Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre

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Ten-year-old orphan Jane Eyre lives unhappily with her wealthy, cruel cousins and aunt at Gateshead. Her only salvation from her daily humiliations, such as being locked up in a "red-room" (where she thinks she sees her beloved uncle's ghost), is the kindly servant, Bessie. Jane is spared further mistreatment from the Reed family when she is sent off to school at Lowood, but there, under the hypocritical Evangelicalism of the headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst, she suffers further privations in the austere environment. She befriends Helen Burns, who upholds a doctrine of Christian forgiveness and tolerance, and is taken under the wing of the superintendent, Miss Temple. An outbreak of typhus alerts benefactors to the school's terrible conditions, Mr. Brocklehurst is replaced, and Jane excels as a student for six years and as a teacher for two.

Jane finds employment as a governess at the estate of Thornfield for a little girl, Adèle. After much waiting, Jane finally meets her employer, Edward Rochester, a brooding, detached man who seems to have a dark past. Other oddities around Thornfield include the occasional demonic laugh Jane hears emanating from the third-story attic. Rochester always attributes it to Grace Poole, the seamstress who works up there, but Jane is never fully convinced, and the fire she has to put out one night in Rochester's bedroom plants further doubts.

Meanwhile, Jane develops an attraction for Rochester, not based on looks (both are considered plain) but on their intellectual communion. However, the higher social standing of the beautiful Miss Ingram seemingly vaults her above Jane. Though Rochester flirts with the idea of marrying Miss Ingram, he is aware of her financial ambitions for marriage. An old acquaintance of Rochester's, Richard Mason, visits Thornfield and is severely injured from an attack‹apparently from Grace‹in the middle of the night in the attic. Jane, baffled by the circumstances, tends to him, and Rochester confesses to her that he made an error in the past that he hopes to overturn by marrying Miss Ingram. He says that he has another governess position for Jane lined up elsewhere.

Jane returns to Gateshead for a while to see the dying Mrs. Reed. When she returns to Thornfield, Rochester says he knows Miss Ingram is after him only for his money, and he asks Jane to marry him. Jane accepts, but a month later, Mason and a solicitor, Mr. Briggs, interrupt the ceremony by revealing that Rochester already has a wife: Bertha Mason, Mason's sister, a lunatic who is kept in the attic in Thornfield.

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Rochester confesses his past misdeeds to Jane. In his youth he needed to marry the wealthy Bertha for money, but was unaware of her family's history of madness, and over time she became an incorrigible, dangerous part of his life which only imprisonment could solve. Despite his protests that he loves Jane, she cannot agree to marry him because of his previous marriage, and leaves Thornfield.

Jane arrives at the desolate crossroads of Whitcross and is reduced to begging for food. Fortunately, the Rivers siblings‹St. John, Diana, and Mary‹take her into their home at Moor House. She develops great affection for the ladies, while the stoically religious St. John is harder to get close to, and happily teaches at St. John's school. Jane learns that she has inherited a vast fortune from her uncle, and that the Rivers siblings are her cousins. She divides it among her new family and phases out her teaching duties.

St. John is going to go on missionary work in India and repeatedly asks Jane to accompany him as his wife; she refuses, since it would mean compromising her capacity for passion in a loveless marriage. Instead, she is drawn to thoughts of Rochester and, one day, after experiencing a mystical connection with him, seeks him out at Thornfield. She discovers that the estate has been burned down by Bertha, who died in the fire, and that Rochester, who was blinded in the incident, lives nearby. He is overjoyed when she locates him, and relates his side of the mystical connection Jane had. He and Jane marry and enjoy life together, and he regains his sight in one eye. Diana and Mary both marry, while St. John continues his unmarried proselytizing in India.
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