Jane Eyre Chapter 1-5
Jane Eyre opens immediately with the voice of the narrator, a young orphan girl named Jane Eyre, who is living with her aunt Mrs. Reed, and her aunt's three children, Eliza, John and Georgiana Reed. Both Jane's mother and father are dead, her father having been a clergyman. Mrs. Reed is a rich, pretentious and condescending woman, and her children are terribly spoiled, cruel and rude. Jane is not a welcome member of the Reed household, at Gateshead Hall--she was born of a different class--and is continuously being criticized for her behavior and personality by both the Reeds, and their nurse, Bessie. A comment by Ms. Reed gives an indication of Jane's personality and her treatment:
"'She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard from Bessie and could discover by her own observation that I was endeavoring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly manner--something lighter, franker, more natural, as it were--she really could must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy, little children.'" Chapter 1, pg. 5
Jane, an intelligent, mature for her age, often cynical, passionate, questioning and moody child, does crave affection and love from her relatives and those she meets. But she is always excluded from family events with the Reeds. Jane often retreats to the window-seat in the drawing-room, to escape in the fantasy of words and pictures in books.
It is at the beginning of the novel that she is seated thus, reading Bewick's History of British Birds, behind a curtain and hidden from sight, until John Reed enters the room and calls for her. She tells us of John, that he is fourteen, eats too many sweets, is cruel, abusive ("He bullied and punished me...once or twice...[a] day") and spoiled by his mamma. John then begins more abuse; he sticks out his tongue at her, and smacks her. He tells her that she has no right reading books which he owns, then violently throws the book at her, from across the room. Jane falls, cutting her head on the doorjamb--she is bleeding. Utterly frightened and enraged at John, Jane calls him a murderer. He then approaches her, dragging her by her hair and shoulders, Jane clawing with her hands. Mrs. Reed, the girls, Bessie, and Abbot, the maid, enter the room and take Jane away to be locked in the red-room.
Bessie and Abbot place Jane on a stool in the red-room, and chastise her for flying passionately at Master Reed. They look at her as if she were insane and evil, calling her "an under-handed little thing." They remind her of her place in the Reed household--less than a servant because she does not earn her keep--that it is up to the whim of Ms. Reed to keep Jane or turn her back to the poor-house. Then they leave Jane, locking the door behind.
Jane introduces us to the interior of the red-room, a spare chamber with a large, looming mahogany bed, red decorations and drapes, and the chill of the white drawn windows, a wide mirror. It was in this room nine years ago that the late Mr. Reed died, her mother's brother, and was carried away by the undertaker, as well. Crossing the mirror, she sees her own image, and is spooked by her white skin, by how much a spirit or phantom she looks.
Jane confides her own fears, and feelings of anger, injustice and pain toward the Reeds. She questions why she is always the object of cruelty, suffering, accusation and condemnation continuously, with John's violence, his sisters' selfishness, Ms. Reed's indifference. She is still bleeding, but John's abuse was overlooked because Jane tried to fight him off of her. She admits:
"What a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon! How all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection! Yet in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle fought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question--why I thus suffered; now at the distance of--I will not say how many years, I see it clearly." Chapter 2, pg. 12
Jane is always the object of abuse because she is completely different from and in discord with everyone else at Gateshead Hall. Neither party love each other, and Jane does not have the necessary personality traits and physical appearance--"a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping child"--to be accepted and tolerated by the Reeds. Her own more perceptive and experienced temperament is not liked or understood, and instead, condemned.
Jane becomes cold and depressed in the red-room. Seeing a while light move above the mirror and across the ceiling, she thinks it is a ghost or the dead spirit of Mr. Reed haunting the room, troubled from the grave. She screams, and Bessie comes upstairs to see if she is ill. Jane tells of the ghost and begs to be let into the nursery, but Ms. Reed enters the room and throws Jane back in for another hour as punishment for her insurrection. Jane, tortured, crying and hysterical goes into a fit, passing out.
Jane wakes unawares of anything except of the feeling of having had a terrible nightmare. She realizes Bessie has put her in her nursery bed and can see the red glare of the fire. A physician, Dr. Lloyd, stands beside and speaks to Jane. Jane admits to feeling much relieved by his presence, his warm voice and affection, next to her bed. To her unhappiness, he leaves, and Bessie asks Jane if she is well, would like food, drink or sleep. Jane is much surprised by this kind treatment, even though Bessie treats her the kindest of anyone, and questions Bessie as to if she is ill. Bessie tells Jane that she fell sick in the red-room crying, and that was why the doctor was called. Bessie and Abbot prepare for sleep next-door, and Jane falls asleep herself to the pieces of their conversation about the ghost she saw in the red-room. Jane has an edgy night trying to sleep, ever sensitive to scary sounds outside. She speaks of the effects of this night, and of her feelings of mental suffering and trauma toward Ms. Reed.
