Excerpts from Jane Eyre

By Charlotte Bronte

Charlotte Bronte (1816-1855) was an English novelist and poet, as well as the eldest of the three literary
Bronte sisters. Jane Eyre is her most famous novel and a classic of English literature. In the novel, a plain
governess named Jane falls in love with her employer, Mr. Edward Rochester. As you read, take notes on the
characters’ points of view and how they contribute to characterization and tone.

From Chapter 17
At this point in Chapter 17, Mr. Rochester has been gone
from the house for a week and it is rumored that he may
not be back for over a year. However, Jane hears from
the housekeeper, Ms. Fairfax, that he will return in three
days time. He finally arrives with a party of elegant,
aristocratic guests, including Blanche Ingram, a snobbish
woman who it is rumored Mr. Rochester will marry.
During the party, Jane watches them from a window seat.
And where is Mr. Rochester?
He comes in last: I am not looking at the arch, yet I see him enter. I try to concentrate my attention on those
netting-needles, on the meshes of the purse I am forming — I wish to think only of the work I have in my hands,
to see only the silver beads and silk threads that lie in my lap; whereas, I distinctly behold his figure, and I
inevitably recall the moment when I last saw it; just after I had rendered him, what he deemed, an essential
service, and he, holding my hand, and looking down on my face, surveyed me with eyes that revealed a heart
full and eager to overflow; in whose emotions I had a part. How near had I approached him at that moment!
What had occurred since, calculated to change his and my relative positions? Yet now, how distant, how far
estranged1 we were! So far estranged, that I did not expect him to come and speak to me. I did not wonder,
when, without looking at me, he took a seat at the other side of the room, and began conversing with some of
the ladies.
No sooner did I see that his attention was riveted on them, and that I might gaze without being observed, than
my eyes were drawn involuntarily to his face; I could not keep their lids under control: they would rise, and the
iris would fix on him. I looked, and had an acute pleasure in looking, — a precious yet poignant2
pleasure; pure
gold, with a steely point of agony: a pleasure like what the thirst-perishing man might feel who knows the well
to which he has crept is poisoned, yet stoops and drinks divine draughts nevertheless.

  1. Estranged (adjective) no longer close, affectionate, or connected with someone
  2. Poignant (adjective) causing a strong or sharp feeling of sadness
    Most true is it that “beauty is in the eye of the gazer.” My master’s colourless, olive face, square, massive brow,
    broad and jetty eyebrows, deep eyes, strong features, firm, grim mouth, — all energy, decision, will, — were not
    beautiful, according to rule; but they were more than beautiful to me; they were full of an interest, an influence
    that quite mastered me, — that took my feelings from my own power and fettered3
    them in his. I had not
    intended to love him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate4
    from my soul the germs of love there
    detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously arrived, green and strong! He made
    me love him without looking at me.
    From Chapter 22
    Mr. Rochester has just returned from a trip to purchase a new carriage. Likewise, Jane has just returned from seeing
    her aunt. He and Jane see each other at the stile (or steps) and have the following exchange.
    [5] He did not leave the stile, and I hardly liked to ask to go by. I inquired soon if he had not been to London.
    “Yes; I suppose you found that out by second-sight.”5
    “Mrs. Fairfax told me in a letter.”
    “And did she inform you what I went to do?”
    “Oh, yes, sir! Everybody knew your errand.”
    [10] “You must see the carriage, Jane, and tell me if you don’t think it will suit Mrs. Rochester6
    exactly; and whether
    she won’t look like Queen Boadicea,7
    leaning back against those purple cushions. I wish, Jane, I were a trifle
    better adapted to match with her externally. Tell me now, fairy as you are — can’t you give me a charm, or a
    or something of that sort, to make me a handsome man?”
    “It would be past the power of magic, sir;” and, in thought, I added, “A loving eye is all the charm needed: to
    such you are handsome enough; or rather your sternness has a power beyond beauty.”
