The archetypal Gothic romance novel by Charlotte Brontë. First published in 1847.
Jane Eyre is an unloved orphan sent to a gruelling boarding school, Lowood, by her 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.
This was Charlotte Bronte's second novel (her first, The Professor, had been rejected but only because it was too short). George Smith, head of Smith & Elder publishing house, started reading it, couldn't stop, and locked himself in his studio to finish it. The next day he offered her £100 (£11,053.90 today — that's $13,521.13). Six weeks later it was published, and went viral. Its frank descriptions of passionate emotion, its brutal honesty and its lush but clear language, without any of the usual conventional tropes of the day, appealed to both men and women. William Makepeace Thackeray (author of Vanity Fair) was found weeping over it. George Eliot's friend G.H. Lewes called it "soul speaking to soul"; one couldn't help but identify with Jane. It was clearly based on personal suffering. And this was before anyone knew (although some suspected) that it was written by a woman.
Jane Eyre has numerous film and TV adaptations. There was also a critically acclaimed musical adaptation in 2000 with songs by Paul Gordon and a balletic version developed by the American Ballet Theatre in 2019. An acclaimed stage adaptation at Britains National Theatre was filmed in 2017 and has on occasion been broadcast or streamed on YouTube. The novel 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 romantic drama film I Walked with a Zombie is a retelling of Jane Eyre set in the Caribbean and with zombies, almost 70 years before Pride and Prejudice and Zombies debuted.
The following tropes reveal the plot, and major spoilers are left visible and unmarked.
Reader, Jane used these tropes:
- Age-Gap Romance: When they fall in love, Jane Eyre is 18 and Mr. Rochester is about twenty years older. Another problem is the Uptown Girl aspect of the relationship because she is a governess and he is a rich gentleman. Both issues are addressed within the narrative and by the characters."Mr. Rochester was about forty, and this governess not twenty; and you see, when gentlemen of his age fall in love with girls, they are often like as if they were bewitched."
- The Alcoholic: John Reed and Grace Poole. Grace is so often carrying a flagon of something alcoholic upstairs that Jane naturally suspects her when strange noises arise from the attic.
- Alpha Bitch: Blanche Ingram. As the heroine's rival for Rochester's affections, we're not supposed to like her, but she'd be unlikable in any context.
- Alternate History: A very subtle example shows up at the very end of the book when Jane mentions Diana Rivers's happy marriage to a naval officer named Captain Fitzjames. The only Captain Fitzjames in the Royal Navy at the time the book was published, and a relatively well-known figure, was Commander (though he had held the acting post of captain) James Fitzjames, who would have been lost in the Arctic (and still single) with the doomed Franklin Expedition by the time the book was printed. (You might know him from the first season of The Terror.) From Jane's account, it sounds as though Diana and her husband's visits to the Rochester family are ongoing, meaning presumably in this book's timeline Fitzjames never went to the Arctic in the first place.
- Ambiguous Disorder: Bertha. From what little we see of her (and from what Rochester tells us of her behavior), some symptoms suggest suggests hypermania, some severe dementia, and some is like very severe autism — though that was hardly going to have developed in adulthood. It doesn't help that her description sounds like she's badly neglected- however difficult she is, Grace could at least do something with her hair. Justified, as this was long before any modern language about mental illness was in use even by experts.
- Anguished Declaration of Love: Jane confesses her feelings to Rochester when she thinks he's about to ship her off to Ireland.
- Anti-Hero: Rochester is the Byronic Hero type. His nobler qualities are hidden under a pretty thick front of alternating indifference and mockery.
- An Arm and a Leg: Mr. Rochester is badly injured in the fire that claims Thornfield. One hand is so crushed that a surgeon has to amputate it.
- Arranged Marriage: Rochester and Bertha the Madwoman, at least as he tells it. He claims he was rushed into it and never saw how bad off she was.
- As the Good Book Says...: The novel contains many Biblical allusions. Given that the author was the daughter of an Anglican clergyman, these inclusions aren't too surprising.
- The Atoner: Mr. Rochester is far more humble after the loss of his first wife, his home, and his sight.
- Babies Ever After: The novel ends shortly after Jane announces the birth of her and Mr. Rochester's first child.