Jane is dressed and found the next day, hearth-side with a shawl. She tells us that she "felt physically weak and broken down [with]...an inalienable wretchedness of mind," which kept causing her to cry continuously, her nerves in such a state of shock that nothing could calm her. The Reeds are out in the carriage, and Bessie tidies up the nursery while kindly talking to Jane. Nevertheless, even when Bessie brings Jane a tart on her favorite yet forbidden painted peacock plate, Jane refuses reconciliation. The only respite comes when Bessie offers a book, and Jane immediately asks for Gulliver's Travels. But after a few moments of reading about Lilliputian spirits, Jane puts down the book with depression.
Bessie begins to sing two folk ballads, as she sews. One "A long time ago..." sounds like a funereal hymn to Jane, who begins to cry. Dr. Lloyd returns to Gateshead to visit Jane, where he begins to talk to Jane about why she has been crying, and what caused her pain. Jane responds that it is because she is miserable, was knocked down by John Reed, and was locked up in the red-room all night with ghosts. Bessie is called down for dinner, during which Dr. Lloyd takes the opportunity to have a more honest discussion about Jane's uphappy nerves without Bessie's overhearing.
Dr. Lloyd questions Jane as to what the other things are which make her unhappy; she says that it is because she has no father or mother, brothers and sisters--that John abused her and her aunt locked her in the red-room. Dr. Lloyd asks her if she has any relatives, but they are only poor Eyre relatives, or so Jane thinks from what Ms. Reed has said. Jane states that she does not want to be poor, degraded, go-a-begging, or become coarse in manners and education. And in response to the doctor's query that she wouldn't like them even if they were kind, Jane says that she cannot imagine that anyone poor would be kind. The doctor finally asks her about school; in reply she says:
"I scarcely knew what school was; John Reed hated his school, and abused his master; but John Reed's tastes were no rule for mine...[Bessie] boasted of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed...Besides, school would be a complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.
'I should indeed like to go to school,' was the audible conclusion of my musings." Chapter 3, pg. 20-21
Dr. Lloyd requests a meeting with Ms. Reed, and suggest that Jane Eyre be sent to a boarding school for young girls, a suggestion Ms. Reed accepts immediately. Jane also overhears the history of her father and mother, in a conversation between Bessie and Abbot. Jane's father was a clergyman who married Jane's mother, who was a Reed. Jane's mother was disowned because she married beneath her class, and after a year of marriage both parents caught the typhus fever in the curacy where Jane's father worked. Both died within a month.
Jane gets better, but weeks go by without any allusion to going off to school, by Ms. Reed. Jane has been exiled to sleeping in a closet by herself, eating her meals alone, never leaving the nursery, and never talking or associating with any of the Reeds. Jane socks John in the nose one time when he attempts to abuse her; overhearing Ms. Reed speak ill of her, she screams over the banister that the Reed children are unfit to talk to her. Ms. Reed runs up, grabs her, and tells her to shut up. Jane defiantly asks Ms. Reed what she thinks Mr. Reed would say if he knew how she was being treated. Ms. Reed beats Jane, and later Bessie chastises her.
November, December, and half of January pass with little change. Jane is excluded from all holiday celebrations, save listening to the murmuring and piano-playing from the stairway banister. She sits quietly alone in the nursery "her doll on her knee" sometimes with Bessie, sometimes alone, until the fire goes out, and she goes to sleep. Jane speaks of Bessie's kindness during this time; how Jane would listen for Bessie's step on the stair, often bringing Jane a bun or cheesecake for supper, always kissing her and tucking her into bed. Jane remembers her as pretty and wishes she were always so kind in manner.
