Jane Eyre The orphaned protagonist of the story. When the novel begins, she is an isolated, powerless ten-year-old living with an aunt and cousins who dislike her. As the novel progresses, she grows in strength. She distinguishes herself at Lowood School because of her hard work and strong intellectual abilities. As a governess at Thornfield, she learns of the pleasures and pains of love through her relationship with Edward Rochester. After being deceived by him, she goes to Marsh End, where she regains her spiritual focus and discovers her own strength when she rejects St. John River's marriage proposal. By novel's end she has become a powerful, independent woman, blissfully married to the man she loves, Rochester.
Edward Fairfax Rochester Jane's lover; a dark, passionate, brooding man. A traditional romantic hero, Rochester has lived a troubled wife. Married to an insane Creole woman, Bertha Mason, Rochester sought solace for several years in the arms of mistresses. Finally, he seeks to purify his life and wants Jane Eyre, the innocent governess he has hired to teach his foster daughter, Adèle Varens, to become his wife. The wedding falls through when she learns of the existence of his wife. As penance for his transgressions, he is punished by the loss of an eye and a hand when Bertha sets fire to Thornfield. He finally gains happiness at the novel's end when he is reunited with Jane.
Sarah Reed Jane's unpleasant aunt, who raises her until she is ten years old. Despite Jane's attempts at reconciliation before her aunt's death, her aunt refuses to relent. She dies unloved by her children and unrepentant of her mistreatment of Jane.
John Reed Jane's nasty and spoiled cousin, responsible for Jane's banishment to the red-room. Addicted to drinking and gambling, John supposedly commits suicide at the age of twenty-three when his mother is no longer willing or able to pay his debts.
Eliza Reed Another one of Jane's spoiled cousins, Eliza is insanely jealous of the beauty of her sister, Georgiana. She nastily breaks up Georgiana's elopement with Lord Edwin Vere, and then becomes a devout Christian. But her brand of Christianity is devoid of all compassion or humanity; she shows no sympathy for her dying mother and vows to break off all contact with Georgiana after their mother's death. Usefulness is her mantra. She enters a convent in Lisle, France, eventually becoming the Mother Superior and leaving her money to the church.
Georgiana Reed Eliza's and John's sister, Georgiana is the beauty of the family. She's also shallow and self-centered, interested primarily in her own pleasure. She accuses her sister, Eliza, of sabotaging her plans to marry Lord Edwin Vere. Like Eliza, she shows no emotion following their mother's death. Eventually, Georgiana marries a wealthy, but worn-out society man.
Bessie Lee The maid at Gateshead who sometimes consoles Jane by telling her entertaining stories and singing her songs. Bessie visits Jane at Lowood, impressed by Jane's intellectual attainments and ladylike behavior. Bessie marries the coachman, Robert Leaven, and has three children.
Mr. Lloyd The kind apothecary who suggests that Jane be sent to school following her horrifying experience in the red-room. His letter to Miss Temple clears Jane of the accusations Mrs. Reed has made against her.
Mr. Brocklehurst The stingy, mean-hearted manager of Lowood. He hypocritically feeds the girls at the school starvation-level rations, while his wife and daughters live luxuriously. The minister of Brocklebridge Church, he represents a negative brand of Christianity, one that lacks all compassion or kindness.
Helen Burns Jane's spiritual and intellectual friend at Lowood. Although she is unfairly punished by Miss Scatcherd at Lowood, Helen maintains her poise, partially through her loving friendship with Miss Temple. From Helen, Jane learns tolerance and peace, but Jane can't accept Helen's rejection of the material world. Helen's impressive intellectual attainments inspire Jane to work hard at school. Dying in Jane's arms, Helen looks forward to peace in heaven and eventual reunion with Jane.
Maria Temple The warm-hearted superintendent at Lowood who generously offers the girls bread and cheese when their breakfasts are inedible. An impressive scholar, a model of ladylike behavior and a compassionate person, Miss Temple is a positive role model for Jane. She cares for Jane and Helen, offering them seedcake in her room and providing Helen with a warm, private bed when she is dying.
Miss Miller Teacher for the youngest students at Lowood who greets Jane on her first night at the school.
Miss Scatcherd The history and grammar teacher at Lowood. She constantly humiliates and punishes Helen Burns.
Miss Smith A red-cheeked teacher at Lowood who is in charge of sewing instruction.
Madame Pierrot The likeable French teacher at Lowood who comes from Lisle, France.
Miss Gryce Jane's roommate and fellow teacher at Lowood.
Mrs. Alice Fairfax The housekeeper at Thornfield; Jane first thinks she is Thornfield's owner. She warmly welcomes Jane to Thornfield, providing a contrast to Jane's cold treatment at Gateshead, the Reed's house. Mrs. Fairfax doesn't approve of Jane and Rochester's marriage because of the differences in their ages and social classes. When she leaves Thornfield after Jane's mysterious disappearance, Rochester offers her a generous pension.
