WARNING: Spoiler Alerts. But, if you haven’t read Jane Eyre by now – seriously, who are you kidding? You never will, and now you don’t have to. You’re welcome – but I would hesitate to use this version if taking an exam.
Jane Eyre begins her life by having her parents die; so already, we’re pretty sure things aren’t going to be copacetic for her. She’s sent to Gateshead, her aunt’s estate, to be cared for. In those days “cared for” meant something different; so when I say “cared for”, I mean Aunty hates Jane openly and denies her any contact with her cousins—except for the malevolent John, who enjoys beating Jane with whatever’s in his hand. One day, Jane has enough of John and punches him out. Aunty gets angry and has Jane locked in the same room where Aunty’s husband died.
We’re off to a swinging good time.
Aunty ships Jane off to a girls’ school, Lowood, where the general philosophy is “why show generosity when you can crush little girls’ dreams instead.” The headmaster, Mr. Brocklehurst, runs the joint in a way that would make Nosferatu proud. The highlight of Jane’s stay is her classmate, Helen, who chooses to defy Brocklehurst’s insistence that every other breathing soul in the school “ignore (Jane) and deny her the hand of friendship.”
No simple time-outs at Lowood, kids.
So this girl Helen treats Jane with kindness because Helen is unbelievably kind; and I mean it – completely unbelievable. But that plot element was going nowhere, so Helen dies while Jane is in the bed next to her. Many of the girls die, actually; Nosferatu gets the boot as a result. Some other folks come in and things are groovy for a bit, which is simply unacceptable for long in a Brontë novel. Fortunately, the time of blissful non-misery spans the course of a mere sentence or two.
Jane’s cousin Bessie from Gateshead swings by to tell her some guy named John Eyre dropped by to find Jane but he had to jet for Madeira.
Gosh, I wonder what he wanted?
And then Jane is hired at Thornfield. Thornfield is an estate that sits in a remote part of England that either never existed or it did and they burned all the maps so as not to summon forth the devil there, thereby giving him home field advantage. It is large, cold and freaks the hell out of anyone passing by. Jane, totally sucking up to the Brontë who created her, finds it “cozy.”
Jane’s little charge, Adele, is a lovely French girl who takes to Jane immediately. I mean, who wouldn’t, right? Jane is as appealing to look at as a dishrag and has assumed her role as indentured servant with gusto, and by gusto I mean without a whimper. I think some kind of “you are the wind beneath my wings” thing happens here and the girls are happier than they’ve never been.
Good to see things looking up for Jane….and you know it can’t last.
Just to set up the creepiness to come: as the housekeeper, kindly old Mrs. Fairfax, is showing Jane around, an eerie laugh comes from behind the walls. Fairfax blames Grace Poole, another servant, for the eerie laughter and tells her to get it under control. Gee, I wonder why they keep a weirdo like that on staff?
Then the master of Thornfield, Mr. Rochester, comes home. Upon his entrance, Rochy’s horse slips on some ice and Rochy sprains his ankle. Jane rushes in to aid Rochy without knowing who he is. The horse calls out “oh, hey, don’t worry about me. I’m sure my broken leg won’t be a problem.” Rochester orders Jane to join him for tea and tells her he doesn’t like anyone who lives in the house, or really the world.
Whereupon Jane takes the opportunity to relate her life story, leaving out all the yucks involving human cruelty, and Rochester tells her he doesn’t care. Great guy.
Mrs. Fairfax says he had a rough childhood; it’s always the parents’ fault, isn’t it? Speaking of parents, who the hell are the little girl Adele’s folks? Oh sure, we can talk about that later…Rochester.
Rochy, by the way, is not handsome. Or he is. Or he isn’t but in a “he is” kind of way. To augment his not-really-but-strikingly-handsome features, he’s a miserable prick who likes to make the life of those around him as miserable as he is.
Still, things would be cool at Thornfield, if it weren’t for all that banging, dammit. One night, the crazy laughter is back, but now it’s outside Jane’s door. Jane grabs her meager robe and explores the dark and frightening castle armed with nothing more than a candle, which has set up every horror sequence in every Halloween and Elm Street sequel made since 1847.
