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Jane Eyre | Chapter 10 | Summary



The passage of eight years has brought many changes at Lowood. After the typhus epidemic, an investigation was made into conditions at the school. Mr. Brocklehurst's power was reduced, and a committee of benefactors formed to make many changes, improving students' lives. Jane has stayed on through all the changes—as a student for six years and as a teacher for two years.

For Jane's eight years at Lowood, Miss Temple filled the roles of "mother, governess, and ... companion." By modeling herself after Miss Temple, the impulsive, angry 10-year-old who arrived at Lowood has become a "disciplined and subdued character." When Miss Temple marries and moves away, however, Jane begins to want change, praying "for a new servitude," and advertises independently and secretly for a governess position. A response arrives from Mrs. Fairfax, offering Jane a position at Thornfield, where her pupil will be a 10-year-old girl. Jane asks the new superintendent of teachers for permission to leave. She passes the request to Mr. Brocklehurst, who writes to ask Mrs. Reed if she will agree to the change. Mrs. Reed replies that she cares not, as she "had long relinquished all interference" in Jane's life. Accordingly the school committee grants Jane permission to go and provides her with a testimonial to her character and ability.

About two months later, the night before she is to leave for Thornfield, Jane receives a surprise visit from Bessie, who is now married, with two children, Bobby and Jane. Bessie brings Jane up to date on the Reed family: the sisters are always quarreling; John failed at college and is living a degenerate life pursuing pleasure; and Mrs. Reed is unhappy about how much money John spends. Bessie is delighted with Jane's success. She mentions that "nearly seven years ago, a Mr. Eyre came to Gateshead" looking for Jane. Learning that Jane was 50 miles (80 kilometers) away, he said he had to leave for Madeira and wouldn't have time to visit her. Bessie thinks Mr. Eyre is Jane's uncle. The next morning they see each other briefly before Bessie sets off to return to Gateshead and Jane leaves for Thornfield and her next adventure.


This is a transitional chapter that resolves the story lines of characters both at Lowood and Gateshead. At Lowood Mr. Brocklehurst's abuses are uncovered and his power is diminished; the school has been improved, with a new building and with the students receiving better food and clothing. Miss Temple marries (a standard happy ending for women of this era); Jane has achieved the goals that she set for herself when she came to Lowood. In addition, she has matured and is no longer the impulsive, emotionally driven child she had been. At Gateshead the despicable Reed family members seem to have received their just desserts, while kind Bessie is happily married with two children. The fact that her daughter is named Jane may be a nod to the affection she felt for Jane Eyre. With these loose ends resolved, Jane is ready to begin her "new duties and a new life." The news of Mr. Eyre's visit leaves a new untidy story line and suggests that more will be heard from this mysterious relation later.

Jane's prayer "for a new servitude" calls up the theme of class and gender. Not part of the upper class, not part of any family, and thus with no real prospects of marriage, she faces a life of service. With her education and intelligence, she can serve as a governess, thus enjoying a slightly higher position than most servants. But she cannot be fully independent.

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