Jane Eyre is a novel that tells the story of Jane Eyre, a young woman who experiences a lot of emotions and growth as she matures into adulthood. Her romantic feelings towards Mr. Rochester, the owner of Thornfield Hall, are also a central part of the story.
Even though the novel has elements of social criticism and explores themes of morality, what sets it apart is Jane’s independent character and the way it tackles sensitive topics like sexuality, religion, and proto-feminism. These aspects have made Jane Eyre a book that many consider to be ahead of its time.
You do not have to read the entire book if you don’t have time. This book review provides an overview of everything you can learn from it.
Let’s get started without further ado.
In this Jane Eyre book review, I’m going to cover the following topics:
Table of Contents
A young woman who falls in love with her employer faces sadness and heartache before finally marrying him.
A 10-year-old orphan, Jane Eyre, has lived at Gateshead since infancy with her cold-hearted aunt, Mrs. Sarah Reed, and her hostile cousins, John, Eliza, and Georgiana Reed. One day, Jane, who is usually passive, strikes John Reed after he throws a book at her, causing her to fall down and cut her head.
Mrs. Reed retaliates by shutting Jane up in the red room, where the child feels threatened, lonely, and angry. Soon afterward, her aunt makes plans to send Jane to the Rev.
Mr. Brocklehurst’s charity school, Lowood, telling him that Jane is deceitful. Before she leaves, however, Jane discovers that her mother had come from a wealthy family, but was disinherited for marrying a poor clergyman against her family’s wishes. Both her parents died of a typhus fever caught when her father was visiting the poor.
Jane arrives at Lowood, where there is poor food, little heat, and strict discipline. She is befriended by the kind and intelligent Helen Burns, a classmate who tries to teach Jane a doctrine of forgiveness and self-sacrifice.
Jane admires Helen, but insists that “when we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard.” In spite of her humiliation when Brocklehurst tells the schoolgirls that Jane is a liar, she comes to love learning.
But a typhus fever hits the school in the spring, and Jane’s friend Helen later dies of consumption. Brocklehurst is fired for letting conditions deteriorate, and his replacement, Miss Maria Temple, turns the school into a fine institution.
Eight years later, Jane is a teacher at Lowood. When Miss Temple marries and leaves, Jane advertises for a position as governess and accepts an offer from Thornfield Hall. Before Jane departs, however, Mrs. Reed’s housekeeper, Bessie, pays Jane a visit and tells her that a Mr. Eyre had asked about Jane seven years earlier on his way to Madeira.
Jane arrives at Thornfield, a great sprawling mansion, and meets the elderly housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, who shows her around the house and explains that the owner, Mr. Rochester, stays at the house only occasionally and is now absent.
Jane also meets the French nurse, Sophie, and her future pupil, Adèle Varens, a sweet young girl who is Rochester’s ward (adopted daughter). Suddenly, they hear strange laughter coming from the attic, and Jane is told that it is the mysterious Grace Poole, a servant whose function remains unclear to Jane until much later.
Jane had come to Thornfield in search of adventure, but finds herself bored for about three months until Mr. Rochester returns home. At first, he is gruff and impatient with Jane, but on discovering her sharp wit and independent spirit, he grows fond of her.
One night, he tells Jane about Adèle’s mother, Céline, with whom he was passionately in love, but who devastated him by ridiculing him to another lover. Celine claims that Adèle is Rochester’s child, but he has never believed this.
After listening to his story, Jane goes to bed, but soon hears the strange laughter again in the hallway. She suddenly realizes that a fire has been set in Rochester’s room, and Jane reaches her employer just in time to save his life.
When Rochester leaves Thornfield for a large social event, Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane that he will probably marry the beautiful but cold-hearted Blanche Ingram. Hearing this, Jane regrets that she has grown so fond of Rochester.
Thirteen days later, he returns with a party of guests that includes Blanche. When Jane watches their activities as an outsider, she admits that she has fallen in love with Rochester. What’s more, it is clear that he loves her and has become emotionally dependent on her.
One night while the guests are still there, Rochester impersonates a gypsy fortune-teller. In disguise, he informs Blanche that she will have no future with Rochester, and probes the nature of Jane’s affections for him. The arrival of a peculiar Mr. Mason horrifies Rochester, who turns pale.