All’s quiet in the hallway – well, except for that troublesome wall of flame coming from Rochester’s room. Jane realizes this probably doesn’t bode well for her continued employment and races in to save the day. Rochy wakes up just in time to help extinguish the last flame (and probably takes all the credit for it). He asks Jane to hang on a tick and runs off to the third floor – which is a natural reaction when you’re almost burned to death in your sleep. He comes back and asks “what do you think happened?” Jane replies “that weirdo Grace Poole again?” Rochester says, “Sure, okay, we’ll go with that. Hey, could you not mention any of this?” Everything is normal the next day, which Jane finds odd given that one of the servants supposedly attempted to murder Rochester.
But hey, when in Rome…
The little girl Adele is flourishing and life is calm-ish. A couple of tense evenings involving the brushing of inconspicuous body parts and the locking of eyes happen between Jane and Rochester, but then Rochy takes off. Jane is left with Adele, Mrs. Fairfax, the murderous yet highly paid Grace Poole and all that damned eerie laughter. What the hell?
Rochester comes back with a group of friends, which is strange because usually self-centered, brutish assholes don’t have a lot of friends. Among them is Miss Ingram; she is everything Jane is not – attractive, fun, dumb, giggly and on the arm of Rochester. So, Rochy being Rochy, he makes sure he rubs Miss Ingram in Jane’s face. After a rollicking evening of sitting in the corner alone and listening to Ingram denounce Jane to everyone else, Jane begs off. Rochester follows Jane and demonstrates a few moments of humanity. Jane’s heart is a flutter. Our hearts are a flutter. Rochy’s empty chest cavity would be a flutter, if someone had not eaten his heart upon birth. Jane is allowed to go to bed but only if she promises to return every night for the same humiliation. Sure, what time?
The next night Mr. Mason from the West Indies arrives with his vacant eyes. Yay – Mr. Mason is here!
That night, a bone-chilling scream is followed by a loud thud. Rochester tells his guests one of the servants had a nightmare (Grace!) so could everyone go back to sleep? Oh, except you, Jane. Jane goes to the third floor with him and there’s Mr. Mason, with a gushing stab wound. Rochester asks Jane to tend to the nick while he pops out to fetch the doc. He tells Mason and Jane they can’t talk to each other while he’s gone (awkward!). Doc comes, potions are poured and Mason’s gone. Bummer – Mr. Mason is gone.
Checking in on Gateshead, we find that Cousin John has offed himself and Aunty’s suffered a stroke. Jane tries to mend things with dear Aunty, for some unfathomable reason (seriously, Charlotte…who does that?) but Aunty is as spiteful and wretched as ever and tells Jane to kiss off. Jane shrugs but finds a letter from Uncle John Eyre from three years prior. Aunty told him Jane was dead and kept the letter just to piss Jane off. And then Aunty dies before Jane has a chance to dump the chamber pot on Aunty’s deceitful, lying head, and we’re left wondering what the hell Charlotte was drinking when she wrote that part of the book. Party on, sister.
Back at Thornfield, Rochy informs Jane he’s going to pop the question to that Ingram twit and ship Jane off to Ireland to governess there. Jane tries to say the 1847 equivalent of “yeah, whatevs, congrats on the skinny bitch,” but can’t hold back the truth any longer, cries and admits to Rochester that she loves him. Rochy says “ha-ha, fooled you. No, it’s really you I love and I just ripped your heart out and stomped on it with that Ingram story to get you to say it first.” Storms erupt suddenly, kisses are witness and chestnut trees split in twain (look…a metaphor!).
Certainly all will end happily, yes?
Wedding plans don’t go well. Fairfax thinks Jane’s a slut and Rochester starts calling Jane Mrs. before the wedding. Jane thinks everything is too fairytale-like. Yes, Jane, comparatively speaking, this is a regular Disney romp. Jane convinces herself she’s not worthy of Rochester and writes dear Uncle John in Madeira asking if he might make her his heir so she can inherit all his money (wow, that IS brilliant). Jane dreams about a crazy lady who rips up her wedding clothes. Rochester tells her it’s nonsense but they can talk more about it after their wedding. Wait…there’s more?
Wedding day is here and Rochester is in a bit of a mood but that’s okay — what groom doesn’t grab the arm of his betrothed and drag her to the church without a single kind word all the way down the aisle? It’s an intimate service – as in absolutely no one else is allowed to attend – but at least they’re getting married. Okay, there is one little hiccup on their way to wedded bliss. This jerk pops in and announces that Rochester married 15 years earlier and since Wife Number One is still alive, this wedding is illegal. Mr. Mason comes back and says yep, ‘fraid so, Janie, he’s married to my sister. Yay – Mr. Mason came back!
