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Jane Eyre Chapter 12 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

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

The 12th chapter of ''Jane Eyre'' spans the first several months of Jane's position as governess at Thornfield Hall. She is happy, but she is a little bored. Thankfully, the end of the chapter brings a change for Jane.

Jane Longs for More

In chapter 12 we learn that four months have passed in Jane's tenure at Thornfield. She is grateful for a good job, pleasant accommodations, and genial company. Adele has proved a good but not extraordinary pupil. Mrs. Fairfax is a pleasant but not extraordinary companion. Despite these good things, Jane finds herself yearning for something more. She worries that these feelings make her ungrateful, but surely it is natural for a young woman Jane's age to long for 'the busy world, towns, regions full of life' as Jane does. After many months shut away in a remote house with only a few people for company, not even Grace Poole and her enigmatic laughter can provide sufficient diversion for Jane's yearning. She wishes for people more interesting than those who reside at Thornfield and she wishes to do and see more things than Thornfield can offer her.

Jane Has Spirit

We have seen in previous chapters Jane's penchant for deep thought, and it seems she retains a predilection for this activity. Her yearning for more frequently drives her to wander the halls at Thornfield, thinking, walking, and thinking. Through various inner monologues, we are made privy to some of what may be at the root of Jane's discontent: 'Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do.' She goes on to add, 'it is narrow-minded...to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags.' Hopefully this just sounds like common sense to readers today, but in Jane's time and at the time of this book's publication, these were quite radical thoughts indeed. It stands to reason that any female possessed of these ideas in that time period would feel insufferably stifled. Jane wished 'to do more or learn more' than her society believed women ought to do or learn. In addition to being bored and lonely, Jane is also contending (at least mentally) with her society's confining view of women.

Looking for Change

In lieu of the more substantial change she craves, Jane makes use of a free afternoon in January by walking two miles to Hay, the nearest town. Mrs. Fairfax needs a letter posted and Adele has a cold and will not be having afternoon lessons. On her way, she is met by a large dog and a horse and rider moving at a swift pace. Jane is initially startled, but she soon moves out of the way for the party to pass. Moments after, however, the horse loses its footing on some ice and falls down, rider and all. Jane cautiously approaches, asking the rider if he needs help. He can't hear her at first because he is busy swearing, or at least 'pronouncing some formula which prevented him from replying.' Eventually Jane gets his attention and through some effort helps him to remount his horse. His ankle is injured, but not broken. The horse seems fine. In the course of their interactions, the man asks Jane a few general questions: who she is, where she lives, what she does for work, and if she knows Mr. Rochester. In rural 19th century England, these questions from a stranger on a lonely road would be considerably less alarming than they would be today. Jane answers him politely and goes on her way.

horse and rider

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