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Jane Eyre ( ) is a famous and influential novel by English writer Charlotte Brontë. It was published in London, England in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Co. with the title Jane Eyre. An Autobiography under the pen name "Currer Bell".

(Harper & Brothers of New York came out with the American edition in 1848.)

Plot introduction

Jane Eyre is a first-person narrative of the title character. The novel goes through five distinct stages: Jane's childhood at Gateshead, where she is emotionally abused by her aunt and cousins; her education at Lowood School, where she acquires friends and role models but also suffers privations; her time as the governess of Thornfield Manor, where she falls in love with her Byronic employer, Edward Rochester; her time with the Rivers family at Marsh's End (or Moor House) and Morton, where her cold clergyman-cousin St John Rivers proposes to her; and her reunion with and marriage to her beloved Rochester. Partly autobiographical, the novel abounds with social criticism and sinister gothic elements.

Jane Eyre is divided into 38 chapters; most editions are at least 400 pages long (although the preface and introduction on certain copies are liable to take up another 100). The original was published in three volumes, comprising chapters 1 to 15, 16 to 26, and 27 to 38.

Brontë dedicated the novel's second edition to William Makepeace Thackeray.

Plot summary

Chapters 1-4: Jane's childhood at Gateshead

A ten-year-old orphan named Jane Eyre lives with her uncle's family, the Reeds. Jane's aunt, Sarah Reed,dislikes her intensely. When her uncle dies, her aunt and the three Reed children become abusive. When bullied by her cousin John, Jane retaliates but is punished for the ensuing fight and is locked in the room where Mr. Reed died. As night falls, Jane's panicked screams rouse the house, but Mrs. Reed won't let her out. Jane faints and Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary is summoned. He talks with Jane and sympathetically suggests that she should go away to school.

Chapters 5-10: Jane's education at Lowood School

Mrs. Reed sends Jane to Lowood Institution, a charity school, and warns them that Jane is deceitful. During an inspection, Jane accidentally breaks her slate, and Mr. Brocklehurst, the self-righteouse clergyman who runs the school, brands her as a liar and shames her before the entire assembly.

Jane is comforted by her friend, Helen Burns. Miss Temple, a caring teacher, facilitates Jane's self-defense and writes to Mr. Lloyd whose reply agrees with Jane's. Ultimately, Jane is publicly cleared of Mr. Brocklehurst's accusations.

While the Brocklehurst family lives in luxury, the eighty pupils are subjected to cold rooms, poor meals, and thin clothing. Many students fall ill when a typhus epidemic strikes. Jane's friend Helen dies in Jane's arms.

When Mr. Brocklehurst's neglect and dishonesty are laid bare, several benefactors erect a new building and conditions at the school improve dramatically.

Chapters 11-26: Jane's time as governess at Thornfield Manor

Eight years later, Jane is a teacher employed by Alice Fairfax (the housekeeper of Thornfield Manor) as governess for Adèle Varens, a young French girl. Out walking one day, Jane encounters and helps a horseman who has sprained his ankle. On her return to Thornfield, she discovers that the horseman is Edward Rochester, Master of Thornfield Manor. Rochester is a moody, self-willed man nearly twenty years older than Jane. Adèle is his ward from a previous romantic relationship with a French "opera dancer."

Image:P140b.jpg|Jane saves Mr. Rochester from a fire.

Image:P184b.jpg|Miss Blanche Ingram looking in a book.

Image:P190b.jpg|Mr. Rochester disguised as a Gypsy woman.

Image:P272b.jpg|Bertha Mason rips Jane's wedding veil.

Mr. Rochester seems quite taken with Jane, and she enjoys his company. However, odd things begin to happen: a strange laugh is heard in the halls, a near-fatal fire mysteriously breaks out, and a guest named Mason is attacked.

Jane receives word that Mrs. Reed has suffered a stroke and is asking for her. Returning to Gateshead, she remains for over a month while her aunt lies dying. Mrs. Reed rejects Jane's efforts at reconciliation, but does give her a letter previously withheld out of spite. The letter is from John Eyre, Jane's uncle, notifying her of his intent to bequeath his fortune to her.

After returning to Thornfield, Jane proclaims her love for Rochester, who returns her feelings and proposes. As she prepares for her wedding, Jane's forebodings arise when a strange, savage-looking woman sneaks into her room one night and rips her wedding veil in two. As with previous mysterious events, Mr Rochester attributes the incident to drunkenness on the part of 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. Mr Rochester bitterly admits this, explaining that his wife is a violent madwoman whom he keeps locked in the attic, in the care of Grace Poole. When Grace occasionally drinks too much, it gives his wife a chance to escape, and she is the true cause of Thornfield's strange events.

