Jane Eyre is an orphan whose parents died when she was a baby, at which time she passed into the care of Mrs. Reed of Gateshead Hall. Mrs. Reed’s husband, now dead, was the brother of Jane Eyre’s mother; on his deathbed, he directed his wife to look after the orphan as after her own three children. At Gateshead Hall, Jane experiences ten years of neglect and abuse. One day, a cousin knocks her to the floor. When she fights back, Mrs. Reed punishes her by sending her to the gloomy room where Mr. Reed died. There Jane loses consciousness, and the conflict causes a dangerous illness from which she is nursed slowly back to health by sympathetic Bessie Leaven, the Gateshead Hall nurse.
No longer wishing to keep her unwanted charge in the house, Mrs. Reed makes arrangements for Jane’s admission to Lowood School. Early one morning, Jane leaves Gateshead Hall without farewells and is driven fifty miles by stage to Lowood, her humble possessions in a trunk beside her.
At Lowood, Jane is a diligent student and well liked by her superiors, especially by Miss Temple, one of the teachers, who refuses to accept without proof Mrs. Reed’s low estimate of Jane’s character. During the period of Jane’s schooldays at Lowood, an epidemic of fever that causes many deaths among the girls leads to an investigation, after which there are improvements at the institution. At the end of her studies, Jane is retained as a teacher but she grows weary of her life at Lowood and advertises for a position as a governess. She is engaged by Mrs. Fairfax, housekeeper at Thornfield, near Millcote.
At Thornfield, the new governess has only one pupil, Adele Varens, a ward of Jane’s employer, Mr. Edward Rochester. From Mrs. Fairfax, Jane learns that Mr. Rochester travels much and seldom comes to Thornfield. Jane is pleased with the quiet country life, with the beautiful old house and gardens, the book-filled library, and her own comfortable room.
While she is out walking one afternoon, Jane meets Mr. Rochester for the first time, going to his aid after his horse throws him. She finds her employer a somber, moody man, quick to change in his manner and brusque in his speech. He commends her work with Adele, however, and confides that the girl is the daughter of a French dancer who deceived him and deserted her daughter. Jane feels that this experience alone cannot account for Mr. Rochester’s moody nature.
Mysterious happenings at Thornfield puzzle Jane. Alarmed by a strange noise one night, she finds Mr. Rochester’s door open and his bed on fire. When she attempts to arouse the household, he commands her to keep quiet about the whole affair. She learns that Thornfield has a strange tenant, a woman who laughs like a maniac and stays in rooms on the third floor of the house. Jane believes that this woman is Grace Poole, a seamstress employed by Mr. Rochester.
Mr. Rochester attends many parties in the neighborhood, where he is obviously paying court to Blanche Ingram, daughter of Lady Ingram. One day, the inhabitants of Thornfield are informed that Mr. Rochester is bringing a party of house guests home with him. The fashionable Miss Ingram is among the party. During the house party, Mr. Rochester calls Jane to the drawing room, where the guests treat her with the disdain they think her humble position deserves. To herself, Jane already confessed her interest in her...
(The entire section is 1393 words.)