Young Jane Eyre was orphaned and sent to live with her uncle, who dies shortly after her arrival. Her step-aunt despises her and sends her to Lowood School so that she can become a governess. She wins the friendship of everyone there, but her life is difficult because conditions are poor at the school. Not until typhus kills many of the students do conditions improve. Jane completes her education there and obtains a position as governess at a house called Thornfield. Jane's student is Adele Varens, a petulant but loving illegitimate child of the master of the house, Edward Rochester. Rochester is rarely at home and Jane spends most of her time with Adele and the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax. When Rochester does come home, he is often moody and imposing.
One night, Jane wakes to strange noises and the smell of smoke. She finds Rochester unconscious in his bed, which is on fire.
Other odd things happen in the house: Jane often hears strange laughter and thuds. Jane has meanwhile realized that she loves Rochester but in her pride refuses to confess it.
When Rochester invites a group of friends to the house, including Blanche Ingram whom he is expected to marry, Jane is treated like a servant by the guests. One of the guests, Mr. Macon, is mysteriously injured. Jane is also troubled when her former guardian, Mrs. Reed, calls her to her death bed and admits that several years earlier she had received a letter from one of Jane's distant relatives, John Eyre, a wealthy man who lives in Jamaica. Mr. Eyre had offered to adopt Jane, but Mrs. Reed maliciously told him that Jane had died in the typhus epidemic.
When Jane returns from this visit, Rochester asks her to marry him and Jane joyfully...