Jane Eyre

An Adaptation of Charlotte Bronte's novel for young children

by Meredith Birmingham

1999 Meredith Birmingham.  All rights reserved.

Let your mind wander back to England in the year 1824, to the cold and bleak land in the north called Yorkshire. There, in a large dreary mansion, lived an eight-year-old girl named Jane Eyre.

Jane had no mother or father. They had died when she was little. Instead, she lived with her aunt and three cousins. Her aunt was cruel and her cousins were spoiled. Jane always got the blame for trouble her cousins caused.

One day her aunt told Jane to come downstairs and meet Mr. Brocklehurst. "Jane, this is Mr. Brocklehurst. He is the headmaster of the new boarding school you will be going to. It is a boarding school for orphans," said her aunt. Mr. Brocklehurst was tall and thin and dressed in drab black clothes. He had a cruel, mean look about him. Jane curtseyed politely without a word.

"And Mr. Brocklehurst, this is Jane," the aunt began. "As you can see, she is not very pretty, and her behavior is even worse. That is why I cannot keep her here anymore. She always blames my children for the naughty things that she does, and I will not stand for it anymore. She must go."

Mr. Brocklehurst glared at Jane. "I can see that she is the very child of the Devil. I will take her back to my school where we will break her spirit and teach her obedience to her betters."

Mr. Brocklehurst took her back to his school which was call Lowood Institution. The school building was very dark and damp and cold. Mr. Brocklehurst introduced Jane to the other girls at the school. "This is Jane Eyre, a new student. Her aunt tells me she is a wicked child. Therefore, no one will be allowed to talk to her or sit beside her, lest her wicked ways make you wicked, like you once were before you came to Lowood."

The children responded in lifeless voices, "Yes, Mr. Brocklehurst." And Jane was made to stand in a corner for the rest of the day. That night, one child dared to befriend Jane. Her name was Helen. It was Helen's friendship that helped Jane survive her awful years at Lowood Institution. The school was very cold and damp, and they were often given nothing to eat but thin oatmeal for breakfast, broth and bread for lunch, and tea and toast for supper. But Jane survived.

Eventually, Jane finished her schooling at Lowood Institution. She found a job as a governess. A governess is a woman who takes care of children in their own home. A rich man named Mr. Rochester hired Jane to look after his small daughter. Jane was glad to get away from Mr. Brocklehurst and the dreary Lowood Institution.

Mr. Rochester owned Thornfield Mansion, but he was never home. He spent most of his time at his other house called Ferndean Manor. As soon as Jane arrived, the maid introduced Jane to Adele, Mr. Rochester's daughter. The maid also warned Jane that she must never go to the third floor of the house, but she would not explain why. It was a very large house; at night, Jane would sometimes hear a door banging and someone screaming. She would check on Adele, but find her sleeping peacefully. At first, Jane was afraid of the strange house and the people who lived there, but she got used to it.

It was nearly a year before Mr. Rochester came home to Thornfield Mansion. He was a very strange man -- very quiet, very gruff, and very sad. He did not seem interested in people at all. Jane felt very sorry for him and was kind to him. They walked and talked together, and little by little his sadness lifted.

Soon they fell in love, even though he was rich and she was poor. He asked her to marry him. They went to the church to be married, but in the middle of the ceremony, a man burst into the church and said, "You cannot be married! Mr. Rochester already has a wife!"

Mr. Rochester turned pale. The vicar asked, "Is this true?" Mr. Rochester shook his head in shame, and said, "Yes. I married a woman named Bertha Mason many years ago. I did not know her. Our families arranged the marriage. Soon afterwards I learned my wife was insane. I have taken care of her all these years and it has ruined my life. She lives in a locked room in my house because as she became more insane, she became a danger to herself and other people. She has tried to set her room on fire many times."

The vicar said he could not allow the wedding to continue. Jane was so upset that she packed her bags and left Thornfield right away. She did not know where she was going. She had no money and only one small bag for her clothes. She wandered for days until she was so cold and hungry that she had to stop at the nearest house and ask for help.

The kind people took her in and gave her food and a place to sleep. She slept for several days and when she woke, the kind people said that she could stay there until she found a new job. Despite the people's kindness over the next few months, Jane was very unhappy. She missed Mr. Rochester, Adele, and Thornfield Mansion. She often had terrible nightmares. One night she dreamt she heard Mr. Rochester screaming, "Jane! Jane! Jane!" and she saw flames all around him. The next morning, she knew that she had to go back to Thornfield Mansion.

When she got back to Thornfield Mansion, she saw that it had burnt down to the ground. No one was living there. She went to the local inn, and there she learned that Mr. Rochester's insane wife had set fire to the mansion one night. Mr. Rochester had tried to save her but couldn't. She died and he was injured very badly in the fire. Now he was living at his other home, Ferndean Manor.

Jane went to Ferndean Manor right away. The maid brought Jane to Mr. Rochester. She could see that he was very badly injured in the fire and that he was very sad again. Jane said, "You will need a nurse. I would stay and take care of you and Adele."

Mr. Rochester replied, "I do not need a nurse. What I want is a wife. Do you know anyone who would want to marry a half-blind, crippled man like me? Who would marry me, Jane?"

Jane answered, "The woman who loves you best. That is the woman who you must marry."

Mr. Rochester was silent for a moment. "I do not know how any woman could love me. But I will say this. I will marry the woman I love best. Will you marry me, Jane?"

"Yes, I will marry you, Mr. Rochester."

Jane and Mr. Rochester got married, and Mr. Rochester's wounds healed. They had a son and lived happily ever after.