And this is what makes Jane Eyre one of the greatest stories of all time. Wife Number One is in the attic. THERE IS A CRAZY BITCH IN THE ATTIC. I don’t care what story it is, a crazy bitch in the attic would make it better. Great Expectations and the Crazy Bitch in the Attic; Pride and Prejudice and the Crazy Bitch in the Attic; Ulysses and the Crazy Bitch in the Attic; The Yellow Wallpaper and… wait. The point is you had me at Crazy Bitch in the Attic.
As a “sorry we didn’t get married” bonus prize, Rochy takes Jane to meet the Crazy Bitch in the Attic. Her eyes are spinning in opposite directions; her hair is a fright – literally. Her dressing gown is sullied in one only imagines what and she is running back and forth on all fours. She seems awfully glad to see Rochester because she rushes to him and attempts to strangle him (which, frankly, we’re all for at this point). But then she notices Jane. Whereas Leo Buscaglia might suggest an open and honest dialogue between the two Mrs. Rochesters, the Crazy Bitch in the Attic merely tries to tear Jane apart. I don’t mean that metaphorically, I mean she tries to separate pieces of Jane from the rest of Jane and discard them about the floor. For once, Rochester proves useful and saves Jane from becoming Jane Confetti.
How did all this come to pass? Mr. Mason knows Uncle John Eyre. Yay – Mr. Mason is friends with Uncle John! Jane demands to know what the hell happened. Remember when Fairfax alluded to a bummer family sitch during Rochester’s childhood? Well his father and brother were first class punks who set Rochy up with a rich crazy Creole in Jamaica and then washed their hands of him.
Jane decides Thornfield may not be the place for her, changes out of her wedding attire and bolts – which is just rude because she promised Rochester she would stay put. Out on the moors, she finds St. John Rivers and his sisters who take her in and give her a job. They are poor because their dad lost everything in a business deal with their Uncle John and then died. They are still poor because stupid Uncle John died and gave everything to some relative no one has ever heard of.
Hey, Jane has an Uncle John too – what a coincidence.
Jane teaches some kids and has her own little cottage out in the middle of nowhere with no amenities except that the Crazy Bitch in the Attic isn’t there. One night, St. John pops in to tell Jane they are cousins and that she is the chick Uncle John left all the cash to so way to go on your new rich life. Jane, being Jane, is just so happy to find family she splits the cash equally if they agree to call her sister. Now nobody has to work and everyone can live happily ever after. The End.
For the love of God, stop reading the book now.
::sigh:: All right, all right, fine.
All is cool for like a day and then St. John decides to go to India on a mission and take Jane with him. She thinks a change of scenery would do her good and says sure. So brother cum cousin St. John sets a wedding date – wait, what? Jane reminds her dear brother that that is an entirely different story, involving attics. He says she can’t go unless they marry. Jane decides weddings suck in general and marrying your brother just to see the Taj Mahal really isn’t worth it.
That’s when Rochester calls out for Jane across the moors and she, like an idiot, hears him.
Back to Thornfield Jane goes. Dank, eerie, cold, imposing Thornfield – how she has missed… what is that smell? Turns out the Crazy Bitch in the Attic burned the place and all of Rochester’s fortune down because, well, she’s a crazy bitch who lived in an attic. Rochester, behaving completely out of character (I’m looking at you Charlotte Brontë…put down the laudanum), goes in to save every single person including the Crazy Bitch in the Attic. Now, if you wanted an out with your first wife – who had some peculiar personality traits and whose hobby it was to light you and your belongings on fire – so that you could marry the plain but brilliant and eternally grateful governess who holds your heart – you may want to rethink going into the fire Wife One set to save her. Both got stuck, the Crazy Bitch in the Attic did a swan dive from the roof and Rochester lost a hand and his eyesight – which sounds more like a Catholic cautionary tale against certain activities.
Jane finds Rochy living with some servants. She figures they can get hitched now, do, and everyone lives happily ever after.
Except for St. John who probably dies on the steps of the Taj Mahal.
I give Jane Eyre 73 Plumes in a random, no logical parameters rating system that I just made up.
Take Away from Jane Eyre: Crazy Bitch in the Attic
*Thank you to Sparknotes.com for literary assistance and LC Neal of fictionique.com for editing