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Jane Eyre | Study Guide

Charlotte Brontë

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Chapter 11

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 11 of Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre | Chapter 11 | Summary



Jane starts the chapter by speaking to the reader and calling out the setting, first saying, "A new chapter in a novel is something like a new scene in a play; and when I draw up the curtain this time, reader," she asks the reader to picture her room at the inn. The passage is also briefly in the present tense. Then Jane describes the final segment of her journey to Thornfield.

Jane arrives at Thornfield on a cold October evening, and Mrs. Fairfax gives her a warm welcome. The next day Jane discovers that Mr. Rochester, who is away, is the owner of Thornfield, not Mrs. Fairfax. Jane's pupil is his ward, a young French girl named Adèle Varens (Adèle has a nurse, Sophie). Following lessons Mrs. Fairfax gives Jane a tour of the manor house, from the richly decorated first-floor rooms to the "dark and low," old-fashioned third-floor rooms. When Jane hears strange laughter coming from one of the third-floor rooms, Mrs. Fairfax explains that it must be Grace Poole, a servant.


Jane's arrival at Thornfield is quite a contrast to her first day at Lowood. Here the house and grounds are very pleasant, and everyone treats her kindly and with respect. Before Jane sleeps in her pleasant room, she prays her thanks for her new situation and also asks for "the power of meriting the kindness which seemed so frankly offered me before it was earned." Her gratitude and humility reinforce the idea that she has gained maturity. The third floor of the manor, however, introduces an element of gothic mystery to the setting. It feels dark and heavy, and Jane finds it difficult to connect the unearthly laughter to the person of Grace Poole. "I really did not expect any Grace to answer; for the laugh was as tragic, as preternatural a laugh as any I ever heard," she comments. Like the red-room of Jane's childhood, the third floor of Thornfield seems to lend itself to superstitious fancies.

In talking with Jane on her arrival, Mrs. Fairfax comments that she looks forward to having someone to talk to. Referring to servants of the house, she says, "Leah is a nice girl to be sure, and John and his wife are very decent people; but then you see they are only servants, and one can't converse with them on terms of equality: one must keep them at due distance, for fear of losing one's authority." Even within the serving class, there are ranks and levels, and all must be aware of the social differences between a housekeeper and kitchen help.

Jane's direct address to the reader in this chapter is echoed in the final chapter of the book, which begins with the famous "Reader, I married him." Jane rarely engages in the self-conscious lifting of the authorial curtain; her doing so here underscores the significance of this chapter, a passage to a new phase of Jane's life.

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