That night, there is another scream and Rochester tells the guests it is nothing more than a servant’s nightmare. Later, he takes Jane to a secret door in the attic, behind which she hears a gnashing sound and Grace Poole’s laughter.
Inside the secret room, they find Mr. Mason unconscious in a chair, his arm bleeding from an attack by a certain “she” who bit his arm and gouged him with a knife. Rochester tells the doctor who has arrived that he will look after “her,” then he informs Jane that he intends to marry Blanche Ingram.
Jane is called back to Gateshead, where Mrs. Reed is close to death. She suffered a stroke upon hearing that her son, John, had killed himself after gambling away his fortune. When Jane arrives at her aunt’s bedside, Mrs. Reed confesses that she has done Jane two wrongs: she ought to have cared for Jane as her own, and she has kept secret a three-year-old letter for Jane in which her uncle revealed his desire to make Jane his heir. Mrs. Reed dies that night.
Jane returns to Thornfield and accepts a marriage proposal from Rochester, who has come to realize, during Jane’s absence, that he loves her deeply. Mrs. Fairfax, however, warns Jane to be cautious.
Jane writes to her uncle, hoping to have some inheritance to bring to her marriage, and insists on remaining Adèle’s governess, despite the impending change in her social status.
The night of Rochester’s proposal to Jane, she has troubling dreams about the future. The next morning, she finds that lightning has split the chestnut tree under which they had been seated.
A month later, during the night before her wedding, Jane awakens to find a strange woman in her room. The woman tries on Jane’s wedding veil, then violently tears it in two. In the morning, Rochester tells Jane that it had been Grace Poole.
Later, at the marriage ceremony, the minister asks if anyone knows a reason why the couple should not be wed. A local attorney, Mr. Briggs, calls out from the back of the church that Rochester already has a wife, whom he had married 15 years earlier. Jane is shocked, and they all return to Thornfield, where they see Rochester’s wife, Bertha Mason, raving like a madwoman, guarded by Grace Poole.
Rochester explains that, many years earlier, his father had arranged the marriage to Bertha, the daughter of a wealthy West Indian plantation owner, and that he had married the woman without knowing her well.
Later, he found out that madness ran in her family. Rochester does not consider his marriage valid, especially since Bertha must be kept under lock and key—and it was she who tore Jane’s veil, not Grace Poole. Rochester suggests to Jane that they have a marriage of “commitment” and that they go live in his house in France. Devastated by Rochester’s deception, Jane refuses.
Jane leaves Thornfield, taking the first coach she can find. She travels as far as her money will take her, and when she gets off at Whitcross, she forgets her belongings on the coach. Penniless and starving, she tries to find work in town but cannot.
Finally, she collapses on the doorstep of Moor House, owned by a man named St. John Rivers. He takes her in, and she tells them that her name is Jane Elliott. Jane and St. John’s sisters, Diana and Mary, soon become close friends, and St. John offers Jane a teaching job in nearby Morton at a girls’ school for the poor. He is a minister in that town, though not entirely satisfied with his work.
Though the Rivers family is an old and noble one, they have no money. So it is a disappointment when they learn that a wealthy uncle has died and left them nothing. This forces Diana and Mary to return to their jobs as governesses. St. John is deeply in love with Rosamond Oliver, the daughter of a wealthy manufacturer, but his religious principles lead him to become a missionary.
When Jane draws a miniature of Rosamond for St. John, he takes a slip of paper from her drawing book on which, it is later revealed, Jane had written her real name. St. John receives a letter from Mr. Briggs, who is searching for Jane to tell her that an uncle has died and has left his entire fortune to her.
St. John then reveals that his middle name is Eyre, and that the uncle who disappointed them was the same who left Jane his fortune. Having finally discovered some of her family, Jane insists that the four of them share the money equally. Jane writes for news of Rochester, but receives no replies.
Meanwhile, St. John asks Jane to accompany him to India as his wife. Though she has strong reservations about it, Jane is about to say yes when she mysteriously hears a voice calling her name three times from across the health. It is Rochester’s, and Jane knows instantly that her destiny lies with him.
