Do you think I can stay to become nothing to you? Do you think I am an automaton? -- a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much a soul as you, — and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh — it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal, — as we are!
The archetypal Gothic romance novel by Charlotte Brontë. First published in 1847.Jane Eyre is an unloved orphan sent to a grueling boarding school, Lowood, by her foster aunt who dislikes her fiery wit and sharp tongue (and the fact that her husband appeared to love his sister, Jane's mother, more than his own family). She's put through the wringer several times over there and emerges as a solemnly quiet person, but is just as free-spirited inside as she was before she went in. It is this spirit that causes her to long for adventure and new pastures, and she accepts a job as the governess of a young girl named Adèle, who lives with Mrs. Fairfax and the little-seen Mr. Edward Rochester at Thornfield Hall.But it is not until after a chance encounter with Mr. Rochester that Jane's curiosity is sparked. Mr. Rochester's bluntness and moodiness, rather than turning her off, make her even more intrigued about him, and it appears that her initial curiosity is growing into something more.But there are also sinister shadows lurking at Thornfield Hall: in the middle of one night, after hearing spooky laughter, Jane finds that Mr. Rochester's bed curtains have been set on fire. She puts them out in time to save his life. Rochester claims that Grace Poole, a servant, was responsible, but the fact that he does not fire her suggests that there is more to the situation than he's letting Jane in on. He's also spending an awfully large amount of his time with Jane.Then Mr. Rochester leaves Thornfield for several weeks, returning with a flock of rich gentlemen and women, and walking together with the comely but snobbish Blanche Ingram. Jane is distressed at the sight of Rochester with Ingram, mainly because she knows that he does not truly love the rich socialite. But it turns out that Mr. Rochester never intended to marry Ingram: he staged his courtship only to make Jane jealous and admit her feelings for him. He proposes to Jane, who readily accepts. But the shadows at Thornfield Hall are not going to let her win her love that easily, as Jane is about to find out on her wedding day.Jane Eyre has numerousfilm and TV adaptations. There was also a critically acclaimed musical adaptation in 2000 with songs by Paul Gordon. It even was the inspiration behind Daphne du Maurier's Rebecca and an external prequel, Wide Sargasso Sea, was written by Jean Rhys that focused on the primary "antagonist's" descent into madness. There is also an external sequel, Jane Rochester, by Kimberly A. Bennett. Rochester, by J. L. Niemann, is erotica from Mr. Rochester's POV. Jane, by April Lindner, sets the story in the modern day and asks: "What if Jane Eyre fell in love with a rock star?" Jenna Starborn, by Sharon Shinn, is a science fiction retelling of the story which features "Jenna" (Jane) as a clone commissioned and then abandoned by Mrs. Reed. The Autobiography of Jane Eyre is a webseries set in the modern day Canada, inspired by The Lizzie Bennet Diaries. The classic 1943 horror film I Walked with a Zombieis a retelling of Jane Eyre set in the Caribbean and with zombies, almost 70 years before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies debuted.
Bilingual Dialogue: Adèle often speaks in (untranslated) French, to which Jane responds in English. Diana & Mary Rivers discuss an untranslated line of German (from Schiller's "Die Räuber", a "Sturm und Drang" play). So, while Brontë keeps the melodrama plausible, the characters read more melodramatic stuff (in multiple languages).
Boarding School of Horrors: Played straight in that Jane spends quite an amount of time telling the reader of all the horrible aspects of Lowood such as ever-present coldness in the winter, poor meals during and a few stern teachers, but ultimately subverted in that Jane loves getting an education and she makes a few great friends. In fact Jane quickly considers Lowood more of a home than Gateshead ever was.
Deconstructed as well: when the poor food causes a typhus outbreak that kills a large group of students, including daughters of influential families, the outside world finds out about the horrors going on at the school, condemns the culprits, and puts the school under better management.
The Caretaker: What Grace Poole turns out to secretly be for Bertha, Mr. Rochester's living but crazy wife. Additionally, Jane herself becomes this for Mr. Rochester, who lost a hand, an eye, and the sight in the other eye for years
Changeling Fantasy: Jane's orphaned family treated her cruelly, but much later on, a blood relative bequeaths her in his will a small fortune of 20,000 pounds. She splits it up among her new-found relatives (her cousins St. John, Mary and Diana), so she ends up with 5,000 pounds, which is worth about 500,000 pounds now, or $1 million.