- Bait-and-Switch: In the first chapter the family are all talking about how Jane doesn't belong there and is not entitled to any of the things the family has. Mrs. Reed and John go on about how different and heterogeneous she is to the Reeds; even some of the servants suspect her of "scheming plots underhand". The Reeds believe Jane's parents irresponsibly took advantage of her mother's relationship to place her at Gateshead. Jane is treated like an unrelated boarder rather than a blood relative. But the late Mr. Reed was her mother's brother; he took her in as an infant out of love after her parents died, actually caring for her more than his own children. The children so contemptuous of Jane were her first cousins, and her aunt (who is the in-law of Jane's late mother) tacitly approved the physical abuse Jane suffered from her son, who was supposed to be at school and not home. It does make sense in terms of theme and character, as Jane's aunt was jealous of how close (in a filial sense) her husband was to his sister and subsequently to Jane. She says she would rather have taken care of a non-related beggar; she refers to Jane as a freeloader. Jane had more of a right to be at Gateshead than even firstborn son and heir John Reed (since he was supposed to be at school); but she's grown up in this environment and has internalized it.
- Big Bad Ensemble: The Reeds, who serve as a threat to Jane, and Bertha Mason, who serves as a threat to Edward.
- Big Fancy House:
- Gateshead Hall, Jane's foster home with the Reeds.
- Thornfield Hall, Rochester's home, which also has shades of Old, Dark House in proper Gothic fashion.
- 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: Zigzagged. Jane spends quite an amount of time telling the reader of all the horrible aspects of Lowood; ever-present coldness in the winter, the children always underdressed, water freezing in the pitchers so even washing was impossible, poor meals, and a few stern teachers. 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. When the poor food causes a typhus outbreak that kills a large group of students, including the 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. Truth in Television every word of it; in fact Charlotte Bronte played it down from the real thing.
- Break the Haughty: Rochester is crippled and blind by the novel's end. An example of a Byronic Hero having to be humbled and broken before he can let the Love of a Good Woman redeem him.
- Breaking the Fourth Wall: Jane regularly addresses the reader in her narrative, which is perhaps not that unusual in a story told in the form of a memoir, but at one point Jane, within the narrative, promises Mr. Rochester that something will happen before the end of the chapter.
- The Bully: John Reed torments Jane at every opportunity, though all the Reeds abuse her in some form or another. Only Georgiana improves with age, and mostly in the sense that she tries to befriend Jane rather than continue being cruel to her- she remains pretty selfish and spoilt.
- Byronic Hero: Mr. Rochester is a classic example: brooding, ill-tempered, sarcastic, often rude but with a hidden heart of gold; a somewhat mysterious man with a Dark and Troubled Past.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Calling the aunt out. Little Jane (about 10 years old!) tears Mrs. Reed apart. Mrs. Reed is Jane's abusive guardian.Jane: I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may give to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not I.
Mrs. Reed: What more have you to say?
Jane: I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.
Mrs. Reed: How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?
Jane: How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me backroughly and violently thrust me backinto the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with distress, 'Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!' And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-hearted. You are deceitful!
- 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 newfound relatives (her cousins St. John, Mary, and Diana), so she ends up with 5,000 pounds, which is worth about 500,000 pounds now.
- Cool Teacher: Miss Maria Temple, whom Jane as an adult counts as one of her dearest friends.
- Coming-of-Age Story: For Jane, with the story following her from childhood to young adulthood.
- Contrived Coincidence: She just happens to collapse from exhaustion on the doorstep of her long-lost cousins.
- Creature of Habit: The adult Eliza Reed.
- Curtains Match the Window: Rochester describes Jane as having "hazel eyes and hazel hair." She informs the audience that she, in fact, has green eyes and dark blonde hair.
- 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.
- Does Not Like Men: Jane initially, though to be fair, her only male contacts prior to moving to Thornfield were John Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst. She changes her tune after meeting Mr. Rochester.
- Does This Remind You of Anything?: Mrs. Reeds reasoning for hating Jane, as expressed to Jane when she is an adult (and Mrs. Reed is delirious from a terminal illness and heavy medication) read like a neglected wife displaying resentment over a straying husbands illegitimate offspring. She was already ill-disposed towards Janes mother because Mr. Reed clearly favored his sister and grieved deeply upon hearing of her death (He wept like a simpleton). Mr. Reeds partiality extended to the orphan Jane, and he not only brought her into his home but continued to take a personal interest in her to the extent that he kept her by his bedside even when he himself was dying. Mrs. Reed bitterly notes that he did not give his natural-born children half so much attention in their infancies.
