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Episode one summary


Episode 1: Orphaned as a child, Jane Eyre is brought up in the cruel and loveless household of her aunt, Mrs Reed, at Gateshead Hall.

She is an outsider in the Reed family, rejected by her cousins Georgiana and Eliza, and tormented by their brother John. As a result, Jane develops an active imaginative life dreaming of foreign landscapes, artistic expression, and escape.

One day, John Reed provokes Jane to fight back against his attacks - then blames the entire trouble on her, calling for Mrs Reed's intervention. So follows a terrifying night locked in the Red Room, where Jane receives a spectral visitation from the corpse of her Uncle Reed.

Soon, Jane is visited by the austere clergyman, Mr Brocklehurst, who runs a charitable institution called Lowood School. Without a reconciliation of any kind with her aunt, and aged only ten, Jane is to be sent away.

The school is freezing; the conditions unbearably austere. Jane hates her time there, particularly the attempts by Brocklehurst to kill her spirit and individuality.

However, Jane makes a close friend in a fellow pupil called Helen Burns who advises her not to attempt to run away but to work hard and improve herself through education. That way, she will one day fulfil her dream of escape. Unfortunately, Helen is not so lucky and dies in Jane's arms from cold and illness.

The whole school suffers an epidemic of typhus which kills a large proportion of the students. Brocklehurst is deposed, and conditions finally improve. Eight years later, Jane has worked her way up to a teaching position at Lowood. Finally, she decides it is time to leave. After advertising in the local newspaper, Jane gets the job of governess at Thornfield Hall.

Thornfield is a vast estate, forbidding at first with its endless corridors and different wings. But Jane soon settles in, after a warm welcome from the jolly housekeeper Mrs Fairfax, and her new pupil, a young French girl called Adèle Varens. She enjoys her lessons and begins to make some progress with her lively and wayward student. However, Jane becomes restless - her aching desire for escape and travel still lingers.

One day, whilst day-dreaming of warmer countries on the terrace, Jane looks across the estate of Thornfield and sees a long red scarf floating out from a window of the North Tower. Mrs Fairfax has little explanation. She suggests it was perhaps Grace Poole, who does the laundry and lives up there alone.

One afternoon, while walking to Millcote to post a letter, Jane is almost run down by a rider galloping down the path towards her. Startled, the horse falls and throws its rider. Jane helps the dark, enigmatic man to his feet and back onto his horse. Returning to Thornfield later that night, Jane discovers the mysterious rider was none other than Edward Fairfax Rochester, the owner of Thornfield and her employer. Although he is taciturn, and often moody, Rochester is impressed by Jane's spirit. Increasingly drawn to her, he begins to engage her in long, intimate conversations. Jane learns the story of Adèle's mother, Céline, a Parisian opera-singer who was once Rochester's mistress. He claims Céline left Adèle on his doorstep: she is not his daughter, but he couldn't abandon the girl.

By now, Jane has begun to feel an attraction to Rochester and to think of Thornfield as home. But this dream is shattered when, in the middle of the night, she wakes with a start to hear strange noises in the corridor outside her room. Following the sound of footsteps Jane races to Rochester's room where she discovers his bed is on fire, and his life is in grave danger.


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