"I resisted all the way: a new thing for me."

Jane Eyre

This page contains a brief summary of the novel Jane Eyre, its author Charlotte Bronte, and the prestigious heroine in the book.

The Novel

Jane Eyre is a classic novel by Charlotte Bronte which was published in 1847 by Smith, Elder & Company, London, and is one of the most famous British novels.

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 she is sent to boarding school. 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. At the age of eighteen, Jane takes a job as governess to a little French girl named Ad่le, the ward of Mr. Edward Rochester of Thornfield Hall. Mr. Rochester is about thirty-eight, with a blunt, capricious temperament. However, Jane admires and respects his honesty, and the two become friends. Jane falls in love, but believes that Rochester cannot love her in return because of her low status and plain looks. 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.

Mr. Rochester begins courting a local beauty, Blanche Ingram, which pains Jane, who cannot believe that Rochester loves the proud, snobbish Blanche. A mysterious Jamaican gentleman, Mr. Richard Mason, arrives at Thornfield, distressing Mr. Rochester. 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.

Mr. Rochester tells Jane that he is going to get married and she must leave Thornfield. Jane cries, saying she could not bear to leave Rochester. He asks her to marry him, revealing he loved her all along; he flirted with Blanche only to make her jealous. Jane accepts his proposal. Richard Mason and his lawyer interrupt the wedding ceremony, claiming 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. 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 Rivers (pronounced "Sinjon"), 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. 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, Jane hears Mr. Rochester's anguished voice calling to her supernaturally. She hurries to Thornfield, which has burned to the ground. She learns that Bertha escaped one night, lit a fire and jumped off the roof; Mr. Rochester lost one hand, one eye, and the sight of his other eye in the conflagration. Jane goes to where Rochester is now living. At first he fears that she will refuse to marry a blind cripple, but Jane accepts him. Speaking from a vantage point ten years on, Jane tells of their happy marriage, revealing that she has given birth to a son, and that Mr. Rochester has regained some of the sight in his remaining eye.

The Author

Charlotte Bronte (April 21, 1816 – March 31, 1855) was an English novelist and the eldest of the three Bronte sisters whose novels have become enduring classics of English literature.

Charlotte Bronte was born at Thornton, in Yorkshire, England, the third of six children, to Patrick Bronte (formerly "Patrick Brunty"), an Irish Anglican clergyman, and his wife, Maria Branwell. In April 1820 the family moved to Haworth, where Patrick had been appointed Perpetual Curate. Maria Branwell Bronte died of cancer on 15 September 1821, leaving five daughters and a son to the care of her sister Elizabeth Branwell. In August 1824, Charlotte was sent with three of her sisters, Emily, Maria, and Elizabeth, to the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire (which she would describe as Lowood School in Jane Eyre). Its poor conditions, Charlotte maintained, permanently affected her health and physical development, and hastened the deaths of her two elder sisters, Maria (born 1815) and Elizabeth (born 1814), who died of tuberculosis in 1825 soon after they were removed from the school.

At home in Haworth Parsonage, Charlotte and the other surviving children — Branwell, Emily, and Anne — began chronicling the lives and struggles of the inhabitants of their imaginary kingdoms. Charlotte and Branwell wrote stories about their country — Angria — and Emily and Anne wrote articles and poems about theirs — Gondal. The sagas were elaborate and convoluted (and still exist in part manuscripts) and provided them with an obsessive interest in childhood and early adolescence, which prepared them for their literary vocations in adulthood.

Charlotte continued her education at Roe Head school in Mirfield from 1831 to 1832, where she met her lifelong friends and correspondents, Ellen Nussey and Mary Taylor. During this period (1833) she wrote her novella The Green Dwarf under the name of Wellesley. Charlotte returned as a teacher from 1835 to 1838. In 1839 she took up the first of many positions as governess to various families in Yorkshire, a career she pursued until 1841. In 1842 she and Emily travelled to Brussels to enroll in a pensionnat run by Constantin Heger (1809–1896) and his wife Claire Zo้ Parent Heger (1804–1890). In return for board and tuition, Charlotte taught English and Emily taught music. Their time at the pensionnat was cut short when Elizabeth Branwell, their aunt who joined the family after the death of their mother to look after the children, died of internal obstruction in October 1842. Charlotte returned alone to Brussels in January 1843 to take up a teaching post at the pensionnat. Her second stay at the pensionnat was not a happy one; she became lonely, homesick, and deeply attached to Constantin Heger. She finally returned to Haworth in January 1844 and later used her time at the pensionnat as the inspiration for some of The Professor and Villette.

In May 1846, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne published a joint collection of poetry under the assumed names of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. Although the book failed to attract interest (only two copies were sold) the sisters decided to continue writing for publication and began work on their first novels. Charlotte continued to use the name 'Currer Bell' when she published her first two novels. Of this, Bronte later wrote:

"Averse to personal publicity, we veiled our own names under those of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell; the ambiguous choice being dictated by a sort of conscientious scruple at assuming Christian names positively masculine, while we did not like to declare ourselves women, because--without at that time suspecting that our mode of writing and thinking was not what is called 'feminine'--we had a vague impression that authoresses are liable to be looked on with prejudice; we had noticed how critics sometimes use for their chastisement the weapon of personality, and for their reward, a flattery, which is not true praise."

Her novels were deemed coarse by the critics. Much speculation took place as to who Currer Bell really was, and whether Bell was a man or a woman.

Charlotte's brother, Branwell, the only son of the family, died of chronic bronchitis and marasmus exacerbated by heavy drinking, in September 1848, although Charlotte believed his death was due to tuberculosis. Emily and Anne both died of pulmonary tuberculosis in December 1848 and May 1849, respectively.

Charlotte and her father were now left alone. In view of the enormous success of Jane Eyre, she was persuaded by her publisher to visit London occasionally, where she revealed her true identity and began to move in a more exalted social circle, becoming friends with Harriet Martineau, Elizabeth Gaskell, William Makepeace Thackeray and G. H. Lewes. However, she never left Haworth for more than a few weeks at a time as she did not want to leave her aging father's side.

In June 1854, Charlotte married Arthur Bell Nicholls, her father's curate. She died nine months later during her first pregnancy. Her death certificate gives the cause of death as phthisis (tuberculosis), but there is a school of thought that suggests she may have died from her excessive vomiting caused by severe morning sickness in the early stages of pregnancy. There is also evidence to suggest that Charlotte died from typhus she may have caught from Tabitha Ackroyd, the Bronte household's oldest servant, who died shortly before her. Charlotte was interred in the family vault in The Church of St. Michael and All Angels, Haworth, West Yorkshire, England.

The posthumous biography of Charlotte Bronte by her fellow novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, is a masterpiece of literature, written by one who knew her well, and is still the standard source on her life. However, though quite frank in places, Gaskell suppressed details of Charlotte's love for Heger, a married man, as being too much of an affront to contemporary mores and as a possible source of distress to Charlotte's still-living friends, father and husband (Lane 1953 178-183).

Text from Wikipedia.

The Heroine

Jane Eyre is the main character from the novel of the same title. She is described as rather plain, quiet, and sensible. Yet we learn that within that petite frame and simple manner lies a heart full of passion and spirit. The novel follows her through life, from childhood to adulthood and the ending of her tale. There are many adventures along the way, and strange things are sure to happen as you accompany Jane Eyre on her journey through life.

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