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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 3

When Jane comes to, she is in the nursery with Bessie and Mr. Lloyd, an apothecary.

NOTE:

In Victorian times, apothecaries, or pharmacists, sometimes made house calls. We're told that Mrs. Reed calls a medical doctor when she or her own children are sick, but lets the apothecary treat Jane and the servants. What does this say about Mrs. Reed?

Jane's fright in the red-room has left her so nervous that she can't sleep or eat. Bessie does her best to comfort Jane, but you may wonder whether she might be doing more harm than good. For example, Bessie has heard other stories about Mr. Reed's ghost and half believes that Jane really did see a spirit. Even though the story never says so, we can't help wondering whether Bessie's ghost stories are partly responsible for putting these ideas into Jane's head. Bessie also tries to amuse Jane by giving her a copy of Gulliver's Travels. If you know anything about this book-about a man who travels to lands populated by giants and tiny people and other strange beings-you have to wonder whether it is quite the thing to calm Jane down after her frightening experience.


Mr. Lloyd returns the next day. He sees how unhappy Jane is with the Reeds and wants to help her. But when he suggests that Jane might be better off going to live with some poor relatives, she is horrified. All Jane knows about poverty is what she's learned from the Reeds-a stereotype of the poor as cruel and degraded, hardly better than animals. As bad as things are where she is, she is not heroic enough to want to exchange her situation for a life of poverty.

Mr. Lloyd has another suggestion-that Jane might like to go away to school. Jane's notions of what boarding school would be like are vague, but she imagines it's a place where young ladies are taught to paint lovely landscapes and read books in French. She tells Mr. Lloyd that she would indeed like to be sent to school.

Jane has never been told anything about her parents. Now, late one night, she overhears Bessie and Miss Abbot talking and learns for the first time that her mother, the rich Miss Reed, defied her family by marrying a poor minister, Mr. Eyre. Now more than ever Jane feels a horror of poverty! Her own mother was never forgiven for the crime of marrying a poor man. And Jane is still paying the price of the Reeds' disapproval.

NOTE:

Many children fantasize sometimes that they're orphans. If you're angry with your parents, it can be comforting to think that they are not your real mother and father. Maybe one of the reasons for Jane Eyre's popularity over the years is that the story brings such common fantasies vividly to life. Think back over the first three chapters and see if there other things that not only remind you of experiences in your own childhood but actually make you feel the emotions you felt at the time. Remember, from Chapter 1, the blind rage Jane feels at being blamed for her fight with John Reed, when it was he who threw a book at her? That's one example. Can you find some others?

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