Table of Contents | Message Board | Printable Version | Barron's Booknotes
KEY LITERARY ELEMENTS
Chapters 1 to 4 are set at Gateshead Hall where Jane Eyre, as an orphan, leads an unhappy life under the care of her aunt, Mrs. Sarah Reed. Chapters 5 to 10 are set at Lowood School where she spends a wretched childhood and is educated. Chapters 11 to 20 and 22 to 28 describe her life as a governess at Thornfield Hall (in chapter 21 the setting temporarily shifts back to Gateshead Hall, where Jane visits her ill aunt). Chapters 29 to 35 are set at Marsh End, where Jane lives with, and then near, St. John Rivers and his two sisters, Diana and Mary. Chapter 36 reverts to the ruins of Thornfield Hall. Chapters 37 and 38 are set at Ferndean, where Jane is reunited with Mr. Rochester and settles down to lead a contented married life.
LIST OF CHARACTERS
An orphan who spends her unhappy childhood under the care of her unsympathetic aunt, Sarah Gibson Reed. Although Jane is a neglected child, she is very resourceful. She is sent away to Lowood for her education and later becomes a teacher there. At Thornfield Hall, where she serves as a governess, she forms an attachment to Mr. Rochester, the wealthy owner of the estate. The relationship is a troubled one, and Jane finally leaves Rochester. After Jane seeks and finds "family," she slowly forms, through deprivation and poverty, a semblance of self-awareness and identity. She triumphs over various difficulties eventually returns to Mr. Rochester, who is then blind and disfigured, and they enjoy a quiet and happy married life.
Edward Fairfax Rochester
The second son of a wealthy landowner. He has a gruff, self-important manner. He has lived an interesting life, filled with travel and adventure. He appears quite worldly, especially to the inexperienced Jane. His attitude towards Jane is at first vague and questionable. He then grows affectionate with her; finally, he treats her with the honor she deserves. Mr. Rochester is married to Bertha Mason, an insane woman whom he hides in the attic of Thornfield Hall. Since Jane does not know about Bertha, she accepts Mr. Rochester's proposal of marriage. After his wife's death and his own disfigurement, he is quite humbled, and when he marries Jane, he is a changed man.
St. John Rivers
A young minister at Morton who lives at Marsh End. He saves Jane from starvation after she runs away from Thornfield Hall. He is self-important and somewhat cold and demanding. He has a generous impulse towards the poor, but Jane suspects that he does not perform his work with much real feeling. He wants to marry Jane, but she rejects him.
Sarah Gibson Reed
The widow of Jane Eyre's uncle. She treats Jane badly, preferring to indulge her own children. Jane resents her.
The pampered son of Sarah Reed. He is a source of anxiety for his mother and enjoys tormenting Jane. After life of carousing, he suffers a violent death at a young age.
The elder daughter of Sarah Reed. She is cold and indifferent to her dying mother. She becomes a nun and attains the position of mother superior.
A "full-blown, very plump damsel" and the second daughter of Sarah Reed. She is easily carried away by glamour, entertainment and flattery and marries a wealthy man in London.
The superintendent of Lowood. She is one of the few adults in Jane's childhood who treats her with anything like affection. Jane truly loves Miss Temple, and when Miss Temple marries, Jane feels abandoned.
A hypocritical clergyman who oversees Lowood School and is cruel to Jane. He is the son of the school's founder, Naomi Brocklehurst.
An ill, motherless girl at Lowood School. With her tender, ethereal qualities, she becomes Jane's friend and first confidante. Many years after Helen's death, Jane erects a gray marble tablet over her grave, in fond remembrance of her friend.
A French performer who was Mr. Rochester's mistress during his time in Paris. The relationship between the two ends when she deceives him.
Bertha Antoinetta Mason
The beautiful woman Mr. Rochester married in the West Indies. She is imprisoned in the attic of Thornfield Hall because she has lost her mind and can be violent. She kills herself after setting fire to the house.
The daughter of Céline Varens. She is Mr. Rochester's ward. She is portrayed as coquettish beyond her years. She becomes very attached to Jane and grows into a proper young woman.
A beauty known for her charm and ease in social situations. She wants to marry Edward Rochester for his wealth and social status, a desire that reveals her base and undeserving nature.
The kindly housekeeper of Thornfield Hall. She treats Jane very well.