Response to Jane Eyre: Volume 1

Jane, by chapter two is developed into a character with keen self-awareness.  Her environment is obviously a factor in defining who she is, but also in who she becomes.  The reader is presented with two identities of who Jane is, the perception given by Jane herself as narrator, and the one presented by the family and servants collectively.

The family sees Jane as a black sheep who stirs up problems all the time.  The greatest example is how Jane is punished and John is not after their confrontation; in addition to this, their form of speaking to her appears to be with constant discipline in mind.  Abbot labels her deceptive, “If she had been in great pain one would have excused it, but she only wanted to bring us all here: I know her naughty tricks.” (pg 21)  Mrs. Reed aligns with such an idea by stating, “I abhor artifice…” in reaction to Jane’s screams. (pg 21)  This perception is amplified when the narrator’s impression of what her aunt must feel, “I was a precocious actress in her eyes.” (pg. 22)

As she is being taken to the red room, she struggles, even after being forced down on a stool. Jane’s resistance is more than physical resistance, it’s mental.  As mentioned, she is self-aware, perhaps more than the average 10 year old and analyzes her situation beyond herself, meaning that she compares herself to her cousins, not only in terms of individuality, but also in terms of relationships.

All John  Reed’s Violent tyrannies, all his sisters’ proud indifference, all his mother’s aversion, all the servants’ partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a turbid well….Eliza, who was headstrong and selfish, was respected. Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally indulged…John no one thwarted, much less punished. (pg 18)

In comparison to how she sees herself,  “I dared commit no fault: I strove to fulfil every duty; and I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking, from morning to noon, and from noon to night.” (pg. 18)  In turn this births the narrator’s question on her “family” as a failed institution, but because she’s a child, she cannot sophisticate such a question, and the question becomes a subject of introspection: “Yet in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question – why I thus suffered…”

To complicate her chaotic world, where people don’t appear to be a close family, but more of a distanced individuals living in a household, she is placed lower than servants.  As Jane is being chastised by Abbot, Jane explicitly asks how John could be her master as if she were a slave; thus Abbot responds, “No; you are less than a servant…”  This creates an odd hierarchy, I believe that would look like this…

Mrs. Reed(Queen)—John Reed(Prince)—-Georginia & Eliza Reed(Princesses)—Bessie and Abbot(Some odd Noble class)—Jane(Serf).


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