- Drama Bomb: Jane and Mr. Rochester's wedding, take one. He's already married and almost becomes a bigamist.
- Dramatically Missingthe Point: Jane tells Rochester she must part from him. He takes this to mean she must become a part of him.
- 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.
This is an intensely Angrian moment, if readers know anything about the Bronte children's richly detailed, melodramatic paracosm.
- Driven to Suicide: John Reed. He shot himself because he had great debts from gambling and his mother couldn't support him anymore.
- Eye Scream: Mr. Rochester loses an eye in a fire.
- Faint in Shock:
- As a child, Jane is locked inside a terrifying room alone one afternoon as punishment and comes to believe that the ghost of her dead uncle might come to her, since he died there. Even though she thinks of him as a Nice Guy, she doesn't want to see or experience any ghosts. She is so frightened that she faints, and doesn't regain consciousness until midnight.
- At Thornfield Hall, Jane, who has been wakeful in her bed, is approached by the terrifying figure of a strange veiled woman holding a candle deep in the middle of the night. The increasing terror and nervousness from seeing this causes Jane to sink into her bed in a dead faint, and when she regains consciousness, it is already morning and the figure is gone.
- Jane faints after she finds out that Mr. Rochester, who she was going to marry, already has a wife. This is caused by emotional strain and lack of sustenance since she was so busy getting dressed she didn't have time for breakfast that morning.
- 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. Jane also likens her child's reflection in the gloomy Red Room to something out of Bessie's fireside tales about fairies.
- Fat Bastard:
- John Reed is fed FAR too much by his mother. It's also virtually impossible to find him sympathetic. it's specifically mentioned in an early chapter how his lips are so big his mother fears they'll prevent him from finding a wife.
- Jane describes the adult Georgiana as having two distinguishing features: being a Big Beautiful Woman, and being extremely lazy and selfish.
- Foil: Several.
- St. John (has the appearance of virtue but no real depth) for Rochester (Byronic Hero).
- Bertha Mason (insane unwanted wife) for Jane (quiet, sober, intended bride).
- St. John, Diana, and Mary Rivers (loving and nurturing relatives) for John, Georgiana, and Eliza Reed (indifferent or abusive relatives).
- St. John (dispassionate and "good") for Jane (full-hearted and genuinely pious).
- French Jerk: Adèle's biological mother who cheated on her lover and abandoned her little child.
- Good Adultery, Bad Adultery: 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.
- Good Is Not Soft: St. John, while consistently described as a 'good man', clearly lacks empathy and warmth. He has the qualities that allow him to command admiration and the ability to do great deeds, but he does not have a loving nature and is clearly ill at ease in a common domestic setting. Jane attempts to bring out a softer side of him by complying with his unusual demands and making his family home more inviting. She fails.
- Good People Have Good Sex: Heavily subverted with St. John and Jane. One of St. John's arguments as to why Jane should marry him is that he will "love" her enough afterwards that she should be well satisfied. Jane immediately internally notes that while he would scrupulously perform husbandly duties, both of them would be well aware that he was only doing so for external example to others and not out of any genuine feeling for her. She rejects his offer and calls this sort of love 'counterfeit', which offends him greatly.
- Have a Gay Old Time:
- "Ejaculate" is used as a Said Bookism several times.
- "The sleepers were all aroused: ejaculations, terrified murmurs sounded in every room..."
- "The clock struck eight strokes. It aroused him; he uncrossed his legs, sat erect, turned to me."
- The Hedonist: John and Georgiana Reed live for the moment. This lack of discipline leads to John failing college, while Georgiana's prospects for marriage depended on her family's money, and when that's gone...
- Hired Help as Family: Bessie is a maid at Gateshead. She's the only person in Jane's early childhood who treats her kindly. She's hot-tempered and impatient, and she behaves rather inconsistently to Jane (being affectionate, bringing her little treats, telling her stories or singing her songs, but also smacking her for no particular reason or forgetting her completely), but she's the closest thing Jane has to a mother figure or an ally while she lives with her abusive aunt Mrs. Reed and her jerk cousins. Bessie's only a maid so her authority is not great, and she also feels loyalty to the Reeds. But Jane is fond of Bessie both as a child and an adult, and she's always very happy to be reunited with her. Jane who is very independent and rather proud of her mind and accomplishments is secretly pleased that Bessie praises her education and calls her 'quite a lady'.
