Jane Eyre Chapter 11 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson provides an overview of chapter 11 of ''Jane Eyre,'' in which Jane arrives at Thornfield Hall to begin her new position as governess there.

A Bit of a Rough Start

Horse and Carriage

After 16 hours of travel by coach, Jane arrives in Millcote expecting to find someone sent from Thornfield Hall to escort her the rest of the way to her destination. Instead, she finds no one. As the chapter opens, she sits alone in a room at the George Inn, worrying and wondering what she should do next. Fortunately, she is not left to fret for long.

An unassuming servant eventually arrives to carry Jane the rest of the way to Thornfield in a very plain carriage. Jane is relieved of her first set of worries but soon settles into another. She wonders what her employer will be like, if she will be able to execute her duties satisfactorily, what her pupil will be like, etc. Her mind goes round and round as any of ours would upon embarking on a new adventure.


Around midnight, Jane finally arrives at Thornfield Hall and is grateful for a warm reception. She is met by a picturesque scene of a tidy little old lady dressed in black knitting by a fire with a large cat resting at her feet. Jane calls it a 'beau-ideal of domestic comfort.' The woman, we learn, is Mrs. Fairfax. After corresponding with Mrs. Fairfax regarding the position of governess, Jane assumes her to be the owner of Thornfield and the guardian of the young girl she is to teach.

Jane is duly surprised at the very cordial welcome Mrs. Fairfax offers her. She unties Jane's bonnet for her and helps her out of her traveling cloak. Jane watches with awe and a little confusion as Mrs. Fairfax cleans off the table 'with her own hands' and proceeds to personally hand Jane her refreshments. Despite her perplexity at being treated as an equal by the head of the household, Jane welcomes and enjoys her reception at Thornfield. Mrs. Fairfax sees that Jane is weary and soon shows her to her room. Jane is delighted with her bedchamber. Her gratefulness inspires her to offer a prayer of thanks before retiring to bed.

Mr. Rochester and His Ward

After an excellent night of sleep, Jane carefully dresses herself for the day and descends the stairs. In the course of their morning conversation, Mrs. Fairfax mentions a Mr. Rochester for the first time. Jane is totally confused: 'Mr. Rochester!...Who is he?' Mrs. Fairfax explains that he is the owner of Thornfield Hall. When Jane reveals how she took Mrs. Fairfax to be the owner, this good lady replies, 'me? Bless you, child; what an idea!...I am only the housekeeper--the manager.' Suddenly, things make a lot more sense to Jane. She is actually delighted by this revelation, thinking, 'The equality between her and me was real; not the mere result of condescension on her part.'

Once Jane has a better idea of who is who at Thornfield, she meets her pupil, Adele Varens. The child is Mr. Rochester's ward, not Mrs. Fairfax's as Jane originally presumed. Adele's mother died, and Mr. Rochester personally escorted her from France to England to reside at Thornfield Hall.

Adele, who speaks French, begs to show off her skills in singing and recitation to her new governess. Jane consents, and the child sits on her knee, proceeding to sing and recite poetry. Adele's voice is sweet, and her delivery is polished, but the subject matter of the pieces she chooses is not exactly appropriate for children. This inspires Jane to ask a few more questions about Adele's family and her upbringing. It seems there may be more to uncover there--possibly of a questionable nature--but we are not provided with much information just yet.

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