Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapter 11

Summary

Jane sits waiting at the George Inn at Millcote, because no one has arrived from Thornfield to pick her up. Just as Jane is becoming anxious, a servant arrives for her. Despite its imposing architecture, Thornfield is inviting. Mrs. Fairfax proves to be a neat, mild-looking elderly lady, who greets Jane kindly. Surprised, Jane finds herself to be the object of more attention than she has ever before received.

For the first time, Jane learns of the existence of Mr. Rochester, the owner of Thornfield. Jane also discovers that her new pupil, Adèle Varens, is Rochester's ward. Meeting eight-year-old Adèle, Jane is surprised to find she and her nurse, Sophie, are French and speak little English. Adèle's mother was a dancer and singer, and Adèle is also an adept performer, who sings an opera song for Jane. After her mother was taken to the "Holy Virgin," Adèle lived with a Madame Frédéric and her husband for a while, but the Frédérics were too poor to look after her, so Rochester kindly brought her to England.

Mrs. Fairfax gives Jane some information about Rochester and his family: He is somewhat "peculiar," but a good master, and in general, the Rochesters have been a "violent" rather than a "quiet" family. As she tours the house with Mrs. Fairfax, Jane suddenly hears a strange, disquieting laugh. Mrs. Fairfax tells her that the laugh belongs to Grace Poole, an eccentric servant.

Analysis

A new stage of Jane's life has begun, and she feels it will be a good one. From the simplicity and peacefulness of Lowood, Jane has entered the stately, upper-class realm of Thornfield. The chapter begins with a direct address from the narrator, who tells readers that each new chapter in a novel is like a new scene in a play; when she draws the curtain, readers must imagine themselves in a new place. Thus, she draws the reader into her performance; not a passive reader, but one actively involved in imagining the people and places the novel describes. In addressing the reader directly, the narrator identifies her reader as companion and friend, someone who is expected to peer into Jane's life and vicariously share her experiences.

Class issues are addressed once again. As an upper-servant, Mrs. Fairfax feels a great difference between herself and the other servants in the house. For example, she likes Leah and John, "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." The strict hierarchical system in England requires that everyone maintain their proper place, yet, as the novel shows, the differences between classes are constantly blurred. As a governess, Jane will be in the same category as Mrs. Fairfax: neither a member of the family nor a member of the serving class.

The British tried to maintain hierarchies not only between different social classes, but also between themselves and foreigners. As a French citizen, Adèle is, therefore, an exotic. While Jane emphasizes that her own clothes are extremely simple, and her entire appearance "Quaker-like," Adèle's style is more extravagant. Her excess is apparent in the operatic song she chooses, the tale of a woman whose lover has forsaken her. The song's subject, which Jane feels is in very bad taste for a child, hints at Adèle's mother's sexuality, but also shows that Adèle herself will need to be tamed to meet proper British moral standards. This will be Jane's goal, along with geography, history, and English lessons.

Glossary

bonne a nurse.

C'est là ma gouvernante? Is this my governess?

Mais oui, certainment. Yes, certainly.

La Ligue des Rats: fable de La Fontaine "The Plot of the Rats": a fable by Jean de la Fontaine.

Qu'avez-vous donc? lui dit un de ces rats; parlez! "What do you have, then?" says one of the rats, "Speak!"

Mesdames, vous êtes servies! J'ai bien faim, moi! Ladies, you are served! I am very hungry.

Back to Top

Take the Quiz

How does Jane save Rochester from the fire?




Quiz