Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë
Originally published 1847
Scholastic, 20th printing, 1962
Genre: Gothic romance, literature
Synopsis & Review: Jane Eyre is a penniless dependent in her Aunt Reed’s home. She is tormented by her cousins, disliked by her aunt, and barely tolerated by the servants, and she is all of ten years old. Through the auspices of a sympathetic outsider, Jane is sent to the Lowood School, a charitable institution for poor girls. Though the school is at first nearly intolerable, a typhus epidemic and subsequent student deaths soon bring to light the maltreatment suffered by the students, ushering in a regime change for the better. Jane spends six years at Lowood as a student, and teaches there another two years before deciding to make her own way in the world.
Upon advertising for a position as governess to young children, she is invited by a Mrs Fairfax to teach at one Thornfield. The situation proves pleasant; Jane has but one student, a French dancer’s by-blow, and Mrs Fairfax is good company. Soon, however, Thornfield’s master Mr Rochester returns, and the sardonic and brooding Byronic hero soon enthralls Jane. Fortunately for her, our heroine, who he often compares to fairyfolk, similarly enchants Mr Rochester. All seems to be going well despite Jane’s misgivings, when Mr Rochester dark secret is uncovered, and Jane flees alone and friendless into the world.
At death’s door from exposure and starvation, a family of siblings, the Riverses, a brother and two sisters takes in Jane. After being nursed back to health, St John Rivers finds her a place teaching a small local school, and Jane begins settling into a quiet life of obscure usefulness. Fortune intervenes, and Jane’s longlost uncle Eyre dies in faraway Madeira, leaving her a large inheritance. This revelation falls in hand with the disclosure that the Riverses are also relatives, being the offspring of her father’s sister. Ecstatic at the prospect of being part of a family for the first time ever, Jane shares out her fortune with the Riverses, and endeavors to live peacefully with them.
St John, admiring Jane’s fortitude and intelligence, demands that she marry him, and accompany him to India as a missionary. She is nearly overwhelmed by the force of his personality, and wishes to please him, but the prospect of a loveless marriage appalls her. She insists that she can only travel with him as a sister, and as they argue, she feels an urgent call to her from a distant place. Feeling that it must be Mr Rochester, of whom she has heard nothing since her leave-taking, Jane hurries to Thornfield, only to find it in ruins. She fears the worst, but soon learns that he now resides as a small manor called Ferndean, though he is now grievously injured. Upon her arrival, Jane finds Mr Rochester as devoted to her as ever, though more so now that their positions are reversed and he is a dependent, while her independent means for the first time match her personality. And, they marry. click here for more about Jane Eyre