Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre Video

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Watch the illustrated video summary of the classic novel, Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë.

• Video Transcript:

Jane Eyre, by Charlotte Brontë, was published in 1847 during the Victorian era. Set in Northern England, the Bildungsroman, or coming-of-age novel, tells the story of the spirited and precocious Jane, who overcomes her traumatic childhood and falls in love with the wealthy Mr. Rochester. Originally published under the gender neutral pseudonym “Currer Bell,” the wildly popular novel eventually earned Brontë acclaim as one of the greatest writers of her time.

The book begins with 10-year-old Jane describing her abusive childhood at Gateshead Hall, the home of the affluent Reed family. Jane’s maternal uncle, the late Mr. Reed, adopted her when she was orphaned at a young age, but Mrs. Reed and her son, John, treat Jane like a servant. The only source of kindness in Jane’s life is Mrs. Reed’s maid, Bessie, who recognizes Jane as a bright child with a sharp sense of right and wrong.

One day when Jane defends herself against John’s abuse, Mrs. Reed has her locked in the room where Mr. Reed died. Mistaking a beam of light for Mr. Reed’s ghost, Jane faints. Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary summoned to treat Jane, sees her potential and encourages Mrs. Reed to send her to school. When Mr. Lloyd asks if Jane has any other relatives, she says she has heard of some poor relatives of hers but admits that she prefers Mrs. Reed’s cruelty to living in poverty.

Jane is soon sent to the forbidding Lowood Institution for girls, which is run by Mr. Brocklehurst, an austere clergyman. One afternoon, he humiliates Jane by calling her a liar in front of the whole school, and she worries that her classmates will shun her as a result. Instead, she befriends Helen Burns, a pious girl who challenges Jane’s worldview by preaching forgiveness instead of retribution. Helen suffers from consumption, or tuberculosis, and she eventually dies just after Jane comes to say her goodbyes.

Jane begins to excel at Lowood, and at the age of eighteen, she secures a position as governess at an estate called Thornfield Hall, where she reports to Mrs. Fairfax, a housekeeper for Mr. Rochester, the absent master of the house. Jane is touched by the kindness of her pupil, Adele, who is Mr. Rochester’s ward, and adapts easily at Thornfield. Still, she is disturbed by the maniacal laughter emanating from the attic, where Grace Poole, a seamstress employed at the house, resides. Jane also grows curious about Mr. Rochester’s mysterious absences.

While out riding one day, Jane comes upon a man who has fallen from his horse. At first, he refuses her help, but when he learns she works at Thornfield, he begins quizzing her about its master, Mr. Rochester. When she returns to Thornfield that night, Jane sees the man’s dog at the house and realizes the man she encountered was Mr. Rochester himself.

Initially, Mr. Rochester is cold to Jane, who in turn is suspicious of his frequent absences. Over time, however, their relationship deepens, and Jane begins to fall in love with him. One night, Jane rescues Mr. Rochester from a fire just in time for him to escape harm. He blames the blaze on Grace Poole, but Jane is confused when Grace remains employed at Thornfield.

Soon, Mr. Rochester journeys to a nearby estate to visit a lady he favors named Blanche Ingram. Jane is disappointed and feels foolish for believing he could ever fall in love with her. When Mr. Rochester returns to Thornfield with the snobbish Blanche, Jane sees that he is interested in the young woman solely because of their shared social status.

To Jane’s surprise, Bessie’s husband shows up at Thornfield to inform Jane that Mrs. Reed is near death and has been asking for her. Jane travels to the old woman’s deathbed, where Mrs. Reed confesses that she envied her late husband’s favoritism towards Jane and apologizes for how she treated her. She also gives Jane a letter from her uncle, John Eyre, who inquired about adopting Jane when she was a child. Mrs. Reed admits that she told him Jane was dead out of spite.

Mrs. Reed dies, and Jane returns to Thornfield to find that Mr. Rochester is set to marry Blanche. However, Mr. Rochester later confesses he feels a strong bond with Jane, who bravely admits she is in love with him too. Soon, the two are engaged. Weeks later, Jane awakes from a nightmare to find that a strange woman is in her room, tearing her bridal veil in half. Again, Mr. Rochester blames it on Grace.

Jane tries to forget the bizarre incident, but just as she is about to marry Mr. Rochester, a strange man stops the wedding to announce that Mr. Rochester is already married to the man’s sister, who lives in Thornfield’s attic and is cared for by Grace Poole.

Jane is devastated by Mr. Rochester’s deception and leaves Thornfield, taking refuge in the nearby home of the kind but poor Rivers siblings. As she gets to know them, Jane learns that their father, John, recently died and left his estate to an unknown relative named Eyre. Jane realizes that the Rivers are her cousins, and that she is the mysterious beneficiary of John Eyre’s substantial estate. She persuades the humble Rivers to accept a portion of her windfall, feeling fortunate to have found a loving family at last.

One night, Jane thinks she hears Mr. Rochester calling her name and instinctively rushes to Thornfield, finding it burned to the ground. She learns that Mr. Rochester’s unstable wife set Jane’s old bed on fire and then jumped to her death. Mr. Rochester is recovering nearby, having lost his vision and one hand. Jane vows to never leave him, and they marry. Narrating from ten years in the future, Jane notes that Mr. Rochester recovered his sight in one eye just in time to see their newborn son.