In response to Rochester’s “voice,” Jane returns to Thornfield, only to find that his house has burned to the ground. An innkeeper tells her that Bertha had set fire to it, and that when Rochester climbed onto the roof to rescue her, she jumped to her death on the pavement below. Injured during the fire, Rochester is now blind and has had a hand amputated.
Jane goes to Ferndean, where Rochester is living, and they are immediately reconciled. He tells her that, after praying to God for a reunion, he called her name three times aloud and heard her reply, “I am coming; wait for me.”
When the novel ends, Jane and Rochester have been married for 10 years and have a son. After two years of marriage, Rochester recovered sight in one eye. Jane is now his equal—socially, financially, and intellectually—and is proud that their marriage is one of perfect harmony.
Jane Eyre: Orphan. Intelligent, sharp-witted, plain-looking. Submissive at first, but learns to express herself—to stand up for her beliefs and speak the truth. She feels deep emotions and wants to be treated equally. As a youth, Jane lives in a fantasy world, but sees life realistically as a mature woman. Pain helps her to attain courage and strength, and to find meaning.
Mrs. Sarah Reed: Jane’s cold-hearted aunt. Thinks Jane is an inferior, deceitful troublemaker.
John, Eliza, and Georgiana Reed: Jane’s cruel cousins: John is hot-tempered; Eliza religious and strict; Georgiana spoiled. All of them mistreat Jane.
Brocklehurst: Strict, penny-pinching director of Lowood; grim disciplinarian; hypocritical.
Miss Maria Temple: Kind, intelligent superintendent of Lowood after Brocklehurst is fired: Jane’s early role model for patience and self-sacrifice.
Helen Burns: Jane’s first friend; schoolmate at Lowood: Intelligent, warm, sincere, unselfish. Dies of consumption.
Mrs. Fairfax: Rochester’s housekeeper at Thornfield Hall: Jane’s friend. Neat, prim.
Adèle Varens: Jane’s pupil at Thornfield; Rochester’s ward: Spoiled, affectionate.
Grace Poole: Mysterious servant at Thornfield; strange laugh. Takes care of Bertha Mason.
Edward Fairfax de Rochester: Master of Thornfield: Falls in love with Jane. Undergoes a change from gruffness to sensitivity, from selfishness to love.
Bertha Mason Rochester: Rochester’s wife; insane; jealous of Jane; violent.
John Eyre Rivers: Jane’s cousin; preacher: Self-disciplined, reserved, intelligent.
The development of Jane Eyre’s emotional, moral, and intellectual growth is traced throughout the novel. She faces challenges related to her family, religion, financial situation, and childhood fantasies. By the end of the novel, Jane relies on her own principles and judgment, and breaks away from people who try to make decisions for her.
2. Phases of Jane’s Growth
Jane’s growth is divided into several phases: (a) Gateshead, where her independence begins to grow; (b) Lowood, where she learns about friendship and self-sacrifice; (c) Thornfield, where she experiences her first love but is jarred from innocence; (d) Moor House, where she develops independence and discovers her family; and (e) Ferndean, where she finds a nourishing, supportive relationship with Rochester.
3. Fantasy vs. Reality
As a child, Jane seeks escape in books from her unhappy reality. She reads stories about nonexistent worlds where fantastic events occur. When Rochester first proposes, Jane admits that this marriage seems like “a fairy-tale…a daydream.” However, in order for them to be reunited, Jane must come to see Rochester, herself, and their life together in a realistic manner.
An important part of Jane’s development is learning to see herself as an equal to those around her. Initially, she feels inferior to others because she lacks what they have. However, as she matures, she either adopts these qualities found in others or rejects them as unnecessary. Though initially she worships Rochester as a god, she finally sees herself as his equal.
Jane encounters several religious philosophies throughout the novel. She finally rejects these philosophies for her own morality, principles of love, and selective forgiveness.
Charlotte Bronte’s writing style is evocative and emotive, drawing the reader into the story and making them feel invested in the characters. Her use of vivid descriptions and powerful imagery creates a sense of atmosphere that immerses the reader in the world of the novel.
