The story is set in England in the late 18th to early 19th century. The story focuses on “Jane,” a young girl who, after losing both her parents to typhoid, is then sent away to live with her cruel aunt at “Gateshead Hall” at her dying Uncle’s last request. Once there, she is emotionally and physically abused by members of her family. Not long after living with her cruel family, Jane is sent to Lowood School, a boarding school for girls. The conditions at the school are terrible, and many children die due to illness. After her unhappy childhood at Lowood School (where Jane is also beaten and abused), Jane, now a young adult, decides to stay on at the school as a teacher. Soon she decides to find a new career path as a governess due to her boredom at the school. This decision changes Jane’s life completely when her application is accepted at Thornfield Hall to look after a young French girl called Adèle Varens. It is here that she meets her employer, Mr. Edward Rochester, a mysterious man who has a dark secret.
Jane Eyre Plot
The novel begins with Jane’s childhood. After her parents die of typhoid, young 10-year-old Jane Eyre is sent to live with her aunt in “Gateshead Hall” at her uncle’s last request just before he dies. Her uncle, who cares for Jane and wants her to have a happy life, believes that Jane will be loved and treated well with his family after he is gone. However, he is gravely mistaken, Jane’s aunt Mrs. Sarah Reed is a cruel and cold woman who has no love for Jane. Not only does she have no love for Jane, but she also does everything she can to make sure that Jane is as miserable and unhappy as she could possibly be while living with her. Some of the acts of cruelty that Jane endures are physical abuse, mental abuse, such as being locked in a “red room” (this is especially distressing for Jane because it’s the room that her uncle died in, and she believes it to be haunted by his spirit) for hours at a time. Jane’s aunt also discourages her own three children (John, Georgiana, and Eliza) from socializing and being friendly with Jane and wants her to remain alone while living in her house. The only person living in Gateshead Hall who shows Jane any kindness is the nursemaid called “Bessie.”
One day when Jane is locked in the red room for punishment, she believes she sees her dead Uncle’s Ghost and faints. A doctor is called for, and Jane tells Mr. Lloyd that she is deeply unhappy at Gateshead Hall. The doctor then tells Mrs. Reed that Jane should move to leave the house and move to a boarding school. Mrs. Reed happily agrees that Jane should go and never return. Mrs. Reed arranges a meeting with Mr. Brocklehurst, the director of a Lowood Institution director to get Jane enrolled there. During the meeting, Mrs. Reed tells Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane is a disobedient child who can be deceitful. Mr. Brocklehurst believes this to mean that Jane is a liar, so from this point on, he doesn’t believe anything Jane says and finds any opportunity to punish her while she is a pupil at his school.
Unfortunately, Jane’s fortunes don’t improve much at Lowood Institution, a school for orphaned girls. Jane quickly discovers that life at the school is just as tough for her as it was at Gateshead Hall. However, one thing that makes her life easier is that she meets another pupil called Helen Burns. Helen is slightly older than Jane, but the two quickly become best friends. During this time of friendship, Jane confesses to Helen how terrible her time was at Gateshead Hall because of Mrs. Reed’s treatment of her.
The living conditions at Lowood School are terrible. All of the children must sleep in cold rooms. This, combined with inadequate meals and a lack of warm clothing, leads to a typhus outbreak, and many children, including Jane’s friend Helen, get sick. Most children recover but Helen dies of her illness. Jane survives her six-year education at Lowood School, and now young adulthood, she then decides to stay on at Lowood School as a teacher. She remains there for two years until she decides to change her life and advertises herself as a governess in a local newspaper. A housekeeper answers her advertisement at Thornfield Hall, and Jane accepts the position of teaching and helping to care for Adèle Varens, a French-speaking child.
By chance, when Jane is walking to the post office to deliver a letter, a horseman and his pet dog walk past her. The horse stumbles and slips on some thin black ice, and the rider falls off the horse and onto the ground. Jane immediately runs to help him.
Jane later learns that this man is Edward Rochester, master of the house. At first, Mr. Rochester seems cold and arrogant, and Jane doesn’t care much for him. Gradually the two become closer and slowly begin to learn more about each other. When Jane saves Mr. Rochester from a house fire, her opinion of him changes completely, and she begins to develop stronger feelings for him. When Mr. Rochester hosts a party at his house, many people (including Blanche Ingram, a gorgeous and talented woman) are invited. Jane does not seem to like Blanche Ingram partly because she seems to be close to Mr. Rochester and also because of her cold and arrogant manner.
Soon after Jane hears that Mrs. Reed, her cruel and unkind aunt, has suffered from a stroke and wishes to see her immediately, so Jane returns to Gateshead to look after her now dying aunt. Just before she dies, she tells Jane that she had behaved terribly towards her and gives her a letter from Jane’s other uncle, Mr. John Eyre. In the letter, Mr. John Eyre asks for Jane to live with him and be his next heir. But Mrs. Reed, in another moment of previous cruelty, admits to Jane that she told her uncle that Jane had died of fever at Lowood School.
After burying her aunt, Jane returns back to Thornfield, where she hears a rumor that Mr. Rochester’s has proposed marriage to lady Blanche Ingram. But Mr Rochester confesses his love for Jane and asks her to marry him instead of lady Blanche Ingram and Jane finally accepts his offer. However, during the wedding ceremony, Mr. Rochester is told that he can’t marry Jane because he is still legally married to another woman. Mr. Rochester explains that this is true but that his wife is a mentally unstable woman and that he was forced to marry her due to his father’s wishes because her family had money.
The marriage ceremony is canceled, but Mr. Rochester, still in love with Jane, asks her to live with him in France together as a married couple, even if their marriage cannot be made official. Even though Jane does want to be with Mr. Rochester, Jane takes her Christian values very seriously. She decides to leave Thornfield Hall early in the morning (while everyone else is still sleeping) to avoid going against her faith.
Jane decides to travel as far away from Thornfield as she can, using up the little money she previously had. When she accidentally leaves her possessions on a coach, her situation becomes very desperate. With no money and no food, she tries to sell her handkerchief and gloves for food but is unsuccessful. By the time she arrives at Diana and Mary Rivers’ home, she is dehydrated, starving, and exhausted.
After she collapses on the doorstep outside the home of Diana and Mary, Jane is rescued by St. John Rivers (a man of the clergy) Diana and Mary’s brother. After some time in which Jane slowly regains her health, St. John gets her a job as a teacher at a local village school. During this time, Jane begins to form a friendship with the sisters Mary and Diana. When St. John learns of Jane’s true identity, he amazes her by telling him that they are, in fact, related and that her uncle John Eyre has sadly died but had still left her with his entire fortune of £20,000 while he and his sisters received nothing. Ever grateful to them for saving her life and combined that she finally has some living relatives who are kind, Jane immediately decides to share the money equally among all four of them.
Still in love with Mr. Rochester, Jane then decides to return to Thornfield Hall only to find the house burnt to the ground and completely destroyed. She later learns that Mr. Rochester’s crazy wife had set fire to the house and then immediately after committed suicide. She also learns that Mr. Rochester had suffered terrible life-changing injuries during the fire. He is now blind and has also lost one of his hands. So when Jane is finally reunited with him, he believes that Jane will never love him now due to his injuries. Jane promises that she will never leave him, Mr. Rochester proposes again, and this time they are legally married. They decide to live together in an old house, and they have one child together.
This Jane Eyre plot summary is a short description of the story worth reading by every British literature lover.