emotionly, and that night Jane felt strange emotions of her own, towards him. Next day, however, he left unexpectedly for a distant party gathering, and several days later returned with the whole party, including the beautiful and talented Blanche Ingram. Jane sees that Blanche and Mr. Rochester favour each other, and starts to feel jealous, particularly because she also sees that Blanche is snobbish and heartless, and unworthy of "her" Mr. Rochester. Jane then receives word that her aunt Mrs. Reed is calling for her, because she suffered a stroke after her son John died. Jane returns to Gateshead and remains there for a month, attending to her dying aunt. Mrs. Reed confesses to Jane that she wronged her, giving Jane a letter from Jane's paternal uncle, Mr. John Eyre, in which he asks for her to live with him and be his heir. Mrs. Reed admits to telling Mr. Eyre that Jane had died of fever at Lowood. Soon afterward, Mrs. Reed dies, and Jane helps her cousins after the funeral before returning to Thornfield.
St. John Rivers admits Jane to Moor House, illustration by F. H. Townsend
Back at Thornfield, Jane broods over Mr. Rochester's rumoured impending marriage to Blanche Ingram. However, one midsummer evening, Rochester baits Jane by saying how much he will miss her after getting married, but how she will soon forget him. The normally self-controlled Jane reveals her feelings for him. Rochester is then sure that Jane is sincerely in love with him, and he proposes marriage. Jane is at first sceptical of his sincerity, before accepting his proposeal. She then writes to her Uncle John, telling him of her happy news. As she prepares for her wedding, Jane's forebodings arise when a strange woman sneaks into her room one night and rips her wedding veil in two. As with the previous mysterious events, Mr. Rochester attributes the incident to Grace Poole, one of his servants. During the wedding ceremony, Mr. Mason and a lawyer declare that Mr. Rochester cannot marry because he is already married to Mr. Mason's sister, Bertha. Mr. Rochester admits this is true but explains that his father tricked him into the marriage for her money. Once they were united, he discovered that she was rapidly descending into congenital madness, and so he eventually locked her away in Thornfield, hiring Grace Poole as a nurse to look after her. When Grace gets drunk, Rochester's wife escapes and causes the strange happenings at Thornfield. It turns out that Jane's uncle, Mr. John Eyre, is a friend of Mr. Mason's and was visited by him soon after Mr. Eyre received Jane's letter about her impending marriage. After the marriage ceremony is broken off, Mr. Rochester asks Jane to go with him to the south of France, and live with him as husband and wife, even though they cannot be married. Refusing to go against her principles, and despite her love for him, Jane leaves Thornfield in the middle of the night. Other employment Jane travels as far from Thornfield as she can using the little money she had previously saved. She accidentally leaves her bundle of possessions on the coach and has to sleep on the moor, and unsuccessfully attempts to trade her handkerchief and gloves for food. Exhausted and hungry, she eventually makes her way to the home of Diana and Mary Rivers, but is turned away by the housekeeper. She collapses on the doorstep, preparing for her death. St. John Rivers, Diana and Mary's brother and a clergyman, saves her. After she regains her health, St. John finds Jane a teaching position at a nearby village school. Jane becomes good friends with the sisters, but St. John remains aloof. The sisters leave for governess jobs, and St. John becomes somewhat closer to Jane. St. John learns Jane's true identity and astounds her by telling her that her uncle, John Eyre, has died and left her his entire fortune of 20,000 pounds (equivalent to just under $1.7 million in 2018). When Jane questions him further, St. John reveals that John Eyre is also his and his sisters' uncle. They had once hoped for a share of the inheritance but were left virtually nothing. Jane, overjoyed by finding that she has living and friendly family members, insists on sharing the money equally with her cousins, and Diana and Mary come back to live at Moor House. Proposals Thinking that the pious Jane will make a suitable missionary's wife, St. John asks her to marry him and to go with him to India, not out of love, but out of duty. Jane initially accepts going to India but rejects the marriage proposal, suggesting they travel as brother and sister. As soon as Jane's resolve against marriage to St. John begins to weaken, she mystically hears Mr. Rochester's voice calling her name. Jane then returns to Thornfield to find only blackened ruins. She learns that Mr. Rochester's wife set the house on fire and committed suicide by jumping from the roof. In his rescue attempts, Mr. Rochester lost a hand and his eyesight. Jane reunites with him, but he fears that she will be repulsed by his condition. "Am I hideous, Jane?", he asks. "Very, sir: you always were, you know", she replies. When Jane assures him of her love and tells him that she will never leave him, Mr. Rochester again proposes, and they are married. He eventually recovers enough sight to see their firstborn son. Characters
Jane Eyre: The novel's protagonist, second wife of Edward Rochester,
and titular character. Orphaned as a baby, she struggles through her
nearly loveless childhood and becomes governess at Thornfield Hall.
Jane is passionate and strongly principled, and values freedom and
independence. She also has a strong conscience and is a determined
Christian. She is ten at the beginning of the novel, and nineteen or
twenty at the end of the main narrative. As the final chapter of the
novel states that she has been married to Edward Rochester for ten
years, she is approximately thirty at its completion.