    Mr. Rochester had sometimes read my unspoken thoughts with an acumen9
    to me incomprehensible: in the
    present instance he took no notice of my abrupt vocal response; but he smiled at me with a certain smile he
    had of his own, and which he used but on rare occasions. He seemed to think it too good for common
    purposes: it was the real sunshine of feeling — he shed it over me now.
    “Pass, Janet,” said he, making room for me to cross the stile: “go up home, and stay your weary little wandering
    feet at a friend’s threshold.”
  3. to chain or shackle
  4. to destroy completely; to remove
  5. “Second-sight” refers to the ability to see remote or future events. While Mr. Rochester does often allude to Jane
    being other-worldly, here he is teasing her.
  6. Mr. Rochester is unmarried, but by saying this he is suggesting that he intends to marry soon.
  7. Queen Boudica or Boadicead was a queen of the British Iceni tribe who led an uprising against the occupying forces
    of the Roman Empire.
  8. a potion or charm with magical power
  9. Acumen (noun) the ability to make good judgements and quick decisions
    All I had now to do was to obey him in silence: no need for me to colloquise10 further. I got over the stile
    without a word, and meant to leave him calmly. An impulse held me fast — a force turned me round. I said —
    or something in me said for me, and in spite of me —
    [15] “Thank you, Mr. Rochester, for your great kindness. I am strangely glad to get back again to you: and wherever
    you are is my home — my only home.”
    I walked on so fast that even he could hardly have overtaken me had he tried. Little Adèle11 was half wild with
    delight when she saw me. Mrs. Fairfax received me with her usual plain friendliness. Leah smiled, and even
    Sophie bid me “bon soir” with glee. This was very pleasant; there is no happiness like that of being loved by
    your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.
    From Chapter 23
    After two weeks of bliss, Jane stumbles upon Rochester in the garden. He invites Jane to go on a walk with him.
    Rochester tells Jane of his intention to marry Blanche Ingram, and tells Jane of recommended new position she could
    take in Ireland. Jane complains of the distance. They sit under a chestnut tree in the garden and have the following
    “In about a month I hope to be a bridegroom,” continued Mr. Rochester; “and in the interim, I shall myself look
    out for employment and an asylum12 for you.”
    “Thank you, sir; I am sorry to give — ”
    “Oh, no need to apologise! I consider that when a dependent does her duty as well as you have done yours, she
    has a sort of claim upon her employer for any little assistance he can conveniently render her; indeed I have
    already, through my future mother-in-law, heard of a place that I think will suit: it is to undertake the education
    of the five daughters of Mrs. Dionysius O’Gall of Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught, Ireland. You’ll like Ireland, I think:
    they’re such warm-hearted people there, they say.”
    [20] “It is a long way off, sir.”
    “No matter — a girl of your sense will not object to the voyage or the distance.”
    “Not the voyage, but the distance: and then the sea is a barrier — ”
    “From what, Jane?”
    “From England and from Thornfield: and — ”
    [25] “Well?”
    “From you, sir.”
  10. to converse
  11. Adèle is Jane’s student who Mr. Rochester cares for.
  12. In this context, “asylum” means a place of shelter and security; he means to find her a new job and housing.
    I said this almost involuntarily, and, with as little sanction of free will, my tears gushed out. I did not cry so as to
    be heard, however; I avoided sobbing. The thought of Mrs. O’Gall and Bitternutt Lodge struck cold to my heart;
    and colder the thought of all the brine13 and foam, destined, as it seemed, to rush between me and the master
    at whose side I now walked, and coldest the remembrance of the wider ocean — wealth, caste,14 custom
    intervened between me and what I naturally and inevitably loved.
    “It is a long way,” I again said.
    “It is, to be sure; and when you get to Bitternutt Lodge, Connaught, Ireland, I shall never see you again, Jane:
    that’s morally certain. I never go over to Ireland, not having myself much of a fancy for the country. We have
    been good friends, Jane; have we not?”
    [30] “Yes, sir.”