Mr. Rochester asks Jane to go with him to the south of France, and live 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.

Chapters 27-35: Jane's time with the Rivers family

Image:P311b.jpg|Jane leaves Thornfield and sleeps outside.

Image:P316b.jpg|Jane begs for food.

Image:P323b.jpg|St. John Rivers admits Jane to Moor House.

Jane travels to the north of England. After mislaying her funds, she sleeps on the moor and begs for food, but is turned away as a beggar, a thief, or worse. Exhausted, she is saved by St. John Rivers, a young clergyman, who brings her to the home of his sisters, Diana and Mary. As she regains her health, St. John finds her a teaching position at a nearby charity school.Jane becomes warm friends with Mary and Diana, but St. John is too reserved for her to relate to, despite his efforts on her behalf. Jane sees that the brother and sisters have money-related worries, but does not enquire further.

Image:P350b.jpg|Rosamond Oliver shows an interest in St. John.

Image:P369b.jpg|St. John tells Jane she has inherited ÂŁ20,000.

Image:P389b.jpg|Jane considering St. John's proposal.

When the sisters leave for governess jobs in London, St. John becomes more comfortable around Jane, evidencing his own conflicts of the heart, which involve the beautiful and wealthy Rosamond Oliver. When Jane confronts him about his feelings for Miss Oliver, he confesses that he has turned away from them, because he feels called to be a missionary, and he knows that Miss Oliver would not accept such a life.

St. John discovers Jane's true identity, and astounds her by showing her a letter stating that her uncle John has died and left her his entire fortune of 20,000 pounds. When Jane questions him further, St. John reveals that John is also his and his sisters' uncle . They had once hoped for a share of the inheritance, but have since resigned themselves to nothing. Jane, overjoyed by finding her family, insists on sharing the money equally with her cousins.

St. John asks Jane to accompany him to India as his wife. She agrees to go, but refuses marriage, believing his reserve and reason incompatible with her warmth and passion. But, his powers of persuasion eventually convince her to change her mind.

However, at that very moment, she suddenly seems to hear Mr. Rochester calling her name. The next morning, she leaves for Thornfield to ascertain Mr. Rochester's well-being before departing forever for India.

Chapters 36-38: Jane's reunion with Mr. Rochester

Image:P413b.jpg|Thornfield burned to the ground by Bertha.

Image:P422b.jpg|Jane and Mr. Rochester reunited.

Image:P435b.jpg|Mr. Rochester's sight improving.

Jane arrives at Thornfield to find only blackened ruins. She learns that 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. When Jane assures him of her love and tells him that she will never leave him, Mr. Rochester again proposes. He eventually recovers enough sight to see their first-born son.


  • Jane Eyre: The protagonist and title character. Orphaned as a baby, she struggles through her nearly loveless childhood and becomes governess at Thornfield Hall. Although she falls in love with her wealthy employer, Edward Rochester, her strong sense of conscience does not permit her to become his mistress, and she does not return to him until his insane wife is dead and she herself has come into an inheritance.
  • Mr. Reed: Jane's maternal uncle, who adopts Jane when her parents die. Before his own death, he makes his wife promise to care for Jane.
  • Mrs. Sarah Reed: Jane's aunt by marriage, who adopts Jane but neglects and abuses her. Her dislike of Jane continues to her death.
  • John Reed: Jane's cousin, who bullies Jane constantly, sometimes in his mother's presence. He ruins himself as an adult and is believed to die by suicide.
  • Eliza Reed: Jane's cousin. Bitter because she is not as attractive as her sister, she devotes herself self-righteously to religion.
  • Georgiana Reed: Jane's cousin. Though spiteful and insolent, she is also beautiful and indulged. Her sister Eliza foils her marriage to a wealthy Lord.
  • Bessie Lee: The plain-spoken nursemaid at Gateshead. She sometimes treats Jane kindly, telling her stories and singing her songs. Later she marries Robert Leaven.
  • Robert Leaven: The coachman at Gateshead, who brings Jane the news of John Reed's death, which brought on Mrs. Reed's stroke.
  • 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 clearing Jane of Mrs. Reed's charge of lying.
  • Mr. Brocklehurst: The clergyman headmaster and treasurer of Lowood School, whose mistreatment of the students is eventually exposed.
  • Miss Maria Temple: The kind, superintendent of Lowood School, who treats Jane and Helen (and others) with respect and compassion. She helps clear Jane of Mr. Brocklehurst's false accusation of deceit.
  • Miss Scatcherd: A sour and vicious teacher at Lowood.
  • Helen Burns: An fellow-student and best friend of Jane's at Lowood School. She refuses to hate those who abuse her, trusting in God and turning the other cheek. She dies in Jane's arms.
  • Edward Fairfax Rochester: The master of Thornfield Manor. A Byronic hero, he makes an unfortunate first marriage before he meets Jane.
  • Bertha Antoinetta Mason: The violently insane first wife of Edward Rochester.
  • Adèle Varens: A French child to whom Jane is governess at Thornfield. She is Mr Rochester's ward.
  • Mrs. Alice Fairfax: An elderly widow and housekeeper of Thornfield Manor. She treats Jane kindly and respectfully, but disapproves of her engagement to Mr Rochester.
  • Blanche Ingram: A socialite whom Mr. Rochester appears to court in order to make Jane jealous.
  • Richard Mason: An Englishman from the West Indies, whose sister is Mr. Rochester's first wife.
  • St. John Eyre Rivers: A clergyman who befriends Jane and turns out to be her cousin. He is Jane Eyre's cousin on her father's side. He is a devout, Christian of Calvinistic leanings. By nature he is very reserved and single-minded.
  • Diana and Mary Rivers: St. John's sisters and (as it turns out) Jane's cousins.
  • Grace Poole: Bertha Mason's keeper.
  • Rosamond Oliver: A wealthy young woman who patronizes the village school where Jane teaches, and who is attracted to the Rev. St. John.
  • John Eyre: Jane's paternal uncle, who leaves her his vast fortune. He never appears as a character.



