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Free Study Guide-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 2

Summary

Jane is forcibly taken to the red room by Bessie and Miss Abbot, but she resists until Bessie threatens to tie her up. Bessie reminds Jane that she is living on Mrs. Reed's charity and should make herself useful and pleasant so that she can continue to have a home there. Miss Abbot frightens Jane by saying that God might strike her dead in the middle of her outbursts. She plays on Jane's fears by saying that if she does not repent, something bad might come down the chimney and take her away.

The red room is a stately but rarely used chamber. It is chilly and very quiet, as it is far away from the nursery and the kitchens. Only the housemaid goes there regularly to dust the furniture. Mrs. Reed visits it occasionally to examine her jewelry box, which is kept in a secret drawer in the wardrobe. The real secret of the red room, however, is that Mr. Reed died there nine years ago.

As soon as Miss Abbot and Bessie leave, Jane starts brooding on the injustices meted out to her at Gateshead Hall and wonders why she must suffer. She is sure that her pretty cousin Georgiana, for instance, would not receive the same bad treatment.

Then she remembers that before his death, her uncle, Mr. Reed, had secured a promise from Mrs. Reed to take care of Jane as one of her own children. This thought, accompanied by the morning light on the wall, convince Jane that she sees a ghostly vision from another world. Screaming with fear, she rushes to the door and shakes the lock in desperation. This brings Bessie, Miss Abbot, and Mrs. Reed up to the room. She appeals for mercy, but Mrs. Reed dismisses her fears as a trick to escape punishment and locks her in again. Jane suffers a fit and falls unconscious.

Notes

Since the entire household believes the red room is haunted, Jane's fears are understandable. She is being horribly mistreated. The narrative voice of the older Jane tells the readers that the light, which the younger Jane thinks is a ghost, could have been a gleam from a lantern carried by someone across the lawn, but this hardly matters to the lonely little girl.


This chapter presents Mrs. Reed as a cruel woman, who can torment a young child by locking her up in spite of her desperate appeal for help. Mrs. Reed's promise to her husband is kept only in letter and not in spirit.

Jane's resistance to any kind of domination comes as a surprise. This is a new aspect of her character. However, when Jane becomes rebellious, Mrs. Reed becomes even more distant and cruel. Jane tells the readers that this inhumanity will have a permanent effect on her. In truth, it forces Jane to form the conviction that she can and will find her own way in life.

Bessie serves as a contrast to Miss Abbot. While both Bessie and Miss Abbot have to carry out Mrs. Reed's orders, Miss Abbot seems to enjoy performing her duties and meets her mistress' requirements more than adequately. Bessie, on the other hand, is the only person who represents human kindness at Gateshead Hall, and Jane will never forget this.

After her first outburst at Gateshead, the young Jane, locked up in the red room, slowly grows as "cold as a stone." Her courage also falters. Her "habitual mood of humiliation, self-doubt, (and) forlorn depression" falls damp on "the embers" of her "decaying ire." There is symbolism in Jane's reference to the elements. Earth and water are elements "cold as a stone," as opposed to fire. The pun on "ire" and "fire" is significant. But Jane can be subdued only temporarily.

It is significant that she believes to have experienced a "visitation." Such ghostly visions will foreshadow important changes in her life.

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