    “And when friends are on the eve of separation, they like to spend the little time that remains to them close to
    each other. Come! we’ll talk over the voyage and the parting quietly half-an-hour or so, while the stars enter
    into their shining life up in heaven yonder: here is the chestnut tree: here is the bench at its old roots. Come, we
    will sit there in peace to-night, though we should never more be destined to sit there together.” He seated me
    and himself.
    “It is a long way to Ireland, Janet, and I am sorry to send my little friend on such weary travels: but if I can’t do
    better, how is it to be helped? Are you anything akin to me, do you think, Jane?”
    I could risk no sort of answer by this time: my heart was still.
    “Because,” he said, “I sometimes have a queer15 feeling with regard to you — especially when you are near me,
    as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably16 knotted to a similar
    string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous17 Channel, and two
    hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion18 will be snapt; and
    then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly. As for you, — you’d forget me.”
    [35] “That I never should, sir: you know — ” Impossible to proceed.
    “Jane, do you hear that nightingale singing in the wood? Listen!”
    In listening, I sobbed convulsively; for I could repress what I endured no longer; I was obliged to yield, and I was
    shaken from head to foot with acute distress. When I did speak, it was only to express an impetuous19 wish
    that I had never been born, or never come to Thornfield.
    “Because you are sorry to leave it?”
  13. salt-water
  14. a rigid system organized by class and social status
  15. strange or odd
  16. Inextricable (adjective) impossible to separate
  17. wild or stormy (when referring to weather or water)
  18. the sharing or exchanging of intimate thoughts and feelings
  19. Impetuous (adjective) acting quickly or thoughtlessly
    The vehemence20 of emotion, stirred by grief and love within me, was claiming mastery, and struggling for full
    sway, and asserting a right to predominate, to overcome, to live, rise, and reign at last: yes, — and to speak.
    [40] “I grieve to leave Thornfield: I love Thornfield: — I love it, because I have lived in it a full and delightful life, —
    momentarily at least. I have not been trampled on. I have not been petrified. I have not been buried with
    inferior minds, and excluded from every glimpse of communion with what is bright and energetic and high. I
    have talked, face to face, with what I reverence, with what I delight in, — with an original, a vigorous, an
    expanded mind. I have known you, Mr. Rochester; and it strikes me with terror and anguish to feel I absolutely
    must be torn from you for ever. I see the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of death.”
    “Where do you see the necessity?” he asked suddenly.
    “Where? You, sir, have placed it before me.”
    “In what shape?”
    “In the shape of Miss Ingram; a noble and beautiful woman, — your bride.”
    [45] “My bride! What bride? I have no bride!”
    “But you will have.”
    “Yes; — I will! — I will!” He set his teeth.
    “Then I must go: — you have said it yourself.”
    “No: you must stay! I swear it — and the oath shall be kept.”
    [50] “I tell you I must go!” I retorted, roused to something like passion. “Do you think I can stay to become nothing to
    you? Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread
    snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor,
    obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you, — and full
    as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for
    you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom,
    conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh; — it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed
    through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal, — as we are!”
    “As we are!” repeated Mr. Rochester — “so,” he added, enclosing me in his arms. Gathering me to his breast,
    pressing his lips on my lips: “so, Jane!”
    “Yes, so, sir,” I rejoined: “and yet not so; for you are a married man — or as good as a married man, and wed to
    one inferior to you — to one with whom you have no sympathy — whom I do not believe you truly love; for I
    have seen and heard you sneer at her. I would scorn such a union: therefore I am better than you — let me go!”
    “Where, Jane? To Ireland?”
    “Yes — to Ireland. I have spoken my mind, and can go anywhere now.”
  20. intensity or passion
    [55] “Jane, be still; don’t struggle so, like a wild frantic bird that is rending its own plumage21 in its desperation.”
    “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to
    leave you.”
    Another effort set me at liberty, and I stood erect before him.
    “And your will shall decide your destiny,” he said: “I offer you my hand, my heart, and a share of all my
    “You play a farce,22 which I merely laugh at.”
    [60] “I ask you to pass through life at my side — to be my second self, and best earthly companion.”
