Volume 1, Chapter 11

Synopsis of Volume 1, Chapter 11

Jane travels to Thornfield Hall where she meets Mrs Fairfax, whom she assumes to be her employer, but who is, in fact, the housekeeper. Her employer is Mr Rochester, the owner of Thornfield, and Jane is to be governess to Adèle Varens, Mr Rochester's ward. She meets Adele and finds that her first language is French, which Jane herself speaks very well. After spending the morning giving Adèle her lessons, she joins Mrs Fairfax in exploring the house. On an upper floor, she hears a mysterious laugh, which Mrs Fairfax explains as belonging to a servant, Grace Poole.

Commentary on Volume 1, Chapter 11

George III King of England from 1760-1820. At times during his reign, he appeared to be mad and his son ruled in his place, acting as Prince Regent from 1811-20.

the Prince of Wales George III's eldest son, who became notorious for living a life of luxury and pleasure. He was 58 when he succeeded to the throne and reigned as George IV from 1820-1830.

The Death of General Wolfe by Benjamin Westthe death of Wolfe General James Wolfe (1727-59) led the English forces to victory against the French forces in Quebec, Canada, but was killed in the final battle. Benjamin West (1738-1820) painted a celebrated heroic representation of Wolfe's death (1770) and prints of this painting were to be found in many houses in England.

incumbent of Hay An incumbent is a clergyman who holds the office of priest for a parish.

Holy Virgin Adèle, being French, is assumed to be a Roman Catholic and therefore reveres the Virgin Mary, the mother of Christ.

canzonette A song or lyric.

La Ligue des Rats; fable de la Fontaine ‘The Plot of the Rats', an animal fable by Jean de la Fontaine (1621-95) who published twelve books of poetic fables between 1668 and 1694, which were first translated into English in 1734. The fables were widely used in teaching or as texts for recitations.

there was one bookcase left open … these were all the governess would require for her private perusal This offers an insight into the expectations of the kind of reading likely to be appropriate to a young woman, perhaps of limited education.

Bohemian Glass 1604, photo by Artifacts available through Creative CommonsTyrian-dyed A red or purple die, originating in the ancient Mediterranean port of Tyre.

Bohemian glass Glassware from Bohemia, now part of the Czech Republic.

pale Parian mantelpiece Parian is a fine white marble, found on the Greek
island of Paros. This and the Tyrian curtain and Bohemian glass hint at the extent of Rochester's travels, which he will describe in Chapter 24.

like types of the Hebrew ark The wooden chest in which, in Jewish history, the Tablets of the Law were kept. It is described in Exodus, chapters 25, 36 and 37.

‘after … well' See William Shakespeare (1564-1616), Macbeth Act 3, sc 2, l.3.

Bluebeard's Castle In this story, versions of which are known all over the world, a young wife is allowed to visit all but one of the rooms in her new husband's castle. When it is unlocked, she finds that it contains the bodies of his previous wives.

Investigating Volume 1, Chapter 11
  • Jane's arrival at Thornfield opens a new phase in her life:
    • What are her first impressions of the house?
  • Why do you think Charlotte Brontë offers the reader so much detail about the contents and decoration of Thornfield?
  • What is the significance for the narrative of the reference to the Bluebeard story?
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