Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte | Story and Synopsis

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte Story and Synopsis

Introduction

Jane Eyre was completed by Charlotte Bronte in 1847, just one year after she had begun working on it. Three weeks after completing the novel, she sent it to a publisher by the name of George Smith; and he, with a rare enthusiasm and unusual speed, published the book within the next six weeks. Jane Eyre saw the light of the day on the 16th October, 1847 in a three-volume edition. The book, in its first edition, bore the following title: An Autobiography.

Edited by Currer Bell, The name “Currer Bell” was a masculine name, while the author of the book was a woman. In other words, Charlotte Bronte brought out this novel, her first, under the fictitious name of Currer Bell, thus pretending that the novel had been written by a male author. (Later Mary Ann Evans adopted the same device by publishing her books under the assumed masculine name of George Eliot).

The novel Jane Eyre became immediately popular so that a second edition of it had to be published by the end of the same year, namely 1847, and a third edition of it appeared in the spring of the following year. The second edition bore a slightly altered title which was: Jane Eyre, An Autobiography by Currer Bell. In other words, even the second edition did not shed the male disguise which Charlotte Bronte had assumed. Besides, the second edition was dedicated by Charlotte Bronte in glowing terms to W.M. Thackery, the famous Victorian novelist.

Story and Synopsis of Jane Eyre

Jane, an Orphan Girl, Living at Gateshead-hall

Jane Eyre, an orphan girl, about ten years old, is living at Gatesheadhall as a dependant of the Reed family. Her uncle, Mr. John Reed had died and had left Jane Eyre to the care of his wife Mrs. Sara Reed who, however, proves to be a heartless woman and who treats Jane most shabbily, and almost cruelly. In order to get rid of the girl, Mrs. Reed sends Jane to a charity-school called Lowood School where the girl begins to live as a charity student.

As a Student, and then as a Teacher at Lowood School

Jane Eyre’s experiences at Lowood School are almost as painful as were those at Gateshead-hall though here she finds some compensations in the kindness of the school superintendent, Miss Temple, and in the comfort of her friendship with a girl called Helen Burns, Jane spends six years at this school as a student and, later, two years at the same school as a teacher.

Jane-Rochester Love Affair at Thornfield Hall

Feeling a desire for a change in the pattern and routine of her life, Jane Eyre manages to get an appointment as a governess to a French girl, Adele, living in a country mansion called Thornfield Hall. Adele is the illegitimate daughter of a French opera-dancer who had at one time been the mistress of Mr. Rochester, the owner of Thornfield Hall, Mr. Rochester had undertaken to bring up Adele as his ward though the girl was in no way related to him, directly or indirectly.

During her stay at Thornfield Hall, Jane Eyre, who is at this time nearing twenty, falls in love with Mr. Rochester who is nearing forty Mr. Rochester does not stay at Thornfield Hall on a regular basis. He visits Thornfield Hall occasionally, and then goes away, thus giving rise to a feeling of mystery in the minds of the servants at the house and, later, in the mind of Jane Eyre too. Mr. Rochester is by no means a handsome man; and Jane Eyre herself is by no means a beautiful girl. Jane falls in love with Mr. Rochester but keeps her love to herself, but, in the meantime, Mr. Rochester too falls in love with Jane. This is an odd kind of love-affair because there is a difference of twenty years between the ages of the two persons involved in it.

Mr. Rochester, Already a Married Man

A complicating circumstance is the fact that Mr. Rochester is already a married man, with his wife Bertha living in the same house, namely Thornfield Hall, Bertha is a mad woman whom Mr. Rochester had married without knowing anything about Bertha’s insanity. However, after coming to know of Bertha’s lunacy, he had not discarded her but had lodged her in a room on the top storey of Thornfield Hall, and put her under the care and charge of a maidservant by the name of Grace Poole.

Jane- Rochester Marriage was Interrupted

Without telling Jane anything about his previous marriage, Mr. Rochester now offers to marry Jane and she, in love with him as she is, agrees to his proposal though not without some vague misgivings. Just when the marriage ceremony is being performed at the local church, Bertha’s brother, one Richard Mason, appears on the scene with a solicitor, Mr. Briggs of London, and interrupts the ceremony. The solicitor points out to the priest and the small gathering that Mr. Rochester is already a married man, with his wife living in the same house in which he himself lives, Jane is shocked by this disclosure and soon afterwards quits Thornfield Hall in spite of Mr. Rochester’s entreaties and pleas not to forsake him.

Jane’s Arrival at the Residence of St. John Rivers

Jane Eyre is now feeling more miserable than ever before. Cheated of her hopes, she roams about aimlessly with no money at all in her pocket. Tired and hungry she looks for food to sustain herself; but nobody offers her either food or shelter or even sympathy till physically exhausted and famished, she rives at Moor House which is the residence of St. John Rivers, a clergyman and a missionary, and his two sisters Diana and Mary. Here she receives food, shelter and sympathy too. She begins to live here at the suggestion of St. John Rivers and his sisters, and later becomes a teacher at the school in the village of Morton where St. John Rivers is the parish priest.

Jane John declined Rivers’ Proposal of Marriage

St. John Rivers wants to marry Jane Eyre and take her to India with him as his wife to help him in his missionary work there. Jane Eyre, who is unable to forget Mr. Rochester, politely but firmly declines the matrimonial proposal of St. John Rivers.

Two Surprises for Jane Eyre

Then two surprising developments take place. Jane Eyre discovers, to her own surprise and to the surprise also of the Rivers family, that St. John, Diana, and Mary are her cousins. The second development is the news that Jane Eyre’s uncle has died in the West Indies and has left his entire wealth amounting to twenty thousand pounds to Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre divides the whole amount of twenty thousand pounds into four equal parts, giving each of her three cousins of the Rivers family an amount of five thousand pounds, and keeping an equal amount, and no more, for herself.

The Fulfilment of Jane’s Passionate Love for Mr. Rochester

Then an even more surprising development takes place. Jane Eyre finds that Thornfield Hall has been burnt down by a fire and that Mr. Rochester, who had been blinded while trying vainly to rescue his mad wife from being burnt alive, is now living alone, as a blind man, and almost as a cripple, at a small cottage in the village of Ferndean. Jane travels to that place, meets Mr. Rochester, and gets married to him because her love for him has in no way been diminished by his helpless condition. As his wife, Jane experiences the bliss which had always eluded her before. After a time, Mr. Rochester largely recovers his eyesight, and the couple then embark upon a blissful conjugal life. Thus does the passionate love of Jane Eyre for a man, twenty years older than herself, achieve its fulfillment.

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