Jane Eyre is an orphan who belongs to the Reed family. She lost her parents at a very young age. Her mother was neglected by her family as she had married against their wish. Both her mother and father died from a deadly disease. Jane's uncle Mr. Reed brought her to the Reed's family as he did not want his niece to suffer alone. But his wife, Mrs. Reed and her children Eliza, John and Georgina hated Jane. They considered her as an extra in the household. When Mr. Reed was in his death bed, he made his wife promise that Jane would be taken proper care of, which ruined all their plans of kicking her out. But she was treated her very poorly, did not give her proper schooling or food.
At the beginning of the play, The maid Bessie warns Jane not to get into any kind of trouble, which shows that generally, Jane has to experience a lot of troubles from the family. She gives a hint that Mrs. Reed was in a bad mood when she last saw her at the breakfast table. This also shows that Jane is not included in the family routines as she does not have breakfast with them. Jane's reply also indicates that she is just like any other object lying around the house. Nobody ever takes notice of her and her existence has become a burden for the family. Jane also tells Bessie that her aunt avoids even the act of facing her, as she hides in her sitting room if she senses her walking across the stairs. She considers her as a nuisance that she is angered by the very face of the young child.
Jane is lonely and nobody cares about her
Bessie indicates that it was Georgina and Lizzie, the young miss Reeds, that she was talking about. This shows that even the younger children in the house mistreat Jane. They probably imbibed their mother's characteristics and took on her hatred, as children tend to imitate their parents. Mrs Reed has set a bad example of herself for her kids. The cousins also think that Jane is an unwelcomed guest in their house and spew hatred over her, that Bessie asks her to stay away from them to protect herself. The house would turn up against her if there is even a slight spark. Jane tells her that she had never picked a fight with them, meaning that the cousins pick on her on simple things, just to put her down or get her punished. She innocently says that she would stay in the library, reading her uncle's old book, showing that she has always lead a lonely life with only books to keep her company. Although she is not given proper education as she is a girl and orphan, she reads books and keeps herself equipped with enough knowledge.
Jane spends time with her books
Jane is left with no other option but to have a self learning session with her uncle's picture books. She sits with the books, not causing any disturbance to any family members. But her three cousins do not let her to read in peace. Even if she moves away from their presence, they deliberately try to mock her and put her in trouble. John, Eliza, and Georgina search for her and cross paths with her. John, who is the eldest, tries to exert his dominance on her. It is also noted that he is very young but is still a bully. He sees his mother being unkind and abusing Jane and learns from that. It is a fine example to showcase that children learn from their parents. John orders Jane about in the house. When she asks him the reason why he had called her, he immediately responds with, "Come here when I call you." This shows the way he considers her as a slave to him who has no rights to speak or question their masters.
John is dominating and orders Jane
The theme of Jane being denied education can be seen in the conversation later when Eliza questions her what she is reading. When Jane says that she has her uncle's book "Bewicks’ History of British Birds", they are shocked and order that Jane has no rights to read books, let alone their father's book. This can also be seen as the children's insecurity that their father's book is read by an outsider. John's reaction to Jane reading the book sums up the entire problem with education being denied for people who were from a lower strata with no fortune. John gets rude to her when he says that books are meant for people like her, meaning that she belongs to a different group. He treats her as a dependent. He is informed by his mother that Jane's father left her no fortune and repeats the same to her. He crosses the line when he says that Jane has no rights to live with gentlemen's children and that she is supposed to go begging on the streets to make her living.
When Jane walks away quietly from his presence, he cannot take the fact the she had not responded and therefore throws the book at her, attacks her from behind, causing injuries to her. This shows that how young children, if not guided in the proper direction, will grow up to violent men, who would swoop down to the level of attacking women. This leads to Eliza screaming, which brings Mrs. Reed and Bessie up.