- Hannah, the Rivers siblings' long-term servant, personally nursed all three of them and looks on them as her family. She is determined to look out for their best interests even if that means being unnecessarily hostile to strangers.Jane: That proves you must have been an honest and faithful servant. I will say so much for you, though you have had the incivility to call me a beggar ... and though [...] you wished to turn me from the door, on a night when you should not have shut out a dog.
Hannah: Well, it was hard: but what can a body do? I thought more o' th' childer nor of mysel: poor things! They've like nobody to tak' care on 'em but me. I'm like to look sharpish.
- Hannah, the Rivers siblings' long-term servant, personally nursed all three of them and looks on them as her family. She is determined to look out for their best interests even if that means being unnecessarily hostile to strangers.
- 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 be in part be 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."
- I Shall Return: Almost literally, that's what it says in Latin on Helen Burns' tombstone: Resurgam is "I will rise again." And in a sense, Charlotte's sister Maria did return. The world knows her story.
- Some analyses suggest that Helen also "returned" through Jane emulating some of her good qualities like being patient and not letting her passions get away from her, although fortunately she never bought Helen's ethic of suffering in silence and spoke up to Rochester about his trolling her with Blanche.
- Idiot Ball: Handled by the smart girl Jane twice.
- 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, implied to be due to her emotional anguish at the time.
- While in hiding and living under an alias, she just happens to write her real name on a sheet of paper, leaving it 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. (Jane does not entirely buy this one either, although she takes Helen's point that faith is important.)
- I Should Write a Book About This: Not actually said, but the book's subtitle is "An Autobiography." Jane addresses the reader several times.
- 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 at Thornfield, he looks like he's going to faint, 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.
- 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?
- It Runs in the Family: Bertha's insanity is implied to run in the family.
- Jerkass Has a Point: Ms. Scatcherd, as mean-spirited as she is, is quite right to be hard on Helen for her untidy ways, for a student trained as a domestic servant who cannot tidy consistently or well would reflect very poorly on the school as a whole and would constantly be dismissed from positions. Likewise, Mr. Brocklehurst is correct when he points out to Ms. Temple that providing the students with better food may lead to them taking her kindness for granted and having unrealistic expectations of future employers. These would be hard, but perfectly reasonable, lessons to learn if the school wasnt such a Wretched Hive and completely ineffective at modelling Christian virtues prior to a change in leadership.
- Karma Houdini: Subverted. At the beginning of the book, Jane has an inner monologue where she thinks how her cousins constantly harass her with no repercussions; 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, still going strong. But then we learn they've lost their fortune, John has failed at university and eventually committed suicide, Mrs. Reed is dying, and Georgiana is no longer considered prime marriage material. Only Eliza has done well, in kind of an esoteric fashion; she responds to family chaos by becoming obsessed with order and schedules, and later becomes a nun, not because she loves God but because she wants to cut off her emotions.note
- Karmic Death:
- Bertha dies jumping from a fire she herself started.
- John Reed fails college and commits suicide.
- Kick the Dog: The Hon. Miss Blanche Ingram, in addition to all her snubs against Jane, truly puts herself on the despicable list by the spiteful and mocking way she treats Adèle, Mr. Rochester's ward.
- Kick the Son of a Bitch: Because Blanche is after money and position and because she is extremely rude to Jane, Rochester's callous treatment of Blanche's hopes for marriage at the age of twenty-five are not lingered on long.
- 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 - indeed, only a few years before publication, Queen Victoria married her First Cousin, Prince Albert, and few people batted an eye about it. St. John is handsome, but neither he nor Jane find each other physically desirable, although Jane actually has a wobble on this point and comes close to giving in shortly before she is drawn back to Rochester.
- 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, the one and only, the original madwoman in the attic.
- 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.
- Lethally Stupid: Mr. Brocklehurst. He forces such poor conditions upon the pupils attending Lowood in the name of teaching them humility, that he contributes to a typhus epidemic that kills a large amount of the student body. Naturally, once the outside world finds out, a change in leadership occurs.
