Notes on Jane Eyre

Life responses

  1. Having lost both her parents soon after birth, Jane had to endure 10 years of persecution by her aunt, Mrs. Reed, before she is sent away to Lowood School. What is the source of her suffering early years and the strength of the character that emerges from it? What gives her the strength to be honest and bold?
  2. At Lowood Miss Temple and Helen befriend her with kindness – she has outlived the need for cruelty and it has bred a strong, self-reliant, shy, unpretentious, kind character in her. Mrs. Reed’s prejudice and meanness is replaced by Miss Temple’s objectivity and fairness, which Jane acquires from her.
  3. Her best friend, Helen, dies of TB – Jane still carries misfortunre. From Helen she acquires a pure and simple goodness and faith in God.
  4. When Brocklehurst loses his position and power over the school after the fatal plague, Jane is finally freed from persecution and enjoys more humane treatment for the first time in her life. Evil gives rise to good.
  5. Rochester falls and injures his leg at first sight of her. She is there to help Rochester when he falls from the horse – foreshadowing her future role in helping lift him from the depths to which he later falls psychologically.
  6. She is awakened in the night and there to save Rochester’s life when his wife Bertha starts the fire in his room.
  7. Her aunt, who banished her and so mistreated her, is forced by conscience to call her back and reveal the existence of her uncle’s letter.
  8. It is actually Jane who professes her love (proposes), not Rochester. He has teased and taunted her into expressing her emotions, placing the onus on her out of his sense of guilt that what he does is wrong.
  9. The chestnut tree Rochester proposes to her under is destroyed by lightning the very same night, split in two, signifying their own later separation.
  10. The marriage veil which Rochester gave her is destroyed. This was the sole gift she had accepted, she who wanted to avoid all semblance of social artifice and device. It gets destroyed. She refused to be what he wants to pretend she is.
  11. The night before their wedding, she dreams of carrying a small baby down a long road looking for Rochester and then sees Thornfield Hall burnt to the ground and deserted.
  12. When she is on the verge of marrying a bigamist, Mason comes to warn her and prevent a violation of her conscience. Jane being sincerely frank and good, she is protected from believing his false representations.
  13. Jane is brought at the moment of desperation and starvation to the very house of her sole living relatives.
  14. On the verge of surrendering to St. John’s demands for marriage, she hears Rochester’s call which he actually issues at that very moment, and he hears her response. Their love is that true and intense.
  15. When Jane rejects a married Rochester and runs away, the same night Bertha burns down the hall and jumps to her death and Rochester loses an arm and use of both eyes.

II. Character

A. Jane

  1. Jane has genuine affection, goodness and complete lack of vindictiveness, even against Mrs. Reed and her family. Her goodness attracts affection from good people such as Miss Temple and later St John and his sisters.
  2. Her generosity reveals in giving away 75% of her money. She receives the generosity of St. John and his sisters and her uncle whom she has never met.
  3. Her joy in discovering family is much greater than her joy in inheriting money.
  4. Her unpretentious character refuses Rochester’s efforts to dress her up and pass her off as a glamorous high society woman for her marriage. She insists on being her plain old simple self and being accepted for that alone.
  5. Both she and Rochester have extraordinary insight into character and are able to read people perceptively from their facial expressions and behavior.
  6. Jane has a wonderful frankness that charms by being completely free of both pretense and malice as when she readily says she does not find him handsome.
  7. She has the strength of personality, intelligence and skill to handle Rochester when he demands and threatens she stay with him after confessing he is already married. Her frankness and strength is what he admires so much in her.
  8. She so admires strength, that she nearly succumbs to St. John’s demands that she marry him, even though there is no emotion on either side.

B. Rochester

  1. With his extraordinary insight into human nature, how could he have failed to understand his wife Bertha before marrying her?
  2. He is strong, passionate, intelligent
  3. He uses strength and roughness to bully people. Jane is the first to not be intimidated by him.
  4. His goodness is shown by his adopting Adele and maintaining his mad wife instead of abandoning her and his efforts to save her life during the fire, which cost him an arm and an eye.
  5. Jane’s genuine affection enables him to recover vision in one eye.

C. St. John

  1. He is idealistic, honest, proper, dogmatic, ambitious and incapable of affectionate emotions.
  2. His natural goodness is demonstrated by the generosity with which he takes in Jane and cares for her when she falls on his doorstep. He shows the same care in tending to the needs of his parishioners, regardless of the risks to his own health.
  3. His refusal to reveal that he is also an Eyre speaks of his genuine unselfishness and idealism.
  4. He is passionately committed to sacrifice himself for the upliftment of the ‘heathens’, whatever the risks to himself. His intense ambition is to please God and be righteous according to his own understanding.
  5. He resorts to vital power and domination to claim Jane when he cannot do it by reason.

III. Society

Social differential

  1. Jane is unable to marry Rochester until he is maimed and blinded and she comes into an inheritance. The social gap between them was too wide to be bridged without his falling even further (after marrying a mad woman) and her rising.


  1. Both Jane and Rochester have suffered greatly in their earlier lives. She by Mrs. Reed’s treatment and the rigors of Lowood School; he by his father’s preference for his brother and marriage to a mad woman. Can we say that their shared suffering is a source of their attraction and sympathy?
  2. How can a girl who suffered ill treatment from the time of her birth emerge with such genuine emotions and natural goodness, devoid of vindictiveness or meanness?
  3. How can a man who has such keen insight into human nature have married so blindly and foolishly?