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Jane Eyre Chapter 13 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 13 of ''Jane Eyre,'' in which we see what Thornfield Hall is like with Mr. Rochester at home, and we see Jane meet him for the first time.

Thornfield with Mr. Rochester

Jane does not see Mr. Rochester at all the night of his arrival or for much of the day after. His presence substantially alters things at Thornfield, however. Jane and Adele are made to vacate the library, which they have been using for their schoolroom. Instead, they use a room upstairs. Adele has trouble paying attention to her lessons. Mr. Rochester has told her that a gift will arrive for her along with his luggage, and she is eager to find it!

The sameness of days past at Thornfield is broken by a suddenly steady stream of business visitors to see Mr. Rochester. The day is filled with knocks on the door, ringing bells, strange voices and activity. Jane's summation of the change made to Thornfield is: 'a rill from the outer world was flowing through it; it had a master: for my part, I liked it better.' It seems this change relieves somewhat Jane's boredom and loneliness.

Jane is Summoned to Tea

After the school day has ended, as Jane is drawing, Mrs. Fairfax enters to announce that Jane and Adele are invited to have tea with Mr. Rochester that evening. Jane is a little flustered by this announcement--it is required that she 'dress for the evening,' meaning that she has to change her everyday dress for one of the two others she possesses. Aside from her short sojourn at Gateshead (where she was not much included), the society of Lowood Institute is all Jane has known, and she is nervous about and unaccustomed to these formalities. She laments, 'it was rather a trial to appear thus formally summoned.'

Mr. Rochester's reception of Jane is a little unorthodox. He does not look up when the two ladies enter, and the only greeting Jane receives is a 'forced stiff bow' and the injunction 'Let Miss Eyre be seated.' This seems to suit her, though, as she says, 'A reception of finished politeness would probably have confused me.'

The conversation Mr. Rochester offers proves no less bizarre than his greeting. At one point, he accuses Jane of being an elf or some other fairy tale creature. Jane answers him calmly, as though the things he says are perfectly reasonable. Mrs. Fairfax, however, sits dumbfounded in the corner with her eyebrows raised. Mr. Rochester grills Jane next about her family and her home. She professes to have neither and says nothing at all about the Reeds or about her early childhood at Gateshead.

Later, Jane's artwork becomes a topic of conversation. Mr. Rochester insists she go get her portfolio and allow him to peruse it. Jane complies. Mr. Rochester becomes particularly interested in three watercolor paintings. He accuses Jane at first of copying her subjects, but Jane insists it is all her own work. Mr. Rochester is clearly intrigued by them and by the mind which produced them. He admits her limitations, 'you had not enough of the artist's skill and science to give it full being,' but he obviously sees something in them of worth: 'who taught you to paint wind?' It seems Jane is able somehow to capture even the invisible in her art.

Mr. Rochester remains absorbed by the art until he suddenly says 'There,--put the drawings away!' and then, 'It is nine o'clock: what are you about, Miss Eyre, to let Adele sit up so long? Take her to bed.' With that, he abruptly dismisses them all. The reader is left thinking, just as Jane must be, 'Hmmm....that was strange!'

Questions about Mr. Rochester

Jane's comments to Mrs Fairfax reveal that she was, indeed, thinking this encounter had been a bit odd. 'He is very changeful and abrupt,' Jane observes. Mrs. Fairfax speaks in his defense, saying that any peculiarities should be excused either because it is his nature, and because 'he has painful thoughts...to harass him.' This intrigues Jane, and she tries to discover more.

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