Dean Bitterman: Mr. Brocklehurst. He is not only the headmaster but the treasurer of a charity school for girls, and he appears to relish publicly humiliating the young women in his care for such horrific sins as having naturally curly hair. When his own wife and daughters troop in, however, they are shown to be expensively dressed, complete with stylish false curls. Even worse, Brocklehurst's insistence on the lowest-quality food contributes to a typhus epidemic that kills a large portion of the student body.
Deathbed Confession: Mrs. Reed's. When Jane was fifteen, a wealthy uncle wrote to Mrs. Reed and said that he wished to adopt her. Mrs. Reed, out of spite because of Jane's calling her out on her cruelty earlier, wrote back that Jane had died in the epidemic at Lowood School. She is still resentful of Jane's outburst, but Jane forgives her so that she can die in peace.
Deus ex Machina: Just when it looks as if Jane will break under St. John's tenacious pressure to marry him, she calls to God for guidance and God apparently transports Mr. Rochester's voice across England right to Jane's ear, whence she decides Rochester is the man she is meant to be with.
Did You Think I Can't Feel?: Rochester deliberately provokes Jane into this: constantly gushing about his upcoming marriage to this woman who is not suited to him, and he knows it and Jane knows it, but Jane has no power to speak up because she's a governess, and in no way equal to Rochester's apparent intended. Jane takes this to awesome levels.
Divided for Publication: It takes the Victorian three-volume novel format where the story was split into three sections. In the 19th century, the business model was to use the first volume to get people interested in the second and third parts, and thus extract more money per story.
Drama Bomb: Jane and Mr. Rochester's wedding, take one.
Dream Sequence: Jane has a vivid dream after Rochester asks her to shack up with him even though he's still legally married to Bertha, where she hears a message from either the spirit of her dead mom, or the Moon Goddess herself:
My daughter, flee temptation!
Mother, I will.
Driven to Suicide: John Reed. He shot himself because he had great debts from gambling and his mother couldn't support him any more.
The Fair Folk: Mr Rochester seems to see Jane as a fairy, constantly calling her a pixie, sprite, etcetera — but just wild, not evil or malicious. Her actions and personality are the exact opposite, but she lets him talk and tease her.
Fat Bastard: John Reed is fed FAR too much by his mother. It's also virtually impossible to find him sympathetic.
Jane describes the adult Georgiana as having two distinguishing features: being a Big Beautiful Woman, and being extremely lazy and selfish.
Mr Rochester had a love affair with Céline Varens, a French ballerina, and he supported her. They lived together and she cheated on him, talking nastily about him to her second lover. She was just a French Jerk, not worthy of his love. It cured him rather quickly.
Hypocrite: Mr. Brocklehurst demands that his students at Lowood live as practical ascetics yet has super-spoiled daughters and wife. Jane is considerably less harsh in her attitude toward St. John despite him holding similar views to Brocklehurst on worldly pleasures and discipline because he at least walks the talk and doesn't force others to do anything he isn't willing to do himself.
I Am Not Pretty: Jane frequently comments on her plainness, as do other characters, especially when she's a child. This may in part because Jane does not resemble the nineteenth century ideal beautiful woman, who was blonde, blue-eyed and full-bodied. Mr. Rochester, who describes his intended, Blanche Ingram, as a big strapper, seems to genuinely prefer Jane's looks.
I Am What I Am: From Jane, after walking away from her best (and only) friend in the world: "I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself."
When she abandons Thornfield in the middle of the night, bringing no money and only a few days' worth of food with her, and losing even that almost immediately.
While in hiding, she just happens to write her real name on a sheet of paper, leaving out in plain view where St. John can see it. Fortunately it ends up working in her favor.
I Just Want to Have Friends: Jane is so desperate for love and affection that she tells Helen Burns she'd happily let herself be kicked in the chest by a horse if it meant Helen and the Headmistress would care for her. Helen then shushes Jane and tells her to put more faith in God than in human companions.
