by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre Volume 1, Chapter 2 Summary
READ THE BOOK: Volume 1, Chapter 2
- The nursemaid, Bessie, and Mrs. Reed’s lady’s-maid, Miss Abbot, physically drag Jane to the red room; she’s fighting them the whole way, which, she tells us, is unusual for her, but she’s half-crazed.
- Jane objects to John Reed being called her "master," and Miss Abbot tells Jane that she is "less than a servant" because she doesn’t even work or pay for her room and board. We think this is pretty harsh—after all, she’s ten, and the Reeds are rich.
- Bessie and Abbot plunk Jane down on a stool; they threaten to tie her down, but she promises to stay in place.
- The servants spend a few minutes reminding Jane again that she’s just a poor orphan, that she ought to be grateful to her aunt for taking her in, and so on. They even claim that God will strike her down if she keeps having tantrums, and then they leave and lock her in.
- Jane tells us about the red room, which is a spare bedroom furnished in, you guessed it, red—red curtains, red carpet, red tablecloth, reddish wood (mahogany) furniture—although there are a few white things in it, too. It’s cold, quiet, and lonely, and… here’s the creepiest bit… it’s the room in which her uncle, Mr. Reed, died (of natural causes).
- Jane gets up to make sure she’s locked in—yep, she is. Then she looks in the mirror, and the room looks even weirder in the mirror, especially because her reflection looks sort of like a ghost. Hint: this isn’t the last time that Jane herself will seem almost supernatural.
- Jane thinks about how unfair her situation is—she’s bullied by her cousins, her aunt hates her for no reason, and even the servants are snotty to her. She knows that she’s the best behaved of the four children, but everyone dislikes her and indulges the others, and this unfairness really bothers her. Her keen ethical sense is awakening!
- Jane the child, whom we’re following in the story, can’t understand why she’s being mistreated, but Jane the adult, who is telling the story (see "Narrator Point of View"), can. It’s not because she’s poor, but because she’s different than the Reeds—different in temperament. Maybe, she thinks, it’s also because Jane is only Mrs. Reed’s niece by marriage; she was related to Mr. Reed, but she and Mrs. Reed aren’t blood relatives.
- It’s starting to get dark and the wind and rain are still raging outside—Jane’s beginning to freak out in this creepy red room.
- Jane decides that if Mr. Reed were here now, he would be nicer to her than his widow and children are… but then she starts to worry that he might come back from the grave to try to comfort her, and that would be creepy.
- Jane tries to calm down so that Mr. Reed’s ghost doesn’t appear to reassure her, but then she sees a weird streak of light. Where is it coming from? It’s not the moon. Is it a lantern? Maybe. Is it a ghost? Eeek! Jane screams. Well, actually, she "utter[s] a wild involuntary cry" (1.2.32), but you get the idea.
- Bessie and Abbot come running and ask what’s the matter. Bessie seems sympathetic when Jane tells her that she thought she saw a ghost—she lets Jane hold her hand—but Abbot thinks that Jane is just trying to trick them into letting her out.
- Next Mrs. Reed comes to see what all the noise was. Uh-oh. She’s mad that the servants didn’t obey her orders to leave Jane alone and, like Abbot, she thinks that Jane’s being manipulative.
- Mrs. Reed punishes Jane with another hour alone in the red room, and as she leaves Jane faints.
READ THE BOOK: Volume 1, Chapter 2