At its core, Jane Eyre follows Jane’s quest for home and belonging. The plot can be divided into five distinct sections: her early childhood at Gateshead, her education at Lowood, her time at Thornfield, her retreat to Moorhead, and her return to Rochester at Ferndean. Up to the end of the novel, Jane attempts to find a home in each of these places, but ultimately becomes uprooted either by societal forces or by her refusal to compromise her sense of self. We see this conflict begin in Jane’s fight with John Reed and her subsequent punishment of being shut up in the red-room. This event establishes the way in which Jane’s orphaned status renders her dependent on those with more power, regardless of whether they allow her love or dignity. She cannot find a home at Gateshead because of the Reeds’ coldness. The red-room incident also introduces Jane’s temper and stubbornness as both potential obstacles to her happiness and inner strength that allows her to stay true to herself in the face of adversity. Her pride also does not allow Jane to pretend to be a grateful, good-natured child who could fit into life at Gateshead.
When Mrs. Reed sends Jane to Lowood, her poisonous opinion of Jane threatens to follow her there through Brocklehurst’s uncompassionate doctrine. Fortunately, Jane meets Ms. Temple and Helen, who teach Jane Christian values that temper her anger. Ms. Temple allows Jane to exonerate herself by holding her to truth, which allows Jane to see the possibility of justice and fairness under a true Christian doctrine. These factors, and the removal of Brocklehurst, allow Lowood to feel like home for a time. However, when Ms. Temple leaves Lowood, Jane realizes that she cannot rely on one person for home. As she lacks financial independence, Jane must take on the role of a governess, dependent on a wealthy household for stability. Jane’s time at Thornfield puts her back in touch with the intense passion of her youth, this time in the form of romantic love. Jane’s moments with Rochester, even after they admit their love, are full of portentous signs, from Bertha’s antics to the destruction of the chestnut tree. These frightening undertones create a sense of unease surrounding their relationship. Nevertheless, Jane believes Rochester to be her home because he values both her morality and her passion.
After Richard Mason stops the wedding, Jane uproots herself because she fears giving into the temptation of becoming Rochester’s mistress. At this point, Rochester holds power over her both financially and emotionally, and Jane must leave to regain emotional ownership of herself. Her rescue by the Rivers siblings allows Jane space to reassess herself. Her inheritance grants her the financial independence to purchase Moorhead and create a home with the Rivers. St. John disrupts Jane’s happiness with his proposal, in which he insists Jane forgo her passionate nature entirely and give herself over to a loveless marriage in the name of Christianity. The tension culminates in Jane’s vision of Rochester and the ultimate rejection of St. John’s proposal. Jane decides that she cannot live without Rochester, who also brings out her passion. When she finds Rochester at his retreat at Ferndean, the reader sees that Rochester has attempted to take responsibility for his marriage to Bertha by trying to save her from the fire. Blinded, Rochester must now depend on Jane, meaning she is no longer subservient. Jane’s marriage to him thus represents Jane choosing a home with both love and morality, in which she alone holds ownership of herself.