Incurable Cough of Death: What Helen Burns dies of. Otherwise known as tuberculosis (or consumption in Victorian times), a particularly gruesome way to die in pre-antibiotic days, as your lungs slowly fill with fluid and you literally drown.
I Need a Freaking Drink: When Mr Rochester hears from Jane that Mr. Mason arrived to Thornfield, he says that it's a blow, and asks Jane to bring him a glass of wine. She does and he promptly swallows the contents.
Informed Attribute: St John is described as a much kinder person than some of his actions indicate. For example, the night after Jane turns down his (loveless) proposal of marriage, he pointedly refuses to acknowledge her after kissing his sisters. She describes their subsequent interactions as "refined torture" and even implies there was a part of him that took pleasure in that.
In the Blood: Bertha's insanity is implied to run in the family.
Insane Equals Violent: Bertha. She tries to burn people, bites their flesh and sucks their blood, and she also fights violently.
Instant Messenger Pigeon: A local boy comes at night to ask St. John to visit his dying mother. Hannah says the road over the bog is too dangerous to travel at night, and advises St. John to send word that he will go the next morning. How does Hannah expect St. John to "send word" if the road is too dangerous?
Jesus Saves: The culmination of Mr. Rochester's redemption is that he prays to God once more, with sincerity and humility.
Karma Houdini: Subverted. At the beginning of the book, Jane has an inner monologue where she thinks how her cousins constantly harrass her with no reprecussions; they're also allowed to misbehave in general without ever being punished. Then, she goes for school, leaving the Reeds rich, respected in society and apparently set to still be karma Houdinis for a long time. When we hear from then again, they've lost their fortune, John has failed at college and eventually committed suicide, Mrs Reed is dying, and Georgiana no longer has the same matrimonial prospects as before.
Kissing Cousins: St. John proposes to his first cousin Jane that they get married and become missionaries in India. At the time, marriage between first cousins was not considered incestuous. St. John is handsome, but neither he nor Jane find each other desirable in the least.
Language Barrier: Adèle and her nurse Sophie speak only French when Jane arrives at Thornfield. It's stated that they both felt lonely while Mr Rochester, who was the only one who could speak French and interpret for them, was absent. Adèle is happy when Jane, who can also speak French, arrives. Jane makes attempts to talk to Adèle's nurse, but she's cold towards her and doesn't really want Jane close.
Laughing Mad: Jane keeps hearing mysterious fits of laughter. It is Bertha Rochester.
Let The Past Burn: Mr Rochester's first wife sets his house ablaze, and the shame of his dark secret (her existence) is burned along with it.
Inverted with Rochester and Adèle, since he's stuck with her but doesn't acknowledge paternity (and Jane can't see any resemblance).
Everybody who believes that Rochester would have befriended Adele before her mother abandoned her and then taken charge of her if he didn't know in his heart she is his daughter raise your hand. Rochester has a bad habit of disclaiming relationships he doesn't want; Bertha isn't his wife and Adele isn't his daughter.
Manipulative Bastard: Rochester, who has a tendency to play with the emotions of the women around him. He plays an elaborate game with Jane so she believes he is going to marry Blanche Ingram, dresses up as a gypsy woman to draw secrets out of her, and goes so far as to pretend to find her a position in Ireland so she will break down and confess love for him first. This despite the fact that Jane is much more vulnerable than he is in terms of social standing and such a confession could come at the risk of her current position and any future prospects. He cajoles and even bullies Jane into accepting his stories about Grace Poole, so she will not find out about the wife he's keeping in the attic, making her doubt the stability of her own mind and the reliability of her senses. Her reason keeps her resolute, because these stories make no sense. Even keeping in mind that Blanche is no innocent, his behavior towards her is still questionable at best, using her and her hopes of a good marriage as a tool. Rochester never mentions anything she did that requires that sort of retribution other than being proud. Also she is twenty-five and needs to be pursuing someone who will actually have her if she's going to be married at all. The fact that Blanche resembles his wife only makes this more suspect. To top it all off, by luring Jane into marrying him while his wife is still alive, he is effectively tricking her as badly as he was tricked by Bertha's family.
