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Jane’s aunt-by-marriage is a selfish, hard-hearted woman who spoils her three horrible children, John, Eliza, and Georgiana, and hates her niece. Mrs. Reed’s dislike of Jane is only increased when Jane actually stands up for herself and rejects her aunt’s cruelty and oppression.
In terms of the plot of the novel, Mrs. Reed performs two major functions. First, she is Jane’s childhood antagonist, and the experience of dealing with her cultivates Jane’s hatred of injustice. Later in the novel, when she’s dying, Mrs. Reed becomes an opportunity for Jane to show that she has learned a lesson about Christian forgiveness from her friendship with Helen Burns.