Jane Eyre | Study Guide

Charlotte Brontë

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Jane Eyre | Chapters 12–13 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 12

Over the next months, from October to January, Jane settles in at Thornfield. She finds some satisfaction in her daily routine but feels restless as well. She had hoped for a more exciting environment, where she could meet interesting people and have new experiences.

One cold December day, Jane walks to the town of Hay to post a letter. En route she stops to rest and observe "the rising moon." Suddenly a huge dog and a man on horseback come thundering along the road. The horse slips on ice in the road and falls, and Jane helps the man, who has injured his ankle. Before he rides off, he questions her briefly, learning that she is the governess at Thornfield. As Jane walks on, she can't shake the image of the stranger's face, although it's not a handsome one. Returning to Thornfield, she notes the moon's progress over the hilltops. Once inside she learns that Mr. Rochester has returned home and the surgeon is tending to the ankle he sprained when his horse fell.

Chapter 13

The next day Thornfield becomes a lively place as people come and go to do business with Mr. Rochester. In the evening he asks Jane, Mrs. Fairfax, and Adèle to have tea with him. Mr. Rochester says his first sight of Jane on the road made him think of fairy tales and suggests that she "had bewitched [his] horse" to make it fall. He questions Jane about her family, Lowood, and her accomplishments, having her play piano and taking particular interest in her drawings, including a "bird and mast ... [and] a drowned corpse," a "woman's shape" as "the Evening Star," and "an iceberg ... [and] colossal head" with a crown. Mr. Rochester adopts a bantering tone with Jane, and she falls in with it. Jane is intrigued by him. She learns later from Mrs. Fairfax that Mr. Rochester was the younger son of his family and he inherited Thornfield nine years ago. Before that he'd been estranged from his father and brother because they put him in a "painful position" for the sake of money.

Analysis

At Thornfield Jane has more freedom than she has ever had before, yet she feels confined and isolated. There is no one at Thornfield like Miss Temple, with whom she can have lively, thoughtful conversations about books and ideas. Aware that some people think women should be content with household chores and light entertainment, Jane believes that women need just as much excitement and intellectual stimulation as men: "women feel just as men feel." Jane's views about women's roles and needs, which are at odds with prevailing attitudes, show how she has grown. She thinks for herself and does not simply accept the judgment of others. Her independent mind is one factor that makes her such an appealing heroine.

Jane observes the rising moon just before Rochester comes thundering down the road and lingers to watch it before reentering Thornfield. The moon had appeared to Jane on the night of Helen's death at Lowood. It appears here once again to signal an important change in Jane's life: Mr. Rochester's appearance on the scene dramatically alters the regularity of Jane's routine, and he will be a major factor in her life from this point on. Mr. Rochester has the air of mystery, moodiness, and unpredictability typical of the hero of gothic romance fiction. His characterization of Jane as an elfish, fairy-tale creature capable of "bewitch[ing his] horse" picks up the supernatural thread that is woven throughout the novel.

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