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Free Study Guide-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 11

Summary

After a long journey Jane reaches George Inn at Millcote. She feels uneasy as she sees that no one has come to greet her. Finally, a carriage arrives and takes her another six miles to Thornfield. Mrs. Fairfax treats Jane like a visitor and not like an employee. Later on, Jane learns that Mrs. Fairfax is only the housekeeper, and it is Mr. Rochester who is her employer.

Jane's pupil is Adèle Varens, Mr. Rochester's ward. She is an orphan, has been raised in France and speaks very little English. When Adèle meets Jane, she is happy that Jane knows French. Adèle talks to Jane about her journey over the sea and about the pretty, clean town where she once lived. Adèle is eager to show Jane some of the songs and dances her late mother taught her. As Adèle is unaccustomed to working on a schedule, Jane has difficulty in making her concentrate.

Mrs. Fairfax keeps the house in order, as Mr. Rochester can be expected any time. Jane is curious to know more about Mr. Rochester, but Mrs. Fairfax is able to tell her only that he is generally liked and is a good employer. Mrs. Fairfax gives Jane a tour of the house. Jane finds the third story interesting as it has an air of antiquity. While waiting for Mrs. Fairfax, she suddenly hears a distinct "mirthless" laugh. Mrs. Fairfax tells her that it comes from Grace Poole, one of the servants.

Notes

In this chapter, the third phase of Jane's life begins at Thornfield. Thornfield is clearly described as "a gentleman's manor house, not a nobleman's seat." It is not a castle or a splendid house. Nevertheless, it is the largest house in the neighborhood. The setting of the Thornfield section of the novel is different from the two preceding ones. An attentive reader will realize that this section is full of symbolism. The architecture of Thornfield is similar to Mr. Rochester's outward appearance. Furthermore, the three different floors of the manor stand for the number of mysteries that lie in Mr. Rochester's past. "Great houses and fine grounds require the presence of the proprietor," says Mrs. Fairfax at the first mention of Mr. Rochester in the novel.


Professionally speaking, Jane's role now will be that of a governess. In this chapter, Jane is introduced to her ward, Adèle Varens. By now Jane has acquired an enviable knowledge of the French language, and Adèle compliments Jane on her excellent pronunciation. The lively interaction between the two is very interesting, and it is significant that most of the conversation is conducted in French. The presence of this foreign language in the novel shows that Jane has learned well from Madame Pierrot, and that Adèle, like her governess, is an outsider.

For the first time, the readers get a glimpse of Mrs. Fairfax, "a model of elderly English respectability." Jane has pictured her in imagination as a widow, "frigid, perhaps, but not uncivil." Her first encounter with her partly confirms her picture of her. However, her fears about coldness and incivility are quite unfounded, for Mrs. Fairfax is by no means a person to be dreaded. Jane's first sight of her is reassuring. She is found knitting in her high-backed chair before a cheerful fire in the snug little room at Thornfield, with her cat by her side. Perhaps kindness is her most endearing quality. Jane gratefully observes that she is received by Mrs. Fairfax as a visitor, not as a governess.

For once in her life, Jane can now have a room to herself. As a true Christian, she does not forget to offer her gratefulness to God. She also hopes that the Lord will guide her in her new life. She is highly optimistic about her future.

In this chapter, Jane first learns of Grace Poole, who lives on the top floor of the house. Jane is particularly shocked at her extraordinary laugh and unusual conduct. Another significant event is her conversation with Mrs. Fairfax on the topic of ghosts. Jane will meet other mysterious people in the course of the book.

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