The use of first-person narration allows the reader to see the story through Jane’s eyes and experience her emotions firsthand. This adds an element of intimacy to the story, making the reader feel as though they are experiencing the events of the novel alongside Jane.
Bronte’s prose is elegant and poetic, with a richness of language that is both beautiful and powerful. Her writing captures the mood and tone of the story perfectly, conveying both the joy and the sorrow of Jane’s journey.
1. Psychological Intimacy
The novel’s eponymous protagonist is presented to us in a first-person narrative that is revolutionary for its time for being incredibly psychological and intimate.
Jane’s character is profoundly communicative, and through her narration, we get to know her every thought, feeling, and emotion on a level of intimacy that is only familiar to us when speaking to a close friend. This emotional vigor of the novel makes it easy for the reader to relate to Jane’s experiences, and we can’t help but root for her as she navigates the challenges of love, morality, and societal expectations.
2. Progressive Ideology
Jane Eyre is a work that is full of political, moral, and religious content, and while Brontë is not always overt with her ideology, it is shrouded in symbolism. The novel was published only months before the Revolutions of 1848 in Europe, and in many ways, it captures some of the radical spirit that began to brew just prior. The feminism of Jane Eyre is clear, and the novel can be described as mostly progressive or left-wing.
The marriage between Jane and Rochester at the end of the novel is a much more egalitarian and noncoercive position brought about by a previous ascension to a social class equal to Rochester’s. However, the novel’s progressivism has limitations in its depiction of Bertha Rochester, a woman of color, as essentially demonic in nature, which is potentially representative of 19th-century colonialism and racism.
3. Beautifully Symbolic Christianity
Jane Eyre is undeniably a work that is full of Christian ideology, but it’s not merely evangelist and doctrinal. At times, Christianity is more symbolic and beautifully fused with imagery.
Jane’s decision to initially leave Rochester because he was legally married to another woman (and despite it being a loveless marriage) was a memorable scene vastly important for demonstrating both Jane’s individualism and her commitment to a certain level of Christian morality. This fusion of Christian ideology with symbolism and imagery is what makes the novel stand out as a work of art.
1. Slow Pacing
While Jane Eyre is a literary masterpiece, it is not a fast-paced read. The novel takes its time in building the story, and there are several sections where the plot seems to slow down. For readers who prefer more action-oriented stories, this can be a frustrating experience. However, for those who appreciate character development and the depth that comes with a slower pace, Jane Eyre is a rewarding read.
2. Dated Ideology
Although Jane Eyre can be seen as progressive for its time, it is still a product of the 19th century, and some of its ideology may be considered dated by contemporary readers. For example, Jane’s focus on marriage and her longing for a husband may not resonate with readers who prioritize independence and self-reliance. Additionally, some of the attitudes towards race and colonialism may be difficult for modern readers to reconcile with.
3. Overly Dramatic Plot Points
Jane Eyre is a novel that is not afraid to go to great lengths to create drama and tension, sometimes to the point of being melodramatic. There are several plot points in the novel that may come across as contrived or unrealistic to some readers. For example, the discovery of Rochester’s secret marriage may feel overly convenient, and the dramatic rescue at the end of the novel may seem like a stretch. While these moments can add to the novel’s emotional intensity, they can also be seen as flaws in the story’s overall construction.
Yes, I’d recommend you to read the book. Jane Eyre is a powerful and captivating novel that explores complex themes and emotions through the life of its independent and resilient protagonist.
Its exploration of love, morality, and the pursuit of equality makes it a timeless piece of literature that continues to resonate with readers today.
Charlotte Bronte was a writer from Yorkshire, England, born in 1816 and passed away in 1855. She was one of six children, and her father was a preacher. Although she initially wanted to be an artist, her eyesight was damaged, which led her to pursue writing instead.
She went to a religious boarding school, worked as a governess, and studied in Brussels. Her younger sister, Emily Bronte, wrote the famous novel, Wuthering Heights (1847).
Charlotte, along with her sisters Emily and Anne, published Poems (1846), and later on, she published several novels, including Shirley (1849), Villette (1853), The Professor (1857), and Emma (a fragment, 1860), in addition to her childhood writings.
Buy The Book: Jane Eyre
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