What Happens in Jane Eyre?

  • The orphaned Jane Eyre grows up with her cruel aunt and cousins before she is sent away to a girls' boarding school, Lowood, which teaches poor and orphaned girls. Though her aunt tries to undermine Jane's experience there, Jane does well in school, and stays at Lowood as a teacher after she graduates.
  • When Jane's confidante Maria Temple leaves Lowood, Jane decides to take a job as a governess at Thornfield Hall, which is owned by Mr. Rochester. Her student is a young French girl named Adele, who is Mr. Rochester's ward.
  • The master of the house, Edward Rochester, takes an immediate liking to Jane. Mr. Rochester seems to be falling in love with Jane, who is also falling for him. Yet, there are rumors that Mr. Rochester will soon get married to Blanche Ingram. Beyond that, Thornfield Hall is becoming more eerie. Jane hears disembodied laughter, and one night Mr. Rochester almost dies when his bed catches fire under mysterious circumstances.
  • When Jane confesses her feelings to Mr. Rochester, he claims he never would have married Blanche. Mr. Rochester then asks Jane to marry him, but their modest wedding ceremony is interrupted when Mr. Mason declares that Rochester already has an insane wife locked away in the attic of Thornfield Hall. Jane leaves Mr. Rochester and ends up on the doorstep of the Rivers family, who turn out to be her cousins. While living with them, Jane learns she has inherited money from her uncle, which she shares with them. Jane's cousin, John Rivers, asks Jane to marry him and be a missionary with him in India, but Jane refuses, knowing that she will not find love with John. 
  • One night, she hears Rochester's disembodied voice calling her name and takes it as a sign to return to Thornfield Hall. When she arrives she finds that Rochester's wife has burned Thornfield Hall to the ground and has killed herself. Jane then finds Mr. Rochester, who is now blinded and missing a hand from trying to save his wife from the fire. Jane marries him, and they have a child together.

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Summary

Jane Eyre begins at Gateshead Hall, where a young orphan named Jane Eyre lives with her aunt, Mrs. Reed, and three cousins. Though Jane’s relations are wealthy, they are incredibly cruel and never let her forget that she only avoids poverty through their charity. As the relationship between Jane and the Reeds deteriorates, Mrs. Reed decides to send Jane away to Lowood school. Before Jane leaves, Mrs. Reed warns Mr. Brocklehurst (the manager of Lowood) that Jane is a liar, and he promises not to forget it. Offended by her aunt’s deceit, Jane vows never to forgive her.

The conditions at Lowood are very harsh. Mr. Brocklehurst is cruel and hypocritical, forcing the students to remain humble by making their own clothes and sharing beds while his own daughters live in luxury. The girls are given meager portions of often inedible food, and the school itself is freezing. Despite these difficulties, Jane manages to find a friend in Helen Burns, a fellow student. When Helen later dies during a typhus outbreak at the school, Jane is devastated. After the typhus epidemic, the unsanitary and grim condition of the school is publicly revealed, and Lowood is put under new management. Jane stays at the school for six more years as a student and two years as a teacher before setting off for a new job as a governess at Thornfield Hall.

At Thornfield, Jane’s pupil is a young French girl named Adèle. Adèle is the ward of Mr. Edward Rochester, the often-absent owner of Thornfield. When Jane finally meets Mr. Rochester , she is intrigued by his quirky personality and blunt way of speaking. Likewise, Mr. Rochester is fascinated by Jane’s honesty and strong convictions. Strange events occur during Jane’s stay at Thornfield: eerie laughs can be heard at night, a mysterious fire is started, and a guest is even stabbed. Mr. Rochester begins to court a local beauty named Blanche Ingram, upsetting Jane, who now recognizes that she has feelings for...

(The entire section is 2,785 words.)