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Jane Eyre Plot Summary

Jane Eyre is a Bildungsroman, or a coming-of-age novel, which recounts the first nineteen years of the character of Jane Eyre, in the first-person voice.

Jane Eyre is a young girl, orphaned as a baby; both her mother and father die together from a type of fever. Jane goes to live with her cruel Aunt Reed, who only takes her in as the result of a promise to her husband on his deathbed. Mrs. Reed does not treat Jane so very well, and her son often beats and verbally abuses her. Jane grows up for many years very unhappy-an overly mature, sad, sallow and un-childlike child. Finally it is too much for Mrs. Reed. 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.

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. 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. Simultaneous to this, it appears that Rochester is courting the hand of Blanche Ingram, in hopes of marrying her. This turns out to simply be a ploy by Rochester to make Jane jealous, and increase her love for him.

Jane goes home for her aunt's death for several weeks. 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. In the middle of the night, this woman tries to light Rochester's bed on fire. Jane wakes, smells the smoke, and saves him. This happens before she leaves for her aunt's funeral. When Jane returns, 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. Briggs. Here they reveal that Rochester has been previously married. The madwoman in his attic, is Bertha Mason, his first wife. 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.

Jane flees Thornfield, and arrives at Whitcross. She is destitute, begs and is near death almost for three days, until she comes upon a house, whose members take her in and care for her. She stays there for many days. She wakes and tells them most of her story. She develops a great friendship with Diana, Mary and St. John Rivers, who is a pastor, and are inhabitants of the house. Within good time, St. John finds Jane work as the teacher of a village-school for peasant girls in that town, Morton. Jane takes the job. Soon she finds through St. John that she has been left a fortune of twenty-thousand pounds by her uncle in Madeira, who had died. She also finds out that St. John, Mary and Diana are her cousins; her uncle is also their uncle with whom their father had once had a terrible quarrel. Thus they were left no inheritance. Jane immediately divides her fortune equally between the four of them, and vacates the school position.

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. Finally he asks her to marry him, for the "service of God" to become a missionary with him in India. Jane is torn, but knows she could never have a kind and warm, loving relationship with St. John that way as a husband. She tells him so, but he will not take her unless she is his wife. She refuses him. At this time, she hears a sudden spectre of Rochester's voice calling her from the near garden. She takes it as a sign, and the next day leaves from Whitcross in a coach to see what has happened to Rochester.

Jane arrives in Millcote after a day and a half. 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. They are perfectly suited for each other, and Jane is happy spending her life loving and helping Rochester, being his 'prop'.

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