Plot Revealed Below!
Orphaned as a child, Jane Eyre is brought up in the cruel and loveless household of her aunt, Mrs. Reed, at Gateshead Hall. She is an outsider in the Reed family, rejected by her cousins Georgiana and Eliza, and tormented by their brother John. As a result, Jane develops an active imaginative life dreaming of foreign landscapes, artistic expression, and escape.
One day, John provokes Jane to fight back -- then blames her, calling for Mrs. Reed's intervention. So follows a terrifying night locked in the 'Red Room,' where Jane receives a spectral visitation from the corpse of her Uncle Reed. Soon, Jane is visited by the austere clergyman, Mr. Brocklehurst, who runs a charitable institution called Lowood School. Without a reconciliation of any kind with her aunt, and aged only ten, Jane is sent away.
The school is freezing; the conditions unbearably austere. Jane hates her time there, particularly the attempts by Brocklehurst to kill her spirit and individuality. However, Jane makes a close friend in a fellow pupil called Helen Burns who advises her not to attempt to run away but to work hard and improve herself through education. That way, she will one daybe able to fulfill her dream of escape. Unfortunately, Helen is not so lucky and dies in Jane's arms from cold and illness. The whole school suffers an epidemic of typhus which kills a large proportion of the students. Brocklehurst is deposed, and conditions finally improve. Eight years later, Jane has worked her way up to a teaching position at Lowood.
After advertising in the local newspaper, Jane gets the job of governess at Thornfield Hall. Thornfield is a vast estate, forbidding at first with its endless corridors and different wings. But Jane soon settles in, after a warm welcome from the jolly housekeeper Mrs. Fairfax, and her new pupil, a young French girl called Adèle Varens. She enjoys her lessons and begins to make some progress with her coquettish and wayward student. However, Jane becomes restless -- her aching desire for escape and travel still lingers. One day, while daydreaming of warmer countries on the terrace, Jane looks across the estate of Thornfield and sees a long red scarf floating out of a window of the North Tower. Mrs. Fairfax has little explanation. She suggests it was perhaps Grace Poole, who does the laundry and lives up there alone.
One afternoon, while walking to Millcote to post a letter, Jane is almost run down by a rider galloping down the path towards her. Startled, the horse falls and throws its rider. Jane helps the dark, enigmatic man to his feet and back onto his horse. Returning to Thornfield later that night, Jane discovers the mysterious rider was none other than Edward Fairfax Rochester, the owner of Thornfield and her employer. Although he is taciturn, and often moody, Rochester is impressed by Jane's spirit. Increasingly drawn to her, he begins to engage her in long, intimate conversations.
Jane learns the story of Adèle's mother, Céline, a Parisian opera singer who was once Rochester's mistress. He claims Céline left Adèle on his doorstep: she is not his daughter, but he couldn't abandon the girl. By now, Jane has begun to feel an attraction to Rochester and to think of Thornfield as home. But this dream is shattered when, in the middle of the night, she wakes with a start to hear strange noises in the corridor outside her room. Following the sound of footsteps Jane races to Rochester's room where she discovers his bed is on fire, and his life is in grave danger.
Jane saves Rochester's life -- rousing him from his bed, and helping put out the fire raging in his room. She waits in Rochester's bedroom, and watches through the window as his lamplight moves through Thornfield to the North Tower. On his return, Jane tells him she was woken by strange noises in the corridor, including a spooky laugh. She suspects it could have been Grace Poole, and Rochester doesn't correct her.
The next morning, Rochester leaves Thornfield. Jane feels foolish for having allowed herself to harbor hopes that he shared her feeling of attraction. She happens across Grace Poole, whose attitude towards her seems almost threatening.