- A Lighter Shade of Black: Eliza Reed, compared to her Attention Whore sister and Jerkass brother and mother. While not exactly nice to Jane, she treats her civilly enough, and their last conversation after Mrs. Reed's death is probably the closest Jane ever comes to being shown affection by the Reed family.
- Loved I Not Honor More: Jane refusing to be Mr. Rochester's mistress if she can't become his wife.
- Love Redeems: A complicated case. Rochester's intent to marry Jane is sinful due to his marriage, but after his wife dies by way of accident or perhaps suicide, Jane's loving guidance brings him back to morality.
- Luke, I Am Your Father: St. John Rivers and his sisters turn out to be Jane's cousins, in the book's biggest Contrived Coincidence.
- Madwoman in the Attic: Various mysterious events around Thornfield Hall are revealed to be due to the presence of Bertha, Rochester's mad wife, hidden away in the attic. Bertha is pretty much the Trope Maker, and is unquestionably the Trope Codifier.
- Mama's Baby, Papa's Maybe: Rochester doubts, with good reason, whether Adèle is his child as his lover Cèline Varens claimed. Jane doesn't see any physical resemblance.
- 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. He also strings Blanche along when he has no intention of proposing... though this seems less cruel since Blanche is not depicted sympathetically.
- Marry for Love:
- The match between Jane Eyre and Edward Rochester is based on mutual deep love and affection and physical desire. They truly want to be together forever, for better or worse.
- It was implied that Jane's parents were like this way. Jane's mother was a noble who fell in love with the poor curate who is Jane's father. Said mother's family disowned her and she decided to elope with him.
- Marry the Nanny: Subverted. Rochester hires Jane as a governess and nearly plays the trope out straight, until his hidden wife comes to light. By the time he and Jane get together, circumstances have placed them on more equal footing.
- 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 from sheer terror. Even though she thinks of Mr. Reed's spirit as kindly disposed, she's too afraid of ghosts to want him around.
- Meaningful Echo:
- After Jane has saved Rochester from the fire in his room set by his wife Bertha, he demands that she shake his hand. She describes his demeanor as 'fiery' and 'passionate', and notes how unexpectedly energetic he seems by the whole misadventure. This is the point at which Jane's and Rochester's relationship takes a turn towards mutual romantic attraction.
- After Jane refuses St, John's initial proposal of marriage and he intentionally hurts her by publicly refusing to give her even common courtesy, Jane demands that he shake her hand. She notes how very cool he feels, like marble. This marks the end of their friendship, although it does not stop St. John from proposing again later.
- Meaningful Name:
- 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 Brontë 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 that literally means white, is dark-haired and brown-skinned (olive complexion, dark and clear). 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. If she'd been paying attention, she'd have recognized it as a farce name; "the gall of bitterness" is from Acts 8:23, about a guy who tried to buy the gifts of the Holy Spirit.
- Missing Mom: Céline Varens, Adèle's mother. She ran away from her. Jane's own mother died when she was an infant.
- 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.
- Mrs. Hypothetical:
- When Mr. Rochester's Operation: Jealousy is still on and Jane believes he's about to marry Blanche Ingram, he talks about Mrs. Rochester and his new carriage as a present for her. (Of course, he already means Jane at this point.)
- When Jane and Mr. Rochester are engaged, he talks about her new name a lot and can't want for her to be Jane Rochester. To Jane, it sounds strange and unfitting, which foreshadows their separation.Jane: You gave me a new name Jane Rochester; and it seems so strange.
Mr Rochester: Yes, Mrs Rochester. Young Mrs Rochester Fairfax Rochester's girl-bride.
- Nice to the Waiter:
- 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 housekeeper and just one of the servants like her. Though the housekeeper was the head of female staff.
- 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.
- You can always tell who the good and bad guys are in a Bronte work by how they treat the servants.
- Nobility Marries Money: The expected match between Miss Rosamond Oliver and St. John Rivers is supposed to be Nobility Marries Money as well as a marriage based on mutual love and affection. Miss Oliver is an heiress, the only child of Mr. Oliver, who is the proprietor of a needle factory and iron foundry. St. John Rivers is a clergyman and Impoverished Patrician. Jane the narrator notes that Mr Oliver considered his good birth, old name and his respectable profession as sufficient compensation for the want of fortune. However, St. John aspires to be a missionary and he sacrifices love and domestic happiness for his lofty dream.
