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In 1829, nine-year-old orphan Jane Eyre lives at the English estate of her cruel aunt, Mrs. Reed, who favors her spoiled son John over the spirited Jane. Determined to be rid of Jane, Mrs. Reed sends her to Lowood Institution, an austere boarding school for orphaned and impoverished children, which is run by Henry Brocklehurst. Brocklehurst, a sadistic prig, warns the teachers and students to shun Jane, but kindhearted pupil Helen shares a meager portion of bread with her. Despite her disappointment over Lowood's austerity, Jane enjoys learning and her friendship with Helen deepens. Jane also appreciates the attention of Dr. Rivers, who tends to the pupils of Lowood and advises Brocklehurst to treat them more humanely. One day, Brocklehurst cuts off Helen's curly hair, then orders her and Jane to march in the rain as punishment for their "vanity" and "rebelliousness." The harsh experience proves fatal for Helen, and Jane loses her gentle friend. After Helen's death, Dr. Rivers encourages Jane to bury her grief and continue her education, which she does during the next ten years. In 1839, Brocklehurst offers Jane a teaching job, but she is determined to escape Lowood. After placing an ad seeking a position as a governess, Jane travels to a country estate known as Thornfield, where she is met by Mrs. Fairfax, the housekeeper. Mrs. Fairfax explains that Jane's pupil is a French girl named Adele, who is the ward of Thornfield's absent master, Edward Rochester. One evening, while Jane is taking a walk, a rider on horseback rises out of the mist and almost tramples her. The imperious rider twists his ankle when he falls, then rudely departs without divulging his name. Upon her return to Thornfield, Jane learns that the rider was Rochester, who mystifies her with his contradictory nature. Mrs. Fairfax advises Jane to make allowances for Rochester, who often stays away from Thornfield because of the unpleasant memories it holds. When Rochester seeks out Jane the next day, he is pleased by her honest admission that she does not find him handsome, and the rapport between them builds. That night, Jane is awakened by eerie laughter and when she rushes into the hallway, sees smoke coming from Rochester's bedroom. Jane awakens Rochester before he is consumed by the fire, and he allows her to assume that the blaze was set by Grace Poole, a supposedly unstable seamstress living in a little-used wing of the mansion. Although the incident draws the couple closer, the next morning, Jane is distressed to learn that Rochester has left for a house party at the home of Blanche Ingraham. The winter passes without word from Rochester, until one day, the household learns that he is to arrive with Blanche and other guests. Much to Jane's dismay, Mrs. Fairfax insinuates that Blanche will soon become Rochester's wife. Jane grows more troubled upon meeting the beautiful, haughty Blanche, but both she and Rochester feel their bond grow stronger when they talk. Their conversation is interrupted by the arrival of Mr. Mason, of Spanish Town, Jamaica, and Jane does not see Rochester again until late that night when she is awakened by screams. Rochester escorts Jane to the wing habited by Grace and there she tends to Mason, who has been wounded. Rochester sends Mason away with a doctor, then walks with Jane, who thinks that Grace instigated the attack. Rochester states that he is to be married, and later, tells Jane that he will find a new position for her, as she believes that his bride will send Adele away to school. Soon after, Rochester accuses Blanche of caring more for his money than for him, and she leaves with her family and the other guests. Rochester then tests Jane by informing her that he has found another position for her, and when she finally confesses her love for him, he passionately proposes. Adele is thrilled that Jane is to be her new mother, but Mason stops the wedding ceremony by announcing that Rochester is already married to Mason's sister Bertha. Rochester then leads the wedding party to Thornfield and shows them Bertha, who is violently insane. Soon after, Jane tells Rochester for the last time that she loves him and leaves the mansion, despite his pleas for her to stay. With nowhere else to go, Jane returns to Mrs. Reed, who has fallen ill, and nurses her until her death. Jane learns from Dr. Rivers that Rochester has been inquiring after her, but she asks him not to reply. One night, however, Jane believes that she hears Rochester calling her name in great torment, and she rushes back to Thornfield. There she is told by Mrs. Fairfax that Bertha set the mansion on fire and Rochester was seriously injured in an unsuccessful attempt to rescue her. Just then, Rochester enters the ruins of the mansion, and Jane realizes that he is blind. She is overjoyed to be reunited with him, and her passion convinces him that she feels more for him than mere pity.