Chapters 11–15 Summary and Analysis
Jane’s journey to Thornfield takes longer than she expected, and by the time she arrives, night has fallen. Though Jane cannot see much of the outside of the house, the interior is nicely furnished and cozy. She is surprised by the solicitous treatment Mrs. Fairfax, a neat old woman, offers her; she addresses Jane more like a guest than an employee. Mrs. Fairfax informs Jane that she will be governess to a young girl named Adèle Varens. The next morning, Jane is surprised to learn that the owner of Thornfield is a man named Mr. Rochester and not, as she had presumed, Mrs. Fairfax. Mrs. Fairfax (who is actually the housekeeper) explains that Mr. Rochester is rarely home and that Adèle is his ward. Adèle speaks mostly French and it is revealed that her late mother was a French performer. Jane finds her to be a pleasant pupil, though somewhat unfocused. From Mrs. Fairfax, Jane endeavors to learn more about the mysterious Mr. Rochester. Mrs. Fairfax says that his personality is “rather peculiar,” though he is a good master. While Mrs. Fairfax is showing Jane around the house, they hear a spooky, echoing laugh upstairs. Mrs. Fairfax assures Jane that it is just Grace Poole, a rather eccentric servant, and reprimands Grace for making too much noise.
Jane finds her life at Thornfield pleasant and enjoys the company of Mrs. Fairfax and Adèle. In part due to her comfortable situation, Jane begins to feel a bit bored and often finds herself walking along the roof of Thornfield, imagining the vast, unknown world beyond the visible horizon. One day, feeling restless, Jane offers to deliver one of Mrs. Fairfax’s letters to town. As she walks, she hears a horse approaching and recalls Bessie telling her about the mythical “Gytrash,” a horse-like creature that is said to approach solitary travelers. The spell is broken, however, when she spies the horse’s human rider. Just as Jane begins to walk away, the horse slips on ice, causing both it and its rider to fall to the ground. Jane rushes over to help the man, who appears to be in his mid-thirties. She notices that he has a stern face and a rough demeanor. She introduces herself, and after she helps the stranger remount his horse, he is able to ride off, accompanied by his dog. When Jane returns to Thornfield, she notices the same dog that had been following the rider. A servant informs her that Mr. Rochester has just arrived with a sprained ankle.
The next day, Jane and Adèle are invited to have tea with Mr. Rochester. Mr. Rochester behaves distantly toward both of them before beginning to question Jane rather aggressively. Though Mr. Rochester’s manner is harsh, he appears to be impressed by Jane’s drawing ability. After the encounter, Jane tells Mrs. Fairfax that she found Mr. Rochester “very changeful and abrupt.” Mrs. Fairfax hints that part of Mr. Rochester’s peculiar personality may be tied to past family troubles. She reveals that he was not on very good terms with his father or elder brother and that he only gained ownership of Thornfield nine years ago when his elder brother died.
Jane sees little of Mr. Rochester over the next several days until one night, after dinner, Mr. Rochester sends for her and Adèle. Giving Adèle a gift with which to distract herself, Mr. Rochester strikes up a conversation with Jane. After noticing her looking at him, Mr. Rochester boldly asks whether she finds him handsome, to which Jane unthinkingly and bluntly replies “No, sir.” Mr. Rochester is intrigued by her honesty, and Jane begins to suspect he has had too much wine. He demands that Jane speak about herself, but Jane, rankled by his overt sense of superiority, challenges his claim that he may command her merely because he is older and more worldly than her. Though Mr. Rochester disagrees, he is impressed with her bold answer. The conversation turns to the concept of regeneration, and Mr. Rochester suggests that he is...
(The entire section is 1,644 words.)