When young Jane Eyre's parents die of disease, her kind uncle, Mr. Reed, takes her in and promises to raise her as his own. However, when he passes away as well, his wife shows that she does not feel the same way about Jane. Jane goes through her childhood unfairly being cruelly treated by her aunt and three cousins and never feels like she fits in or is respected. Even the maids disrespect her saying, "Yes, if she were a nice, pretty child, one might compassionate her forlornness; but one really cannot care for such a little toad as that" (Bronte 22). One day when her cousin bullied her for no reason, her aunt believed she was lying and sent her to be punished in the "red room" where her Uncle Reed had died. She believes she sees her uncle's ghost while in there and faints in exhaustion and fear. When she awakens, she is happy to find that her aunt has agreed to send her to school. However, once she gets there she is disappointed. At Lowood School, headmaster Brocklehurst does not treat Jane still with the respect she deserves. When Mrs. Reed was talking to Brocklehurst about getting Jane into the school, she explained to him, "...this little girl has not quite the character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and about all, to guard against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit" (Bronte 30). He tells everyone that Jane is a liar at her school and she is shunned. Jane does manage to make one good friend, Helen, who is the ideal Christian. Unlike Brocklehurst who says one thing and then does another, Helen truly lives up to the standards expected of her. Many children get sick while in school, and Helen ends up dying of consumption. When others find out about Brocklehurst's mistreatment of the children, he is replaced. Jane stays at Lowood to teach for a few years. When Jane is ready for a new pace, she accepts a governess position at Thornfield manor and teaches a young French girl named Adele. Here, Jane secretly falls in love with her employer, Rochester. She even saves him from a house fire which was supposedly started by his drunken servant Grace Poole. However, Poole continues with her job, so Jane knows that there must be more to the story. Jane is upset when Rochester brings home a beautiful woman, but he ends up proposing to Jane. On the wedding day she finds out that he had already been married to a woman that is locked up on the third story because she had gone insane and that he had hired Poole to keep her under control. She leaves Rochester and is taken in by the Rivers family where St. John Rivers finds her a new job. He finds out that they are cousins and that their uncle John Eyre left her a large sum of money when he died. When St. John decides to go to India as a missionary, he asks Jane to go with him as his wife. Jane decides she doesn't love him so she doesn't marry him. When Jane goes back to Thornfield, she finds that the house had burnt down with Rochester's wife in it. Rochester lost his eyesight and one of his hands from the fire, but Jane agreed when he proposed to her again. At the end of the novel, Jane writes that she is happily married with a son and that her and Rochester enjoy perfect equality in their life together.
1) Jane grows up as an orphan in her disapproving aunt's house and is mistreated throughout her life. Jane was still family to the Reeds though, so what might be some reasons she was treated differently than her cousins that she lived with?
2) Jane decides to marry Rochester even after he is blind and has only one hand. If someone you loved became handicapped, would you still chose to marry them like Jane did if she didn't have to? Why does Jane chose him over St. John?
3) What would you do if you found out on your wedding day that the person you were about to marry was already married? Even if the person they had married had gone insane?
4) Although during the era this novel was written women were known to be subservient to men, Jane felt that she didn't want to marry Rochester until after proving her self-sufficiency to herself so that she wouldn't feel she was dependent upon him as her “master.” How is marriage thought to be today compared to back then?