    “For that fate you have already made your choice, and must abide by it.”
    “Jane, be still a few moments: you are over-excited: I will be still too.”
    A waft of wind came sweeping down the laurel-walk, and trembled through the boughs of the chestnut: it
    wandered away — away — to an indefinite distance — it died. The nightingale’s song was then the only voice of
    the hour: in listening to it, I again wept. Mr. Rochester sat quiet, looking at me gently and seriously. Some time
    passed before he spoke; he at last said —
    “Come to my side, Jane, and let us explain and understand one another.”
    [65] “I will never again come to your side: I am torn away now, and cannot return.”
    “But, Jane, I summon you as my wife: it is you only I intend to marry.”
    I was silent: I thought he mocked me.
    “Come, Jane — come hither.”
    “Your bride stands between us.”
    [70] He rose, and with a stride reached me.
    “My bride is here,” he said, again drawing me to him, “because my equal is here, and my likeness. Jane, will you
    marry me?”
    Still I did not answer, and still I writhed myself from his grasp: for I was still incredulous.23
    “Do you doubt me, Jane?”
  21. the feathers of a bird
  22. a joking and mocking performance
  23. Incredulous (adjective) unwilling or unable to believe something
    [75] “You have no faith in me?”
    “Not a whit.”
    “Am I a liar in your eyes?” he asked passionately. “Little skeptic, you shall be convinced. What love have I for
    Miss Ingram? None: and that you know. What love has she for me? None: as I have taken pains to prove: I
    caused a rumour to reach her that my fortune was not a third of what was supposed, and after that I presented
    myself to see the result; it was coldness both from her and her mother. I would not — I could not — marry Miss
    Ingram. You — you strange, you almost unearthly thing! — I love as my own flesh. You — poor and obscure,
    and small and plain as you are — I entreat to accept me as a husband.”
    From Chapter 27
    Jane is distraught after discovering that Mr. Rochester was married all along — to a madwoman named Bertha who
    has been shut away in the house. Rochester pleads with Jane; he begs her to move with him to the south of France
    where they can live as husband and wife. Jane is doubtful and wonders aloud what would happen if she were to go
    mad like Bertha. The two have the following exchange.
    “Jane, my little darling (so I will call you, for so you are), you don’t know what you are talking about; you
    misjudge me again: it is not because she is mad I hate her. If you were mad, do you think I should hate you?”
    “I do indeed, sir.”
    [80] “Then you are mistaken, and you know nothing about me, and nothing about the sort of love of which I am
    capable. Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your
    mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still: if you raved, my arms should confine
    you, and not a strait waistcoat24 — your grasp, even in fury, would have a charm for me: if you flew at me as
    wildly as that woman did this morning, I should receive you in an embrace, at least as fond as it would be
    restrictive. I should not shrink from you with disgust as I did from her: in your quiet moments you should have
    no watcher and no nurse but me; and I could hang over you with untiring tenderness, though you gave me no
    smile in return; and never weary of gazing into your eyes, though they had no longer a ray of recognition for
    “I have for the first time found what I can truly love — I have found you. You are my sympathy — my better self
    — my good angel — I am bound to you with a strong attachment. I think you good, gifted, lovely: a fervent, a
    solemn passion is conceived in my heart; it leans to you, draws you to my centre and spring of life, wrap my
    existence about you — and, kindling in pure, powerful flame, fuses you and me in one.”
  24. otherwise known as a “straitjacket”
    Discussion Questions
    Directions: Brainstorm your answers to the following questions in the space provided. Be prepared to
    share your original ideas in a class discussion.
  25. When Jane Eyre was published, it was popularly believed that women did not have rich
    inner lives. Based on these excerpts, do you believe this book contradicts that notion? If so,
    how? Explain your answer.
  26. In the context of this passage, how are people changed by love? What about love causes us
    to change? Is it always for the best? Use evidence from this text, your own experience, and
    other literature, art, or history in your answer.
  27. How does social status affect Jane’s relationship with Mr. Rochester? In the context of the
    text, what are the effects of social status?