The protagonist and narrator of the novel, Jane is an intelligent, honest, plain-featured young girl forced to contend with oppression, inequality, and hardship. Although she meets with a series of individuals who threaten her autonomy, Jane repeatedly succeeds at asserting herself and maintains her principles of justice, human dignity, and morality. She also values intellectual and emotional fulfillment. Her strong belief in gender and social equality challenges the Victorian prejudices against women and the poor.
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Jane’s employer and the master of Thornfield, Rochester is a wealthy, passionate man with a dark secret that provides much of the novel’s suspense. Rochester is unconventional, ready to set aside polite manners, propriety, and consideration of social class in order to interact with Jane frankly and directly. He is rash and impetuous and has spent much of his adult life roaming about Europe in an attempt to avoid the consequences of his youthful indiscretions. His problems are partly the result of his own recklessness, but he is a sympathetic figure because he has suffered for so long as a result of his early marriage to Bertha.
Along with his sisters, Mary and Diana, St. John (pronounced “Sinjin”) serves as Jane’s benefactor after she runs away from Thornfield, giving her food and shelter. The minister at Morton, St. John is cold, reserved, and often controlling in his interactions with others. Because he is entirely alienated from his feelings and devoted solely to an austere ambition, St. John serves as a foil to Edward Rochester.
Mrs. Reed is Jane’s cruel aunt, who raises her at Gateshead Hall until Jane is sent away to school at age ten. Later in her life, Jane attempts reconciliation with her aunt, but the old woman continues to resent her because her husband had always loved Jane more than his own children.
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The maid at Gateshead, Bessie is the only figure in Jane’s childhood who regularly treats her kindly, telling her stories and singing her songs. Bessie later marries Robert Leaven, the Reeds’ coachman.
Mr. Lloyd is the Reeds’ apothecary, who suggests that Jane be sent away to school. Always kind to Jane, Mr. Lloyd writes a letter to Miss Temple confirming Jane’s story about her childhood and clearing Jane of Mrs. Reed’s charge that she is a liar.
Georgiana Reed is Jane’s cousin and one of Mrs. Reed’s two daughters. The beautiful Georgiana treats Jane cruelly when they are children, but later in their lives she befriends her cousin and confides in her. Georgiana attempts to elope with a man named Lord Edwin Vere, but her sister, Eliza, alerts Mrs. Reed of the arrangement and sabotages the plan. After Mrs. Reed dies, Georgiana marries a wealthy man.
Eliza Reed is Jane’s cousin and one of Mrs. Reed’s two daughters (along with her sister, Georgiana). Not as beautiful as her sister, Eliza devotes herself somewhat self-righteously to the church and eventually goes to a convent in France where she becomes the Mother Superior.
John Reed is Jane’s cousin, Mrs. Reed’s son, and brother to Eliza and Georgiana. John treats Jane with appalling cruelty during their childhood and later falls into a life of drinking and gambling. John commits suicide midway through the novel when his mother ceases to pay his debts for him.
Helen Burns is Jane’s close friend at the Lowood School. She endures her miserable life there with a passive dignity that Jane cannot understand. Helen dies of consumption in Jane’s arms.
The cruel, hypocritical master of the Lowood School, Mr. Brocklehurst preaches a doctrine of privation, while stealing from the school to support his luxurious lifestyle. After a typhus epidemic sweeps Lowood, Brocklehurst’s shifty and dishonest practices are brought to light and he is publicly discredited.
Maria Temple is a kind teacher at Lowood, who treats Jane and Helen with respect and compassion. Along with Bessie Lee, she serves as one of Jane’s first positive female role models. Miss Temple helps clear Jane of Mrs. Reed’s accusations against her.
Jane’s sour and vicious teacher at Lowood, Miss Scatcherd behaves with particular cruelty toward Helen.
Alice Fairfax is the housekeeper at Thornfield Hall. She is the first to tell Jane that the mysterious laughter often heard echoing through the halls is, in fact, the laughter of Grace Poole—a lie that Rochester himself often repeats.
Rochester’s clandestine wife, Bertha Mason is a formerly beautiful and wealthy Creole woman who has become insane, violent, and bestial. She lives locked in a secret room on the third story of Thornfield and is guarded by Grace Poole, whose occasional bouts of inebriation sometimes enable Bertha to escape. Bertha eventually burns down Thornfield, plunging to her death in the flames.
Grace Poole is Bertha Mason’s keeper at Thornfield, whose drunken carelessness frequently allows Bertha to escape. When Jane first arrives at Thornfield, Mrs. Fairfax attributes to Grace all evidence of Bertha’s misdeeds.
Jane’s pupil at Thornfield, Adèle Varens is a lively though somewhat spoiled child from France. Rochester brought her to Thornfield after her mother, Celine, abandoned her. Although Celine was once Rochester’s mistress, he does not believe himself to be Adèle’s father.
Celine Varens is a French opera dancer with whom Rochester once had an affair. Although Rochester does not believe Celine’s claims that he fathered her daughter Adèle, he nonetheless brought the girl to England when Celine abandoned her. Rochester had broken off his relationship with Celine after learning that Celine was unfaithful to him and interested only in his money.
Sophie is Adèle’s French nurse at Thornfield.
Richard Mason is Bertha’s brother. During a visit to Thornfield, he is injured by his mad sister. After learning of Rochester’s intent to marry Jane, Mason arrives with the solicitor Briggs in order to thwart the wedding and reveal the truth of Rochester’s prior marriage.
John Eyre’s attorney, Mr. Briggs helps Richard Mason prevent Jane’s wedding to Rochester when he learns of the existence of Bertha Mason, Rochester’s wife. After John Eyre’s death, Briggs searches for Jane in order to give her her inheritance.
Blanche Ingram is a beautiful socialite who despises Jane and hopes to marry Rochester for his money.
Diana Rivers is Jane’s cousin, and the sister of St. John and Mary. Diana is a kind and intelligent person, and she urges Jane not to go to India with St. John. She serves as a model for Jane of an intellectually gifted and independent woman.
Mary Rivers is Jane’s cousin, the sister of St. John and Diana. Mary is a kind and intelligent young woman who is forced to work as a governess after her father loses his fortune. Like her sister, she serves as a model for Jane of an independent woman who is also able to maintain close relationships with others and a sense of meaning in her life.
Rosamond is the beautiful daughter of Mr. Oliver, Morton’s wealthiest inhabitant. Rosamond gives money to the school in Morton where Jane works. Although she is in love with St. John, she becomes engaged to the wealthy Mr. Granby.
John Eyre is Jane’s uncle, who leaves her his vast fortune of 20,000 pounds.
Uncle Reed is Mrs. Reed’s late husband. In her childhood, Jane believes that she feels the presence of his ghost. Because he was always fond of Jane and her mother (his sister), Uncle Reed made his wife promise that she would raise Jane as her own child. It is a promise that Mrs. Reed does not keep.