Study Guide

Jane Eyre Volume 1, Chapter 12

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Volume 1, Chapter 12

  • Jane continues to work as Adèle’s governess; her life with Mrs. Fairfax and her pupil is much more pleasant than anything she’s experienced before, but she’s still restless for adventure and excitement, or at least some contact with the outside world. Her favorite activity is going up to the roof of Thornfield and looking across the landscape.
  • Jane defends her dissatisfaction to the reader: she knows that many will think she should be happy with what she has, but she thinks everyone, including women, needs "exercise for their faculties" (1.12.5).
  • When she’s up on the roof or in the attic, Jane often hears Grace Poole’s weird laugh, but she’s never able to draw Grace into a real conversation.
  • Jane tells us that her relationships with the other servants are good, but not especially exciting.
  • Three months go by, and now it’s January. Jane decides to give Adèle a holiday and volunteers to take a long walk and carry a letter for Mrs. Fairfax two miles to the nearby town of Hay.
  • Jane enjoys the walk, despite the cold weather, and takes delight in the beautiful landscape around her. She stops partway along the lane and sits on a stile, examining her surroundings. Suddenly, she hears a horse coming, and she stays on the stile, sitting quietly, to let it pass.
  • While she’s waiting for the horse to go by, Jane suddenly remembers the spooky stories Bessie used to tell her about a spirit called a "Gytrash," which could appear as a horse or dog to lost or lonely travelers. And then—a dog comes around the corner, looking exactly as Bessie described the Gytrash. But when the horse appears, the fact that it has a rider breaks the spell; the Gytrash never has a rider or a companion. (Hmm, who could this mysterious rider be?)
  • The horse and rider pass, and Jane starts to go on her way, but then she hears the horse slip on the ice, and horse and rider both fall. The dog runs about, trying to help, and finally runs over to Jane—she must be the only other person for a mile all around.
  • Jane helps the gentleman up; he has sprained his ankle, but is mostly okay. He is thirty-five, dark, and stern. Jane explains that, if he had been a handsome young man, she would have recoiled from him, but she’s able to approach him as he is.
  • Jane insists on helping him, and he questions her about who she is; she explains that she’s the governess in Mr. Rochester’s household. He seems a bit surprised by this, but doesn’t explain who he is. (Who is he, anyway?) We do learn that the dog’s name is Pilot, but that’s not much help.
  • Unfortunately, Jane’s not able to catch the bridle of the spooked horse, so instead she helps the man over to the horse and lets him lean on her to remount; then they go their separate ways. We’ll probably never see him again, right?
  • After delivering the letter in the town, Jane walks back to Thornfield, pleased to have helped someone, and interested in the man she met. She’s a bit disappointed to go back home to her boring old existence. She loiters outside for a long time, looking at the sky, reluctant to go inside.
  • When she finally re-enters Thornfield, she hears voices in the dining room. She looks for Mrs. Fairfax, but finds Pilot instead. Jane calls the maid and learns that the master of the house has just arrived with a sprained ankle. That’s right—that stranger in the lane was Mr. Rochester. Are you shocked? Nah, we didn’t think so. Jane’s a bit out of the loop, though, isn’t she?

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