Maximum Fun Chamber: The Red Room at the Reeds' estate is the bedroom where Mr. Reed died. Jane gets locked in there for "misbehaving," and she passes out out of sheer terror. Even though she thinks of Mr. Reed's spirit as kindly disposed, she's too afraid of ghosts to want him around.
The name Eyre is very likely a reference to a medieval legal term. An 'eyre' was the name of a circuit traveled by an itinerant justice, or the circuit court he presided over. Certainly Jane acts as a judge in the case of her aunt, and Mr. Rochester. Although "Eyre" was also the name of one of the most powerful families in the area that Charlotte Bronte grew up in.
"Thornfield" is based on North Lees hall, owned by the Eyre family and where one of the early female residents was a lunatic and confined to a padded room on the second floor. "Thorn" is an anagram of "North", and "lees" is an old word for "field".
Blanche is dull and bland, or thought of as such by Jane. In addition, Blanche, a name which literally means white, is dark-haired and brown-skinned. As it turns out, she greatly resembles Rochester's wife Bertha.
When Mr Rochester messes with Jane and tells her that he has found her a new position, the names of the person and the place he uses are really anything but nice-sounding. Mrs. O’Gall and Bitternutt Lodge. Jane shrugs at the thought.
The Missionary: St. John aspires to be a missionary in India. Jane doesn't.
The Mistress: Rochester has had a string of lovers — usually very beautiful, from high circles or well-known performers, such as Céline Varens — throughout his life, but says he's grown tired of keeping girlfriends. After their would-be wedding is busted, Rochester offers this position to Jane. Jane realizes she could not possibly live with herself in this way, and Rochester will likely grow resentful of her as he did with his earlier mistresses, and leaves him rather than stay.
Jane initially thinks Mrs. Fairfax is the mistress of Thornfield and thinks she treats her especially nice. She finds out later that Mrs Fairfax is a hostess and just one of the servants like her.
Jane concludes that Mr. Rochester is a Jerk with a Heart of Gold based on the way Mrs. Fairfax and the other servants talk of how charitable (if not intimate) he is with them.
No Celebrities Were Harmed: Mr. Brocklehurst, based on William Carus Wilson. Carus Wilson ran Cowan Bridge, the inspiration for Lowood. The descriptions were so perfect that Charlotte was pleased to report she'd overheard people talking about Jane Eyre as having "Mr. Wilson" and "the Clergy Daughters School."
Rochester's "engagement" with Blanche. (Although it could be said that it was a real attempt at marriage that was broken up only when Mason arrived from the West Indies, and Rochester lied when telling Jane it was an attempt to make her jealous.)
Jane later returns the favor by telling Rochester all about St. John, and telling Rochester that they shall be together... as friends. As a patient and nursemaid.
Regency England: Jane Eyre is meant to be the fictional memoir of a woman looking back at her youth; the main action is set in about 1810. In addition to the mention of Walter Scott's 1808 novel Marmion as a recently published book and the frequent mentions of politics more appropriate to Georgian than Victorian times, Jane's travels lead her to a coach house in an Expy of Leeds where a portrait of the Prince Regent is displayed prominently. Not only had the Prince Regent (or King George IV) been dead for almost twenty years by 1847, the coach houses had been closed for over fifteen years. Had Jane Eyre been set any time after 1835 or so, Jane would have taken a train, and the station would have held a portrait of Queen Victoria.
Rescue Romance: Mr. Rochester falls in love with Jane after she saves him from the fire.
Miss Blanche Ingram, if you please. Aside from the obvious problems of her personality seen on the page, her lack of luck in marriage hints that she's not terribly popular. She is rich, beautiful, and accomplished, and yet has somehow been out in society for seven years and still isn't married?
Mrs Reed. It might be said that she tried to fulfill her promise to her husband, as far as her nature permitted. However, this basically means that she treated Jane harshly and turned a blind eye when the little Reeds bullied her. She also withheld information about a fortune Jane had inherited from an uncle she didn't even know she had.
Royal Brat: John Reed. To a lesser extent Georgiana (who becomes spoiled and dependent on other people's attention), and to an even lesser extent, Eliza (who becomes domineering and inflexible).
