In chapter 12 of Jane Eyre, Jane has gone to live at Thornfield Hall. After her arduous upbringing as an orphan, Thornfield offers a pleasant and uneventful life as Adele’s governess. In a passage about calm contrasted with struggle, Jane is writing from the advantage of hindsight. She is telling the reader how little she understood in those days, when she was dissatisfied with the ease of her life even though part of her appreciated it. Jane uses a metaphor, comparing her situation then to that of a man in an easy chair, vaguely thinking about going for a walk.
Jane’s inability to be content connects with a theme about human nature as tending toward dissatisfaction. Jane implies that human beings are never fully pleased with what they have but always want more. This tendency is so prevalent that even being told of terrible things to come would not dissuade them from their desires and ambitions.
This section of the chapter comes as Jane is returning from a walk on which she met the man whom she later would learn is Mr. Rochester. Before she went for the walk, she had already been wanting more out of life. When she looks out of a high window over the landscape, she thinks about “more vivid kinds of goodness” and wants to behold
the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen.
She specifically connects this to her situation as a woman and the ways society confines them.
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.
In helping Rochester after his horseback accident, Jane is a little excited and glad that she could be of service. She is not looking forward to entering Thornfield and resuming what she sees as a dull existence. She feels bored and even chained (fettered) rather than appreciating the positive qualities of her life there.
To pass its [Thornfield’s] threshold was … to quell wholly the faint excitement wakened by my walk, to slip again over my faculties the viewless fetters of a uniform and too still existence; of an existence whose very privileges of security and ease I was becoming incapable of appreciating.