Based on Charlotte Bronte's classic novel, an orphan becomes a governess and falls in love with her troubled boss.
Born in 1820, young Jane Eyre (Peggy Ann Garner) is an orphan and leaves the house of harsh Mrs. Reed (Agnes Moorehead) to attend a school for orphans. Henry Brocklehurst (Henry Daniell) warns the students and teachers that Jane is a liar and orders her to stand on a stool all day. Helen (Elizabeth Taylor) brings her bread. When Brocklehurst cuts Helen's hair, Jane intercedes; he punishes both in the rain. Dr. Rivers (John Sutton) has them brought in. Helen is ill and dies. Jane grieves, and Dr. Rivers counsels her.
After ten years at the school, Brocklehurst makes Jane Eyre (Joan Fontaine) a teacher; but she says she is leaving. Jane has letters and goes to Mrs. Fairfax (Edith Barrett) to become a governess of little Adele (Margaret O'Brien). Jane causes Edward Rochester (Orson Welles) to fall from his horse. He asks her to play piano for a moment. Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane that Rochester has bad memories of Thornfield. He hopes that Jane will amuse him, and she says she is not afraid of him. At night Jane sees a fire and rescues Rochester; they put out the fire and suspect the shut-in Grace Poole. Rochester tells Jane that Adele's mother was a French dancing girl who left him. Rochester leaves, and Jane asks Mrs. Fairfax why. Mrs. Fairfax tells Jane that she is not allowed in the tower.
Rochester arrives with Blanche Ingram (Hillary Brooke) and fifteen guests. When they show contempt for governesses, Jane slips out; but Rochester talks to her alone. Mason from Jamaica arrives to see Rochester. Someone screams, and Rochester says it was only a bad dream. He asks Jane to treat wounded Mason while he goes for a physician. Mason says he tried to help Grace Poole. Rochester tells Jane his dilemma that he might endanger the one he wants to protect. Rochester says he is going to marry, and Jane asks for a reference letter. Blanche and Rochester discuss where they want to live, and she criticizes his frankness. Rochester tells Jane that he found her a place in Ireland, but she does not want to leave. Rochester asks her to marry, and Jane agrees. Rochester buys her clothes. At the wedding a lawyer and Mason say that Rochester was married in Jamaica and that his wife is living. Rochester shows them the mad woman. Rochester tries to explain, but Jane leaves.
Jane cannot find employment and goes back to her childhood home and finds Bessie (Sara Allgood) and the ill Mrs. Reed, who asks her to stay. Dr. Rivers calls on Jane about an inquiry that they burn. During a storm Jane hears Rochester's voice. She finds Thornfield burned, and Mrs. Fairfax tells her what happened. Grace Poole died, and Rochester is blind. Jane asks to stay with him, and they kiss.
This drama reflects the cruelty inflicted on children
in the 19th century but shows how one can overcome that through
education and personal effort.