Blanche Ingram The beautiful and haughty society woman Rochester pretends to love. Her comments about the insipidness of governesses show the lack of respect that most governesses faced in the wealthy Victorian families where they worked. As a fortune-hunter, more interested in Rochester's money than his personality, Blanche is depicted as an unappealingly materialist model of femininity.
Adèle Varens Jane's pupil at Thornfield, whose foreignness, like her mother's, reveals many of Jane's Anglocentric prejudices. Adèle initially shows unpleasantly French (in Jane's opinion) characteristics such as sensuality, materialism, and egocentrism. But a firm British education erases all of these negative characteristics, and by the end of the novel Adèle has become a docile, pleasant companion for Jane.
Céline Varens Once Rochester's mistress, this Parisian opera singer used Rochester for his money, although she actually despised him. Rochester discovers her true feelings when he overhears a conversation between her and one of her other lovers. He immediately breaks off relations with her. She eventually runs away to Italy with a musician, abandoning her daughter, Adèle, whom she claims is Rochester's child. Her hypocrisy, sensuality, and materialism make her another negative mode of femininity.
Bertha Antoinetta Mason Rochester Rochester's wife, the crazy woman in the attic. A Creole woman from Spanish Town, Jamaica, Bertha was betrothed to Rochester by the arrangement of their fathers, who planned to consolidate their wealth. This beautiful and majestic woman disintegrates into debauchery, coarseness, and, eventually, madness soon after their wedding. Bertha's mother was also mad and the novel suggests that Bertha's problems are a maternal inheritance. Following the deaths of his brother and father, Rochester returns to England with Bertha, locking her up in the third story of Thornfield, with Grace Poole as her keeper. She occasionally escapes her imprisonment, perpetrating violence whenever she gets loose. Eventually, she sets fire to Thornfield. Bertha is another example of unsavory foreignness in the novel.
Richard (Dick) Mason Bertha's brother, a weak-willed man. During his visit to Thornfield, he is bitten and stabbed by Bertha when he goes up to her room alone. When he learns of Jane's upcoming wedding to Rochester, he arrives to thwart Rochester's bigamous intentions.
Grace Poole Bertha's keeper at Thornfield who has a predilection for gin. Her alcohol-induced lapses allow Bertha to escape from the third floor and perpetrate various crimes in the house, including the eventual fire that destroys Thornfield and maims Rochester. Grace is initially accused of perpetrating all of Bertha's sins in the household.
Mother Bunches Rochester's alias when he's disguised as a gypsy fortuneteller during a house party at Thornfield.
Hannah The Rivers' elderly housekeeper who initially denies Jane access to Moor House. Jane chastises Hannah for her class prejudices, but she and Jane later become friends.
St. John (pronounced sin'jin) Rivers Jane's cousin, St. John is a cold, despotic, excessively zealous. Unhappy with his humble position as the minister at Morton, St. John wants to become a missionary in order to meet his ambitions for power and glory. St. John tries to force Jane to marry him and move to India. Jane resists him, and he spends the rest of his life furthering British colonialism by forcing Christian values on the natives.
Diana and Mary Rivers St. John's sisters and Jane's cousins, Diana and Mary are exemplars of accomplished, benevolent, and intellectual women. Working as governesses, they show the ways intelligent, well-bred women are degraded by their positions in wealthy families. Diana's support of Jane following St. John's marriage proposal helps Jane maintain her independence when faced with his despotism.
Rosamond Oliver The beautiful and flirtatious daughter of a wealthy man in Morton, Rosamond finances the girls' school in Morton. Although she seems to love St. John, she has become engaged to the wealthy Mr. Granby before St. John leaves for India. While St. John is physically attracted to her, he realizes that Rosamond would never be a good wife for him, because of her light-hearted, almost shallow, personality.
Mr. Oliver Rosamond's father and the only wealthy man in Morton. While the Rivers are an ancient and esteemed family, the Olivers have "new money." He approves of St. John's talents, finding him a suitable husband for his daughter, but thinks missionary work is a waste of St. John's intellect.
Mr. Briggs John Eyre's attorney, Briggs prevents Jane's bigamous marriage to Rochester and searches for her following her uncle's death so she can claim her inheritance.
John Eyre Jane's and the Rivers' uncle, John Eyre makes a fortune as a wine merchant in Madeira. Although he plans to adopt Jane, he dies before they ever meet, but leaves his entire fortune — 20,000 pounds — to her. He quarreled with Mr. Rivers, and therefore, didn't leave his money to the Rivers children.
Alice Wood Hired by Rosamond Oliver, Alice is an orphan who serves as Jane's assistant at Morton.
The elderly servants who care for Rochester at Ferndean after Thornfield is destroyed by the fire.