Rochester returns with a house party, the guests covering a cross-section of high-society. Eshton, a forward-thinking scientist, is studying the psychology of twins and is taken by the idea that twinned minds can communicate across huge distances. More worryingly for Jane is the arrival of the Ingram family, including the opinionated, aristocratic Lady Ingram and her striking daughter Blanche. Soon it's the understanding of the entire household (not least Lady Ingram) that Blanche is the perfect match for Rochester. Despite Jane's obvious discomfort at the patronizing treatment she receives, Rochester insists that she also attend the evening soirées at every opportunity. One evening, Rochester asks Jane if she thinks he should fulfill the gossips' predictions and propose. In Jane's opinion, is he in love with Blanche? Jane counters that she knows nothing of love. But any hopes she might once have had for herself are now truly crushed.
Later, the mood of the party darkens as Rochester suggests playing some dangerous games. His ouija board experiment turns nasty, as "the board" humiliates Blanche. Rochester leaves the party next day and a gypsy arrives, insisting on telling the fortunes of everyone in the house. Again, Blanche's experience is unpleasant. Jane is called in last, and tested about her feelings for Rochester. When the gypsy probes about Rochester's marriage, Jane refuses to go any further with the interview. Her game over, the gypsy reveals she is in Rochester's pay and he emerges from behind a screen.
Jane turns the tables on Rochester, revealing he has a visitor who has arrived from Jamaica: the mysterious Richard Mason. Rochester is clearly unsettled by the news, but covers well. That night, the whole house is awakened by bloodcurdling screams. Rochester manages to calm the situation, but Jane realizes something is badly wrong when she sees blood dripping from his injured arm. Rochester asks Jane for assistance, and takes her into the North Tower to tend to Mason who has been violently attacked, as if by a wild animal. Jane stays with him while Rochester fetches the doctor, but she is frightened by loud banging on the other side of the door. Next morning, Rochester sends Mason off with the doctor, and tries to cover up the situation.
Jane receives a visit from Bessie, the maid at the Reed house. She brings bad tidings: Mrs. Reed is on her death bed and asking for Jane. Rochester is reluctant for Jane to leave him, asking who will help him now in times of danger. But Jane must go. As she drives away, she sees Rochester and Blanche out riding together and worries what might happen in her absence.
Jane returns to Gateshead Hall, the scene of her childhood misery. Mrs. Reed is on her death bed, following her son John's excessive debauchery and subsequent death. Jane is treated with great condescension by her cousins Eliza and Georgiana. Georgiana has become extremely vain, while Eliza claims she will wash her hands of Georgiana after her mother's funeral and spend the rest of her life in a French convent.
Mrs. Reed raves in her delirium about Jane Eyre being a nightmare child. But in a more lucid moment, her true feeling of guilt about Jane becomes far clearer. Three years earlier, she admits, Mrs. Reed received a letter from Jane's uncle, John Eyre, now living in Madeira. He hoped to adopt Jane and make her his heir. Vindictively, Mrs. Reed kept the news secret and replied that Jane had died of fever at Lowood.
Meanwhile, at Thornfield, Lady Ingram continues to hope for a proposal of marriage from Rochester to her daughter. But Rochester's behavior seems very introspective. Alone, he asks Blanche whether she truly wants to take on Thornfield.
After her aunt's funeral, Jane returns to find the house party about to break up. However, the prospect of Rochester and Blanche's forthcoming wedding is still the subject of discussion. Mrs. Fairfax expects they will soon have to find new positions. Jane and Rochester quickly strike up their former intimacy. But a cloud hangs over their easy conversations, when Rochester hints he may find Jane an alternative position in Ireland in the future. One day, Rochester tells Jane and Adèle about of his time in the Caribbean: the heady atmosphere, the seductive women, the danger... He is brought back from his memories by the sound of a woman's voice, humming a Caribbean tune. Neither Jane nor Adèle seem to have noticed, but it leaves Rochester with a very ominous feeling. When Rochester presses Jane that she must leave Thornfield, she reveals her strong feelings for him.
The charade is over. Rochester admits he has no intention of marrying Blanche -- instead, he is in love with Jane, and proposes marriage to her. Jane can hardly believe it, but once convinced by the strength of Rochester's feelings she accepts his offer. They run back inside as the skies darken with the onset of a thunderstorm.
