‘Jane Eyre’

1) How and why is Jane constantly picked on, made the “scape goat” of the nursery of Gateshead Hall? Does she deserve it? Is she a “troublesome”, careless girl or is she an intelligent but isolated little girl. Do you admire her or agree with the treatment she receives at the hands of the Reeds?

The novel Jane Eyre is set in Victorian times, when women were viewed as inferior to men. Women were not allowed to earn their own living or even have a career, it was not respectable. The woman had to make a career out of her marriage and her children. If she did want a career outside the home, she would have to settle for unpaid charity work. Although, if a young middle class woman wanted to maintain her position and reputation, she had one other option, that was to work as a governess. A governess was neither a servant nor a proper young lady. She was somewhere in between and, therefore, was in an anomalous social position. Bronte was very familiar with the difficulties women went through as she had worked as a teacher and governess herself.

Jane is an outcast at Gateshead Hall, she is shown no love or compassion from the Reeds. She is made to feel that she doesn’t belong there and many times is treated like a servant. Even the name of where the Reeds live, ‘Gateshead Hall’, gives the impression of gates in a prison and Jane is being held prisoner there.

The opening paragraph of the novel is gloomy and hostile, ‘leafless shrubbery’, ‘cold winter wind’, ‘clouds so sombre’, ‘rain so penetrating’. This reflects her position and feelings. She knows that she is different to the Reeds from the start, “a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John and Georgiana Reed”. Jane is only ten years old but she can understand why she is treated differently and has feelings that no child should have, a “heart saddened”.

Jane is an isolated girl and after being shunned by Mrs. Reed in the drawing room, “Be seated somewhere and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent”, she uses the window seat in the breakfast room as a refuge. She picks up a book ‘……taking care that it should be one stored with pictures’, she obviously want to lose herself in images and her own imagination. With her book she escapes into a world of fantasy, ghosts, grave yards, shipwreck, fiends and pursuit. All of these images recur throughout the novel. These suggest that Jane is quite withdrawn and obviously likes her books more than the reality of her life and the harshness of the Reeds.

The incident with John Reed illustrates the cruelty of her relations, ‘…..without speaking, he struck suddenly and strongly’. He makes excuses for hitting her, ‘That is for impudence in answering mama awhile since’, ‘and for your sneaking behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!’. Jane has to explain herself to him as if he is her master and she is a servant, she says to him, ‘You are like a murderer-you are like a slave driver- you are like the Roman Emperors!’ These are all similes, and they are used to show the reader how passionately Jane hates John, its like she has just emptied all her thoughts about John in one go, and to his face. These are also images that she has seen and read about in her books and related them to John.

John sees her as a ‘dependant’, he says ‘you ought to beg, and not live here with gentlemen’s children like us’. He even goes as far to say that she should not ‘ eat the same food as them or wear clothes their mamas expense’. This really emphasises how much of a divide their really is between Jane and the Reeds. John takes on the role of his mother and orders Jane, ‘Go stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows’. John hates and bullies Jane, more so than any of the other Reed children, he is purely evil in her eyes and, therefore