Brief Plot Summary of Jane Eyre (excerpt)
One night Jane is awakened by the same shrill scream she had heard before. Opening her door, she sees smoke billowing from Rochester's room. His bed on fire, Rochester is awakened just in time by Jane. He refuses to allow her to awaken the household, telling her the fire may have been set by Grace Poole, who has periodic fits of insanity. The rest of the servants are told the fire was accidentally caused by a candle falling.
Jane, sensing that her employer is suffering from the consequences of some mysterious sin of the past, gives him all her sympathy and gradually finds herself falling in love with him. But her hopes are thwarted when Rochester begins going to parties in the neighborhood where he is courting the beautiful, frivolous Blanche Ingram. At a party Rochester gives in Thornfield Manor, the aristocratic Blanche and her friends treat Jane with haughty condescension. Jane feels she can never compete with these snobbish, elegant people.
While the house guests are staying at Thornfield, Rochester receives a mysterious caller—a Mr. Mason from the West Indies. That night Jane hears a scuffle and a cry for help in the room just above hers. Rochester quiets the household's alarm but asks Jane privately to help nurse Mr. Mason who is bleeding and unconscious. Before dawn the wounded man is spirited away from the house.
One day soon after, Jane is enjoying the lovely midsummer evening in an orchard when Rochester comes upon her and informs her he-is shortly to be married. Jane, miserable, assumes he intends Co marry Blanche Ingram. She asks him tearfully how he can expect her to remain on at Thornfield under the circumstances. Rochester kisses her and tells her it is she whom he wishes to marry.
Jane's happy excitement before the wedding is interrupted one night when she awakens in horror to see a strange, ugly woman trying on her bridal veil and then tearing it to pieces. Rochester assures her it is only a bad dream, but in the morning Jane finds the ripped fragments of the veil.
On the wedding day service is interrupted by Mr. Mason who has slipped into the church to announce that the marriage is illegal because Rochester still has a living wife. Forced to reveal the truth at last, Rochester takes Jane to the forbidden chamber on the third floor where Jane sees a hideous creature, crawling on all fours in her madness. It was she who had attacked Mason and torn Jane's wedding veil. Rochester explains that the creature is Mason's sister Bertha whom he had been tricked into marrying fifteen years before in Jamaica and who comes from a family of lunatics and degenerates. His married life has been an unmitigated hell，with the insane Mrs. Rochester kept under lock and key in the care of Grace Poole.
Jane is filled with sympathy for the misanthropic Rochester. Nevertheless, she realizes she must now depart. Taking just a little money with her, she wanders about the Midland moors, vainly seeking employment. Close to starvation, she is finally befriended and nursed back to health by a clergyman named St. John Rivers and his two sisters, Mary and Diana. Under the new name of Jane Elliott, she finds a job as village schoolmistress and tries to forget her seemingly hopeless love for Rochester.
One day Rivers learns that an uncle of Jane's, John Eyre, has recently died in Madeira and has left Jane 20, 000 pounds. Jane insists on sharing this legacy with Rivers and his sisters who. a lawyer discovers, are really her cousins. St. John River asks Jane to be his wife and to go with him to India where he plans to become a missionary. Although he is not in love with her, he feels she would make an admirable assistant in his mission.
While Jane is considering the offer, she has a dream that Rochester is calling for her. Failing to find him in the neighborhood the next morning, she journeys back to Thornfield where she is shocked to find the great manor house gutted by fire and completely in ruins. Making inquiries at the local inn, she discovers that Mrs. Rochester one night succeeded in setting the house on fire. Rochester manages to lead the servants to safety and then went back into the burning mansion to rescue his wife. She eluded him, was able to climb to the roof, and was then killed in a plunge to the ground.
Rochester barely managed to get out of the burning house himself. A flaming staircase had fallen, blinding him and crushing one arm so badly it had to be amputated. Rochester is now living in morose solitude at the lonely nearby manor of Ferndean. Jane hurries to see him.
Overjoyed that she has come to him, Rochester asks her to become his wife. She happily accepts and they are married. They soon have a child. Two years later, Rochester regains the sight of one eye.