Two nights before the wedding, Jane has a nightmare and wakes with a start to a yet more terrifying vision of a strange woman in her bedroom. She wants to believe Rochester's explanation that it was part of her dream -- but the results are scarily real: Jane's wedding veil has been ripped in two. The wedding day arrives, but as the pair stand at the altar they are interrupted by Richard Mason and a lawyer, Briggs, who announces that Rochester is already married -- to Mason's sister Bertha. Rochester takes the wedding party up to the North Tower, introduces them to his "wife," and relates his history.
Rochester's father wanted to preserve his estate by marrying him off to a wife who would bring a rich dowry. He was sent to the Caribbean, and tricked into marrying Bertha unaware of the insanity running through her family. Bertha quickly succumbed to madness, but Rochester didn't abandon her. Rather, he brought her back to England and hired Grace Poole to take care of her while he traveled the world, trying to forget the horrors at home. But Jane's dream is shattered. She locks herself into her bedroom, and, despite Rochester's wild protests, refuses to open the door to him.
Jane wanders the moors, penniless and starving. Utterly exhausted, she lies down in a final act of surrender to the elements. But she is brought back from the brink by a faint light in the distance, growing closer. The lantern belongs to the clergyman St. John Rivers, who rescues Jane. Together with his sisters, Diana and Mary, St. John nurses her back to health. The family are poor, but intelligent and spirited. Jane forcefully represses all memories of Rochester's desperate attempts to make her stay, and resolves to begin a new life.
On a walk across the moors, Jane meets the beautiful and wealthy Rosamond Oliver. She is clearly in love with St. John, and he with her. However, St. John's icy will presents an obstacle to marriage. He forces himself to subordinate his passions to his religious calling to serve as a missionary. By contrast, Diana and Mary declare it a crime to deny love.
Soon, at a visit to Morton church, Jane pushes back memories of her failed wedding. She accepts an offer from St. John to become mistress of a new school for poor girls of the parish. Having decided to stay, Jane's memories come flooding back... After the wedding, Rochester passionately begged her to stay, claiming them to be true soulmates. Jane was unable to deny her equally overpowering love, but remained adamant she would leave. Next morning, she did just that. She crept out of Thornfield at dawn, and got on a coach across the country.
Some time later, Diana and Mary leave home to take up posts as governesses. Diana asks Jane to keep watch on St. John, fearful he will take up a missionary's posting and die overseas. When St. John cruelly rejects Rosamond Oliver again, Jane challenges him about his behavior. He admits he is a cold man at heart -- he loves Rosamond, but she will never make a missionary's wife.
A year passes. Jane's school has improved beyond measure; Rosamond Oliver has married someone else. St. John visits Jane, and reads to her from a letter. It is from the solicitor, Mr. Briggs, outlining her history. Briggs is trying to trace Jane on behalf of his client -- her uncle -- who has died and left her a fortune of twenty thousand pounds. When asked why Briggs would write to him, St. John tells Jane that they share the same uncle. Indeed they are half cousins.
Delighted to have found family at last, Jane decides to share her inheritance equally, and sends for Diana and Mary to come home. St. John makes Jane a proposition. He has a missionary's job in the Cape, and wants her to go with him -- as his wife. Jane is shocked. She knows St. John does not love her. But he is relentless. He argues Jane has relinquished any desire of finding love. In which case, she must use her life to find salvation through God's work. Deeply torn, Jane goes up to the moors, where she hears Rochester's voice calling her name. She knows she must go to him.
Jane returns to find Thornfield a blackened ruin. A year earlier, in the middle of the night, Bertha had escaped the North Tower and set Thornfield ablaze. Rochester followed her to the roof, but Bertha plunged to her death before he could save her. Jane finds Rochester at Ferndean Manor, blind and still gravely injured. He recognizes Jane instantly, and is overwhelmed by her return to him. But Rochester wants a wife, not a nursemaid. Jane gradually restores his spirit, and he renews his declarations of love for her. Five years later, Jane has found a true family of her own.