- 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". Wilson recognized it instantly and threatened to take legal action until Charlotte apologized and "retracted" her description of the school in a separate, unpublished document. Nevertheless, women who had been at the school at the same time as the Brontë girls confirmed Charlotte's account; their only objection was how much she had left out.
- No Fourth Wall: Jane addresses the reader directly many times, including in one of the book's most famous sentences, "Reader, I married him."
- No Pronunciation Guide: St. John Rivers always trips people up: it's pronounced "Sinjin", not "Saint John". It doesn't help that the character's religious nature continually invokes saints.
- One-Gender School: Lowood Academy - all girl, "charity" (meaning everything is funded by donations) boarding school.
- Oops! I Forgot I Was Married: Mr. Rochester never forgot his first marriage and his wife who is very much alive, per se, but simply concealed it.
- Operation: Jealousy:
- Rochester's "engagement" with Blanche. He openly courts Blanche in front of her family and friends only to make Jane, his real object, jealous. Then he implies to Blanche that he's not as rich as generally assumed... Jane then must leave the scene and when she comes back, the match is officially over.
- Jane later returns the favor by telling Rochester all about St. John and telling Rochester that they shall be together... as friends. As patient and nursemaid. She does truly love him, though, and only wants to tease him a little and make him less sad. Jealousy and anger are better than grief.
- Orphan's Ordeal: Jane's parents both died when she was very little. She is taken in by her maternal relatives; unfortunately, her aunt is cold and unloving, and she is either bullied or excluded by her cousins.
- Parental Abandonment: Jane's parents are both dead before the beginning of the book.
- Adele's mother ran off and abandoned her, after which Rochester took her into his care.
- Helen Burn's mother is dead and her father has a new wife and seems not to have much interest in his daughter, sending her off to school and forgetting all about her.
- Parental Substitute:
- Bessie is the closest to a mother Jane has ever known. She's a maid in Gateshead; fairly kind but irritable, and as a servant, she has little influence.
- Even if Rochester is not Adèle's biological father, she still sees him as a father.
- Jane as Adèle's governess becomes her mother figure. Jane is strict but very fond of her pupil.
- Primal Stance: Rochester's first wife, described as "it" when Jane lays eyes on her.
- Protagonist Title: Jane Eyre the book is named for its heroine Jane Eyre, who is also a narrator.
- Pyromaniac: Mr. Rochester's first wife. She tries to light Mr. Rochester's room on fire and later burns down all of Thornfield Hall, resulting in her own death, and enabling Jane to marry Mr. Rochester.
- Reasonable Authority Figure: Miss Temple, the Headmistress of Lowood School, who is kind to the girls and insists that they be given decent food, and enough food at that, despite Mr. Brocklehurst's idea of an adequate budget.
- 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 a fictional equivalent 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. Oddly, virtually all of the film adaptations either ignore this detail, or miss it entirely. The costuming is always that of the time period the book was written, rather than when it was set. As fashion in the books is rarely described, many people assume that it's set in the 1840s. (Even the book cover providing the page image has the costuming wrong.)
- Rejected Marriage Proposal: Jane turns down St. John's proposal that they marry, saying they should go to India as friends because she loves him more like a brother, and he only wants to marry her because he thinks she'll make a good missionary's wife rather than from love. He argues that they would be happy enough once they got married, but Jane is decidedly unconvinced. Just when she's considering giving in, she inexplicably hears her true love, Mr. Rochester, calling to her and decides to return to him.
- Rescue Romance: Mr. Rochester falls in love with Jane after she saves him from the fire. However, his narration reveals he was intrigued by her and infatuated from their very first meeting.
- Rich Bitch:
- Miss Blanche Ingram. 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.
- 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.
- Seldom-Seen Species: Mr. Rochester's dog is an obscure breed called the Landseer.
- Sham Wedding: Jane Eyre's wedding to Edward Rochester gets interrupted when somebody speaks up in the Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace moment. It turns out that Mr Rochester is already married. Had the ceremony proceeded, their marriage wouldn't have been legal and Mr Rochester would have been guilty of bigamy.
- 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!
- The sermon "Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God" by Johnathan Edwards might have been alluded to when Mr. Brocklehurst speaks to Jane Eyre concerning her deceitful ways."Deceit is, in fact, a sad fault within child," said Mr. Brocklehurst; "it is akin to falsehood, and all liars will have their portion in the lake burning with fire and brimstone..."
