We made it through Chapter 4 of Jane Eyre tonight, and it was gratifying. We had read enough to know that Jane has not been well treated by her adoptive mother – Mrs. Reed. It seems the only reason Jane is even still in the Reed house is the result of a death-bed promise from Mrs. Reed to Jane’s uncle that she would care for Jane…although, apparently, Mrs. Reed did not interpret her promise such that she must actually care for Jane.
We had a couple pretty juicy passages from tonight’s reading which, I think, bear repeating here. The first happens while Jane is interrogated by Mr. Brocklehurst, the headmaster of what is to be her new boarding school: Lowood.
Mr. Brocklehurst is a severe and godly man whom I am confident we shall loathe. He questions Jane first about her understanding of Hell:
- ‘What is Hell? Can you tell me that?’
- ‘A pit full of fire’
- ‘And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?’
- ‘No, sir.’
- ‘What must you do to avoid it?’
- I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: ‘I must keep in good health, and not die.’
Well played, Miss Eyre.
Jane proves herself rather naughty through the remainder of the interview – not so much because she is outright defiant or flippant, but because she simply tells him the truth – ironically, while being accused by her Aunt of being deceitful.
After Mr. Brocklehurst departs, Jane has her Aunt all to herself and makes good use of the opportunity to speak her mind. Her parting shots are epic…
- ‘I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.‘
- ‘How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?’
- ‘How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back–roughly and violently thrust me back–into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony; though I cried out, while suffocating with distress, ‘Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!’ And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me–knocked me down for nothing. I will tell anybody who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-hearted. You are deceitful!‘
Boom! Drops mic.
All of this from a ten-year-old girl!
We are going to like Jane Eyre.