On the morning of January 15th, while feeding a robin some crumbs and dusting, Bessie runs upstairs to summon Jane to get dressed immediately. Jane does not know what the fuss is about, but lets Bessie wash her face roughly and dress her. She is told that she is wanted in the drawing-room. A carriage has previously pulled up the Gateshead; it is Mr. Brocklehurst, the master of a Christian school for poor girls. Jane enters the room, and is interrogated by Mr. Brocklehurst, with Ms. Reed present. He asks her if she is a good girl, and then assuming the worst from Ms. Reed's accounts, addresses Jane on the eventual demise of bad girls in Hell. Mr. Brocklehurst asks Jane if she is religious, and at her response of not liking the psalms, he says that is proof of her wicked heart. Ms. Reed ruins Jane's future prospects of starting anew by stating,
"'Mr. Brocklehurst, I believe I intimated in the letter which I wrote to you three weeks ago, that this little girl has not quite the character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and above all, to guard against her worst fault, a tendency toward deceit. I mention this in your hearing, Jane, that you may no attempt to impose on Mr. Brocklehurst.'" Chapter 4, pg. 28
Jane expresses an intense frustration toward Ms. Reed for this injustice; what could she do to remedy the injury? Her thought is nothing, cast between a hidden sob. Jane is to go to Lowood school, and stay there on holidays as well. One of the goals of Mr. Brocklehurst's school is to enforce humility, in character, sentiment and dress, as well as, to mortify in them the sentiment of pride at all things. Mr. Brocklehurst leaves.
Jane stands watching Ms. Reed sew for a few minutes until she looks up, telling Jane in a scornful manner, to retire to the nursery. Jane turns to leave, but instead decides to finally tell Ms. Reed her mind. She walks directly up to Ms. Reed and says:
"'I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you; but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed; and this book about the liar, you may give it to your girl, Georgiana, for it is she who tells lies, and not I.'" Chapter 4, pg. 30-31
Ms. Reed is completely still, having dropped her sewing. She is starting at Jane and asks Jane quite like an adult, if she has anything else to say? In a rage, Jane tells her that she shall never call her aunt again, or ever visit her, but only speak ill of her to everyone at Lowood, telling them that the thought of her aunt makes her sick. When questioned by Ms. Reed on how to affirm it, Jane says it is because it is the truth. Jane tells Ms. Reed that she has feelings too and desired love and understanding, but was given none. She tells Ms. Reed that she is deceitful!
Jane feels a great relief and freedom from having spoken. Mrs. Reed looks very oddly at Jane, asking her what is wrong with her, is she ill? There is a sudden change in Ms. Reed, perhaps because Jane is leaving, perhaps because it is the first time Jane has spoken back with nerve. She tells Jane that she only wants to be her friend, and that children must have their faults corrected. Jane screams that she is not deceitful, and that Mrs. Reed should send her to school soon. Much changed and frightened, calling Jane "a dear" she says that she will.
Jane retires upstairs to speak to Bessie. She is just as forthright with Bessie, which is surprising to the nurse, who expresses a deep affection for Jane. Jane kisses Bessie. Bessie says that this afternoon she and Jane will have tea and cake, while the Reeds are out, in honor of Jane's leaving.
On the cold morning of January 19th, Jane leaves Gateshead, saying goodbye to Bessie with tears, in a carriage to journey fifty miles alone. After a long journey of over a hundred miles, the carriage stops. It is well into the night, and Jane awakens from sleep and exits the carriage to meet a woman. They enter a door in a wall, and then a warm hearth-kitchen in one of the houses. A woman enters the room, Miss Temple, and speaks to Jane for a few minutes about her education, name, parents, and if she wants food.
Jane goes with another woman, Miss Miller, whom Jane describes as more ruddy and ordinary. Jane is led into a long room filled with the other pupils of Lowood Institution, no more than eighty, in brown frocks and long holland pinafores, in their hour of study. They have a small meal. Jane goes to bed next to Miss Miller in the dormitory. Jane rises early the next morning to the sound of a bell before dawn; all the girls assemble in the schoolroom and form classes in a hurried tumult. Classes begin as teachers enter the room and assume the seat before four tables/semicircles of girls. Jane is placed with the lowest and youngest group.
After an hour of scripture, a terrible breakfast is eaten--burnt porridge. The girls and teachers are dissolent. Classes resume for the rest of the day, Jane commenting with pleasure on the demeanor and appearance of Miss Maria Temple, the superintendent of Lowood. Miss Temple announces a special lunch of bread and cheese because of the terrible porridge--on her responsibility. The girls retire to the garden, where Jane finally sees the sign that says she is at Lowood Institution, a charity school for orphans. She meets a girl who is reading, whom she asks questions about the institution and teachers. Later this girl is punished by having to stand alone during lessons, by Miss Scatcherd; Jane is intrigued by the girl's dignity.