- A subtle one in the scene where young Jane first meets Mr. Brocklehurst:
- Snark-to-Snark Combat: Most of Jane and Rochester's dialogue towards each other ends up being this, especially near the end, though a lot of the time it is meant as verbal sparring rather than nasty, and toward the end Jane actively encourages it in order to provoke Rochester into a mood other than melancholy after the fire.
- Significant Sketchbook: Jane showed some of her drawings to Mr. Rochester upon their first conversation in drawing room. The latter chose three drawings he likes which foreshadowed their future relationship.
- 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.
- Speak Now or Forever Hold Your Peace: Jane goes so far as to lampshade the absurdity of the phrase, declaring to the reader that no one ever really pipes up. Little does she know...
- Spirited Young Lady: Jane sometimes looks like a proper schoolgirl or governess, but she's got a sharp tongue.
- The Spock: Eliza Reed, by the the time we come back to her. Better that than what her sister became...
- Spoiled Sweet: Rosamond Oliver, daughter of the rich owner of Morton's needle-factory and iron-foundry, who is naïve, sheltered, optimistic and generous; her nature as this archetype 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: After Mrs. Reed's death, Eliza becomes a nun and later becomes the mother superior of her convent.
- Throwing Off the Disability: Rochester is blinded by the fire that his wife set in Thornfield - one eye is knocked out entirely, but the other one improves over time. His other eye and his severed hand never grow back, though.
- Too Good for This Sinful Earth: Helen Burns, Jane's best friend at school. Also an Ill Girl with an oh-so-romantic case of consumption (tuberculosis). Helen was not only based on her sister Maria (who really did die, at age 11, of TB contracted at the school) but that she'd had to tone down Maria's real nature lest she is considered unbelievable. People who had known Maria at school vouched for this.
- Traumatic Haircut: When inspecting Lowood, Mr. Brocklehurst makes a major issue out of one of the pupils having "curled" red hair, supposedly in defiance of the puritanical spirit in which he aims to have his charges educated. He denounces "artifice", but when told that her hair is naturally curly, Brocklehurst insists that people are not to conform to nature and that her hair must all be cut off, adding that he will send a barber the next day. He then sees that other girls have "a string of hair twisted in plaits", thus not arranged as plainly as he would have wanted,note and his solution, instead of simply having the hair re-arranged, is to order all the "top-knots" to be cut off. The actual shearing is never shown, but it becomes clear that Brocklehurst made his threat good when Jane later reminisces to Rochester that he had cut off their hair. Notably, Brocklehurst's wife and daughters, who also come to the inspection, are NOT subjected to a similar regimen, as they are fashionably dressed, with curled hair or in the wife's case even with a "false front of French curls". This makes abundantly clear that Brocklehurst is nothing better than a hypocrite and gives good reason to suspect that he is in fact a sadist and/or control freak abusing his authority over the pupils at Lowood.
- Unexpected Inheritance: Jane inherits money from her paternal uncle who was told she had been dead but who still believed her to be alive, which he got confirmed later. Jane is surprised by the huge amount, too, whih she splits among her cousins who were also related to said uncle (he was their mother's brother).
- 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.
- The Unfavorite:
- Jane in her childhood at Gateshead. Her aunt who is her guardian absolutely despises her but adores and spoils her own three children.
- Mr. Rochester claims his father showed a clear preference for his older brother.
- Victorian Novel Disease: Helen Burns dies of consumption.
- Wealthy Philanthropist: Zigzagged with Lowood school for orphaned girls and its sponsors. Part of the building was built by Naomi Brocklehurst, the late mother of its current "benefactor", the Rev. Mr. Brocklehurst, a pastor who thinks himself pious and generous, but who has a sick, twisted mind. The pupils all suffer from hunger and cold and lack of other supplies. Later on, lots of them die of typhus because they're weakened from malnutrition and the dampness of the building. After that, the situation was improved by some wealthy people, and the institution became useful and orphans were indeed helped and educated there.
- 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.
- Wealthy Ever After: Jane inherits £20000 (which back then was a lot of money, multiply it by about a hundred to get to today's pounds note ) from her long-lost uncle close to the end of the story.
- You Must Be Cold: Mr. Rochester allows Jane to borrow his cloak after they put out the fire in Mr. Rochester's bed.