Jane refuses to become Mr Rochester's paramour because of her "impassioned self-respect and moral conviction." She rejects St. John Rivers' Puritanism as much as Mr Rochester's libertinism. Instead, she works out a morality expressed in love, independence, and forgiveness.


Throughout the novel, Jane endeavours to attain an equilibrium between moral duty and earthly happiness. She despises the hypocritical puritanism of Mr. Brocklehurst, and rejects St. John Rivers' cold devotion to his Christian duty, but neither can she bring herself to emulate Helen Burns' turning the other cheek, although she admires Helen for it. Ultimately, she rejects these three extremes and finds a middle ground in which religion serves to curb her immoderate passions but does not repress her true self.

Social class

Jane's ambiguous social position—a penniless yet moderately educated orphan from a good family—leads her to criticise discrimination based on class. Although she is educated, well-mannered, and relatively sophisticated, she is still a governess, a paid servant of low social standing, and therefore powerless. Nevertheless, Brontë possesses certain class prejudices herself, as is made clear when Jane has to remind herself that her unsophisticated village pupils at Morton "are of flesh and blood as good as the scions of gentlest genealogy."

Gender relations

A particularly important theme in the novel is patriarchalism and Jane's efforts to assert her own identity within male-dominated society. Three of the main male characters, Brocklehurst, Mr Rochester and St. John, try to keep Jane in a subordinate position and prevent her from expressing her own thoughts and feelings. Jane escapes Brocklehurst and rejects St. John, and she only marries Mr Rochester once she is sure that their marriage is one between equals. Through Jane, Brontë opposes Victorian stereotypes about women, articulating her own feminist philosophy:

Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex. (Chapter XII)


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 Bridgemarker, near Tunstall, Lancashiremarker. Mr. Brocklehurst is based on Rev. William Carus Wilson (1791–1859), the Evangelical minister who ran the school, and Helen Burns is likely modelled on Charlotte's sister Maria. 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 becomes a governess. These facts were revealed to the public in The Life of Charlotte Brontë (1857) by Charlotte's friend and fellow novelist Elizabeth Gaskell.

The Gothic manor of Thornfield was probably inspired by North Lees Hall, near Hathersagemarker in the Peak Districtmarker. This was visited by Charlotte Brontë and her friend Ellen Nussey in the summer of 1845 and is described by the latter in a letter dated 22 July 1845. It was the residence of the Eyre family, and its first owner, Agnes Ashurst, was reputedly confined as a lunatic in a padded second floor room.

Literary motifs and allusions

Jane Eyre uses many motifs from Gothic fiction, such as the Gothic manor (Thornfield), the Byronic hero (Mr Rochester and Jane herself) and The Madwoman in the Attic (Bertha), whom Jane perceives as resembling "the foul German spectre—the Vampyre" (Chapter XXV) and who attacks her own brother in a distinctly vampiric way: "She sucked the blood: she said she'd drain my heart" (Chapter XX). Also, besides gothicism, Jane Eyre displays romanticism to create a unique Victorian novel.

Literary allusions from the Bible, fairy tales, The Pilgrim's Progress, Paradise Lost, and the novels and poetry of Sir Walter Scott are also much in evidence. The novel deliberately avoids some conventions of Victorian fiction, not contriving a deathbed reconciliation between Aunt Reed and Jane Eyre and avoiding the portrayal of a "fallen woman".


