Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte (1816 - 1855)

Jane Eyre
by Charlotte Bronte (1816
- 1855)

Type of Work:

Psychological romance


Northern England; 1800s

Principal Characters

Jane Eyre, an orphan girl

Mrs. Reed, Jane's aunt, and mistress of

Gateshead Hall

Edward Rochester, the once-handsome owner
of Thornfield Manor

St. John Rivers, a young clergyman

Story Overveiw

Orphaned at birth, Jane Eyre was left
to live at Gateshead Hall Manor with her aunt-in-law, Mrs. Reed. Jane remained
at the estate for ten years, subjected to hard work, mistreatment, and
fixed hatred.

After a difficult childhood, the shy, petite

Jane was sent to Lowood School, a semi-charitable institution for girls.

She excelled at Lowood and over the years advanced from pupil to teacher.

Then she left Lowood to become the governess of a little girl, Adele, the
ward of one Mr. Edward Rochester, stern, middle-aged master of Thornfield


At Thornfield, Jane was comfortable with
life - what with the grand old house, its well-stocked and silent library,
her private room, the garden with its many chestnut, oak and thorn trees,
it was a veritable palace. Mr. Rochester was a princely and heroic master,
and, despite his ireful frown and brusque, moody manner, Jane felt at ease
in his presence. Rochester confided that Adele was not his own child but
the daughter of a Parisian dancer who had deserted her in his care. Still,
even with this forthright confession, Jane sensed that there was something

Rochester was hiding.

Off and on, Jane heard bizarre, mysterious
sounds at Thornfield. She finally discovered that Rochester kept a strange
tenant on the third floor of the mansion. This hermit-like woman, once
employed by Rochester - or so he said - often laughed maniacally in the
night. And other disturbances soon followed.

One evening, after the household had gone
to sleep, Jane was aroused by the smell of smoke - to find Mr. Rochester's
bed on fire. Only with a great deal of exertion did she manage to extinguish
the flames and revive her employer.

Some time later, a Mr. Mason from Jamaica
arrived for a house party. Shortly after retiring that evening, Jane and
the house guests were awakened by the sound of a man screaming for help.

Rochester reassured his guests that it was merely a servant's nightmare
and persuaded them to return to their rooms. But Jane was obligated to
spend the rest of the night caring for Mr. Mason, who had somehow received
serious slashes to his arm and shoulder. After hinting that he had obtained
these wounds from an attack by a madwoman, he quietly left the house on
the next morning.

One day Jane was urgently summoned to Gateshead:

Mrs. Reed was dying. Upon jane's arrival, Mrs. Reed presented her with
a letter from her childless uncle, John Eyre, requesting that Jane come
to him in Madeira, as he wished to adopt her. The letter had been delivered
three years before, but, because of her dislike for the girl, Mrs. Reed
had written John Eyre to inform him that Jane had unfortunately died in
an epidemic earlier that year. Adoption by her unclc would have given Jane
not only a family but an inheritance - one she still might claim. However,
she decided to return to Thornfield.

One night, in the garden at Thornfield,

Mr. Rochester proposed marriage - and Jane accepted. She excitedly wrote
to her Uncle John to tell him the news. But one month later, on the morning
of her wedding day, Jane was startled from sleep by a repulsive, snarling
old wot-nan in a long, white dress and fondling Jane's veil. Before bounding
out the door, the wretch shredded the veil. Jane's groom comforted his
shaken bride; and Jane calmed herself and prepared for the i-narriage.

The ceremony was near its end; the clergyman
had just uttered the words, "Wilt thou have this woman for thy wedded wife?"
when a voice suddenly broke in: "The marriage cannot go on. I declare the
existence of an impediment." When asked for the facts, this man - a lawyer
- produced a document proving that Rochester had married one Bertha Mason
in Jamaica some fifteen years earlier. Mr. Mason, the mysteriously wounded
house guest, stood as witness to the fact that Bertha was still alive and
living at Thoriifield. At last Rochester stepped forward and acknowledged
that the accusation was true, but that his wife had gone mad; in fact,
she came from a family of idiots and maniacs for three generations back.

Rochester further maintained that this early wedding had been arranged
by his father and brother in hopes that he would marry into a fortune.

The groom-to-be next invited the lawyer,
the clergyman, and Mr. Mason to accompany him