Mr. Reed: Jane's maternal uncle, who adopts Jane when her parents die.
According to Mrs. Reed, he pitied Jane and often cared for her more
than for his own children. Before his own death, he makes his wife
promise to care for Jane.
Mrs. Sarah Reed: (née Gibson) Jane's maternal aunt by marriage, who
reluctantly adopts Jane on her husband's wishes, but abuses and
neglects her. She eventually casts her off and sends her to Lowood
John Reed: Jane's fourteen-year-old cousin who bullies her
incessantly, sometimes in his mother's presence. John eventually ruins
himself as an adult by drinking and gambling, and is rumoured to have
Eliza Reed: Jane's thirteen-year-old first cousin. Jealous of her more
attractive younger sister and a slave to rigid routine, she
self-righteously devotes herself to religion. She leaves for a nunnery
near Lisle after her mother's death, determined to estrange herself
from her sister.
Georgiana Reed: Jane's eleven-year-old first cousin. Although
beautiful and indulged, she is insolent and spiteful. Her elder sister
Eliza foils Georgiana's marriage to the wealthy Lord Edwin Vere, when
the couple is about to elope. Georgiana eventually marries a, "wealthy
worn-out man of fashion."
Bessie Lee: The nursemaid at Gateshead. She often treats Jane kindly,
telling her stories and singing her songs, but she has a quick temper.
Later, she marries Robert Leaven and gives him three children.
Robert Leaven: The coachman at Gateshead, who brings Jane the news of
John Reed's death, which has brought on Mrs. Reed's stroke, and Mrs.
Reed's wish to see Jane before Mrs. Reed died.
Mr. Lloyd: A compassionate apothecary who recommends that Jane be sent
to school. Later, he writes a letter to Miss Temple confirming Jane's
account of her childhood and thereby clears Jane of Mrs. Reed's charge
Mr. Brocklehurst: The clergyman, director, and treasurer of Lowood
School, whose maltreatment of the students is eventually exposed. A
religious traditionalist, he advocates for his charges the most harsh,
plain, and disciplined possible lifestyle, but not, hypocritically,
for himself and his own family. His second daughter Augusta exclaimed,
"Oh, dear papa, how quiet and plain all the girls at Lowood look...
they looked at my dress and mama's, as if they had never seen a silk
Miss Maria Temple: The kind superintendent of Lowood School, who
treats the students with respect and compassion. She helps clear Jane
of Mr. Brocklehurst's false accusation of deceit and cares for Helen
in her last days. Eventually, she marries Reverend Naysmith.
Miss Scatcherd: A sour and strict teacher at Lowood. She constantly
punishes Helen Burns for her untidiness but fails to see Helen's
substantial good points.
Helen Burns: Jane's best friend at Lowood School. She refuses to hate
those who abuse her, trusts in God, and prays for peace one day in
heaven. She teaches Jane to trust Christianity and dies of consumption
in Jane's arms. Elizabeth Gaskell, in her biography of the Brontë
sisters, wrote that Helen Burns was 'an exact transcript' of Maria
Brontë, who died of consumption at age 11.
Edward Fairfax Rochester: The master of Thornfield Hall. A Byronic
hero, he is tricked into making an unfortunate first marriage to
The Salutation pub in Hulme, Manchester, where Brontë began to write Jane Eyre; the pub was a lodge in the 1840s.
The early sequences, in which Jane is sent to Lowood, a harsh boarding
school, are derived from the author's own experiences. Helen Burns's
death from tuberculosis (referred to as consumption) recalls the
deaths of Charlotte Brontë's sisters, Elizabeth and Maria, who died
of the disease in childhood as a result of the conditions at their
school, the Clergy Daughters School at Cowan Bridge, near Tunstall,
Lancashire. Mr. Brocklehurst is based on Rev. William Carus Wilson
(1791–1859), the Evangelical minister who ran the school.
Additionally, John Reed's decline into alcoholism and dissolution
recalls the life of Charlotte's brother Branwell, who became an opium
and alcohol addict in the years preceding his death. Finally, like
Jane, Charlotte became a governess. These facts were revealed to the
public in The Life of
A 1949 adaptation for NBC University Theatre
The novel has been adapted into a number of other forms, including
theatre, film, television - and at least two full-length operas, by
John Joubert (1987–97) and
^ The exact time setting of the novel is impossible to determine, as several references in the text are contradictory. For example, Marmion (pub. 1808) is referred to in Chapter 32 as a "new publication", but Adèle mentions crossing the Channel by steamship, impossible before 1816.
^ Harold Bloom declared Eyre a "classic of Gothic and Victorian
literature." Bloom, Harold (July 2007). "Charlotte Brontë's "Jane
Find more aboutJane Eyreat's sister projects
Media from Wikimedia Commons Quotations from Wikiquote Texts from Wikisource Data from Wikidata
v t e
Jane Eyre Bertha Mason
Adaptations of Jane Eyre
v t e
Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell
Patrick Brontë Maria Branwell Branwell Brontë Maria Brontë Elizabeth Brontë Arthur Bell Nicholls
Brontë Parsonage Museum
BNF: cb120860894 (data)