Rule of Three: One in the exchange between Jane and the "gypsy woman" who wants Jane to consult her fortune-telling arts:
"...Why don't you tremble?"
"I'm not cold."
"Why don't you turn pale?"
"I am not sick."
"Why don't you consult my art."
"I'm not silly."
The old crone "nichered" a laugh under her bonnet and bandage: she then drew out a short, black pipe, and lighting it began to smoke. Having indulged a while in this sedative, she raised her bent body, took the pipe from her lips, and while gazing steadily at the fire, said very deliberately: — "You are cold; you are sick; and you are silly."
"Prove it," I rejoined.
"I will: in few words. You are cold, because you are alone: no contact strikes the fire from you that is in you. You are sick: because the best of feelings, the highest and the sweetest given to man, keeps far away from you. You are silly, because, suffer as you may, you will not beckon it to approach; nor will you stir one step to meet it where it waits you."
Sadist Teacher: Miss Scatcherd, who has a particular hatred for Helen Burns.
Scare 'Em Straight: Mr. Brocklehurst frequently has his students read and be read tales of little children who died suddenly as a result of their naughty deeds, many of which he wrote himself.
Shout-Out: A subtle one in the scene where young Jane first meets Mr. Brocklehurst:
I stepped across the rug; he place me square and straight before him. What a face he had, now that it was almost on a level with mine! What a great nose! and what a mouth! and what large prominent teeth!
Sinister Minister: Mr. Brocklehurst, who gravely informs young Jane that it's better if she were a dead little girl who had lived a virtuous life than a girl who has clearly sacrificed her soul to the devil by lying.
The Spock: Eliza Reed, by the the time we come back to her. Better that than what her sister became...
Spoiled Brat: All of the young Reeds, really, but John Reed takes the cake. Blanche, Mary and Theodore Ingram apparently grew up this like this as well, if their self-reported abuse of all their governesses and tutors is any indication.
Spoiled Sweet: Adèle, by her deceased mother, who treated her as a pretty doll.
Rosamond Oliver, daughter of the rich owner of Morton's needle-factory and iron-foundry, and whose nature as this is given a very lengthy description:
Miss Oliver already honoured me with frequent visits to my cottage. I had learnt her whole character; which was without mystery or disguise: she was coquettish, but not heartless; exacting, but not worthlessly selfish. She had been indulged from her birth, but was not absolutely spoilt. She was hasty, but good-humoured; vain (she could not help it, when every glance in the glass showed her such a flush of loveliness), but not affected; liberal-handed; innocent of the pride of wealth; ingenuous; sufficiently intelligent; gay, lively and unthinking: she was very charming, in short, even to a cool observer of her own sex like me; but she was not profoundly interesting or thoroughly impressive. A very different sort of mind was hers from that, for instance, of the sisters of St. John. Still, I liked her almost as I liked my pupil Adèle: except that for a child whom we have watched over and taught a closer affection is engendered than we can give an equally attractive adult acquaintance.
Suddenly Suitable Suitor: Before Jane can marry Mr. Rochester, she has to inherit twenty thousand pounds from her uncle (which, even after she splits it up, makes her financially independent). Of course, Rochester himself has to lose his Big Fancy House, his living-but-insane wife, his eyesight, and a hand. Now they can get married!
Taking the Veil: One of Jane's cousins converts to Catholicism, becomes a nun and later becomes the mother superior.
Charges that Helen was a Mary Sue who couldn't possibly have been real were shot down by Charlotte, who explained that Helen was not only based on her sister Maria (who really did die, age 11, of TB contracted at the school) but that she'd had to tone down Maria's real nature lest she be considered unbelievable. People who had known Maria at school vouched for this.
Unexplained Recovery: Rochester is blinded in the fire, but somehow recovers part of his sight (with a doctor's help) once Jane comes back to him over the course of 12 years. Though to be fair, it's implied to have healed gradually.
What Measure Is a Non-Cute?: Jane's entire childhood with the Reeds. Neither the servants nor any friends of the family dote on Jane the way that they do her cousin Georgiana, because in addition to being a friendless dependent, Jane is neither pretty nor does she act like a child "should", that is to say, in a cute fashion.