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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 11

By the time Jane arrives at Thornfield, the house where she is to work as governess, she is trembling with nervousness. What if Mrs. Fairfax turns out to be another Mrs. Reed?

Much to her relief, however, she finds that Mrs. Fairfax is an elderly lady, plainly but neatly dressed. She welcomes Jane kindly by ordering a plate of sandwiches from the kitchen. Jane is very surprised, and she's so naive about the ways of the wealthy that she doesn't realize until the next day that Mrs. Fairfax is not the lady of the house at all; she's the housekeeper.

Jane's first impression of Thornfield is reassuring. But there are a few hints of mystery: Mr. Rochester, Thornfield's owner and Jane's employer, isn't there, and Mrs. Fairfax explains vaguely that he's a "rather peculiar" man who spends much of his time traveling.

Jane's only pupil is a little French girl, Adele Varens. She's outgoing and friendly and entertains her new governess by singing an operatic song about a woman who has been abandoned by her lover-a subject the prim Jane thinks is "in bad taste" for a performance by a child of ten. Adele is Mr. Rochester's ward, but Mrs. Fairfax has no idea who the girl's parents are or how she came into Mr. Rochester's care-another mystery!


Finally, Mrs. Fairfax takes Jane on a tour of Thornfield Hall. She even takes her up to the roof to show off the view from the battlements (ornamental balconies). On their way down, Jane notices that certain rooms on the third floor are shut off from the rest of the house. From behind one of the closed doors she hears a loud, low-pitched laugh-one that sounds more tragic than humorous. Mrs. Fairfax tells her it's most likely one of the servants, a woman named Grace Poole, who often uses those rooms for sewing.

NOTE:

Jane goes out of her way to tell us she didn't think the laughter was ghostly or supernatural. Does she convince you? Maybe Bronte assures us that Jane is a sensible person, not easily frightened, in order to make us wonder whether there is something supernatural about the laughter? This episode may remind you of a scene in a horror movie where the hero or heroine is unknowingly walking into a dangerous situation, but we know that there's a monster lurking around the corner, waiting to pounce. In this novel, however, the author has more than one extra twist up her sleeve. For instance, Jane thought she saw a ghost back in Chapter 2, so maybe she's not quite as reasonable as she claims to be. And of course the laughter hasn't come from a ghost. Everything in this story turns out to be more complicated than we at first expect.

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