Mr. Reed torments young Jane Eyre in Suffolk Youth Theatre's 2008 production of Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre has engendered numerous adaptations and related works inspired by the novel:

Silent film versions

  • Three adaptations entitled Jane Eyre were released; one in 1910, two in 1914.
  • 1915: Jane Eyre starring Louise Vale.
  • 1915: A version was released called The Castle of Thornfield.
  • 1918: A version was released called Woman and Wife.
  • 1921: Jane Eyre starring Mabel Ballin.
  • 1926: A version was made in Germanymarker called Orphan of Lowood.

Motion picture versions

Musical versions

  • A two-act ballet of Jane Eyre was created for the first time by the London Children's Ballet in 1994, with an original score by composer Julia Gomelskaya and choreography by Polyanna Buckingham. The run was a sell-out success.
  • A musical version with a book by John Caird and music and lyrics by Paul Gordon, with Marla Schaffel as Jane and James Stacy Barbour as Mr Rochester, opened at the Brooks Atkinson Theatremarker on 10 December 2000. It closed on 10 June 2001.
  • Jane Eyre, opera in three acts, Op. 134 was composed by John Joubert in 1987–1997 to a libretto by Kenneth Birkin after the novel.
  • An opera based on the novel was written in 2000 by English composer Michael Berkeley, with a libretto by David Malouf. It was given its premiere by Music Theatre Wales at the Cheltenham Festivalmarker.
  • Jane Eyre was played for the first time in Europe in Beverenmarker, Belgiummarker. It was given its premiere at the cultural centre.
  • The ballet "Jane," based on the book was created in 2007, a Bullard/Tye production with music by Max Reger. Its world premiere was scheduled at the Civic Auditorium, Kalamazoo, Michigan, June 29 and 30, performed by the Kalamazoo Ballet Company, Therese Bullard, Director.
  • A musical production directed by Debby Race, book by Jana Smith and Wayne R. Scott, with a musical score by Jana Smith and Brad Roseborough, premiered in 2008 at the Lifehouse Theatre in Redlandsmarker, Californiamarker
  • A symphony (7th) by Michel Bosc premiered in Bandol (France), 11 October 2009.

Television versions


  • 1938: Rebecca by Daphne du Maurier was partially inspired by Jane Eyre.
  • 1961: The Ivy Tree by Mary Stewart adapts many of the motifs of Jane Eyre to 1950s northern England. The main character, Annabel, falls in love with her older neighbor who is married to a mentally ill woman. Like Jane, Annabel runs away to try to get over her love. The novel begins when she returns from her eight-year exile.
  • 1966: Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. The character, Bertha Mason, serves as the main protagonist for this novel which acts as a "prequel" to Jane Eyre. It describes the meeting and marriage of Antoinette (later renamed Bertha by Mr Rochester) and Mr Rochester. In its reshaping of events related to Jane Eyre, the novel suggests that Bertha's madness is the result of Mr Rochester's rejection of her and her Creole heritage. It was also adapted into film twice.
  • 1997: Mrs Rochester: A Sequel to Jane Eyre by Hilary Bailey
  • 2000: Adele: Jane Eyre's Hidden Story by Emma Tennant
  • 2000: Jane Rochester by Kimberly A. Bennett, content explores the first years of the Rochester's marriage with gothic and explicit content. A fan favorite.
  • 2001 novel The Eyre Affair by Jasper Fforde revolves around the plot of Jane Eyre. It portrays the book as originally largely free of literary contrivance: Jane and Mr Rochester's first meeting is a simple conversation without the dramatic horse accident, and Jane does not hear his voice calling for her and ends up starting a new life in India. The title heroine's efforts mostly accidentally change it to the real version.
  • 2002: Jenna Starborn by Sharon Shinn, a science fiction novel based upon Jane Eyre
  • 2006: The French Dancer's Bastard: The Story of Adele From Jane Eyre by Emma Tennant. This is a slightly modified version of Tennant's 2000 novel.
  • 2007: Thornfield Hall: Jane Eyre's Hidden Story by Emma Tennant. This is another version of Jane Eyre.
  • The novelist Angela Carter was working on a sequel to Jane Eyre at the time of her death in 1992. This was to have been the story of Jane's stepdaughter Adèle Varens and her mother CĂ©line. Sadly, only a synopsis survives.


  1. Stevie Davies, Introduction and Notes to Jane Eyre. Penguin Classics ed., 2006.
  7. Lifehouse Theatre presents Jane Eyre - accessed May 10, 2008
  11. Rebecca-Jane Eyre at Washington Post

External links

The novel online

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