John hurts Jane when she walks away
The inequality with which Jane is treated in the house is clear when she is scolded for a mistake that was committed by John. Although it was Jane who got hurt when John threw the book and attacked her, she had to face the criticism. The family favours John as he has a fortune and Jane does not have anyone to take up her side. Mrs. Reed, who already detests Jane, looks for an opportunity to punish her and gain pleasure out of it. She confirms that the trouble was caused by Jane, without even caring to ask for an explanation. Without waiting to hear Jane's side of the story, she orders her to be taken to the red room. The red room was Jane's uncle's old room. It was believed that his spirit still lingered around there. Mrs. Reed knew that Jane was visibly scared of the room, hence asks Bessie to lock her up in the room. Jane tries to give an explanation saying that it was John who started it all. But Bessie stops her and chides her for having a shocking behaviour. This is mostly because, during the Victorian era, women were not supposed to talk back and were expected to be soft spoken.
Jane is criticised even if the mistake is not on her part
When Jane is locked up, she is scared as she hears noises from the room. She starts crying and calls out to Bessie for help. When they come up, Jane makes an appeal to be freed from the room. Mrs. Reed is firm in her punishment and decides that Jane would only be let out in the morning. She thinks that Jane is performing tricks and lying to get herself out. Jane, who already had notions about the room, internalises the fear and gets a scary experience. She is left all alone in the room, where she cries herself to sleep.
In the morning, she wakes up to see Bessie beside her. She does not realise her surrounding for a moment. The fear and the constant crying had made her really sick that she loses track of the happenings. Bessie informs her that the doctor had treated her and left. Jane had been unconscious all the while. The experience nearly makes her think that she is dead. Jane is worried that there is not a person who believes that she heard noises from the room. She claims that she saw the spirit of uncle Reed. She nervously says that she would never forget the horrible experience. Bessie, who is helpless as she is a maid, can only mutter to herself that she believes her, indicating that it does not matter what she thinks.
Jane falls sick in the red room
Jane finally escapes from the prison of her aunt's house with the help of a kind doctor Lloyd. She is admitted to Lowood. Her aunt agrees to it as it only meant that she could get rid of Jane from her home. She also admits her to a very strict school. She is sent off with the driver. When she reaches the school, she is met at the gates by Miss Miller, who works as a teacher there. She is taken to Miss Temple, who is the superintendent of the school. The atmosphere there is eerie and not that of a school. Miss Temple looks at Jane and remarks that she is too young to be sent alone with the driver. It indicates that Jane's aunt had just wanted to get rid of her, and was the least bothered about her safety. Miss Temple asks Miss Miller to take care of Jane as she must be tired and hungry. Jane was supposed to be staying at Lowood and study. So she had to get used to the ways of customs of the school.
*Victorian age teacher and student
Miss Temple asks her general questions that might be asked by everyone who would enrol themselves in a boarding school. When she asks Jane if she had any experience of leaving her parents behind and going to a boarding, Jane clearly states that she is an orphan. She is then questioned if she could read and write. She also asks her an important question that nearly all women were supposed to know. She asks if Jane can sew. During the Victorian era, women were only supposed to attend balls, learn piano and sewing. They were considered as people with less intellectual freedom.
Miss Temple, having seen a group of former students, orders them to get a wash. The real situation of the school is evident when the students raise an issue that the water has frozen because of the chillness in the weather and hence are not able to use it. She calmly states that they can probably remove the basin and take a direct shower so that the water does not get stored in the basin giving it time to freeze. Jane is also put in the fourth form in spite of her age, only because she can read and write. This also shows that it was not a regular school that followed the norms for enrolling kids in classes.
Frozen water due to chillness
Jane is put in fourth form because of her clarity in reading and writing. She analyses the first few days in Lowood. After the class, Miss Miller asks everyone to go and take a break in the garden. A new character named Helen is introduced into the play. Helen is also one of the students in Lowood, but she is from a higher grade as she is older than Jane. Jane enters into a conversation with her, possibly because she has a book with her. She enquires about the book and Helen offers it to her. Jane is considerably younger than her and therefore the book is not understandable to her. She returns the book saying that she found it confusing. Helen explains that it was because the book was meant for a particular age and she would understand it when she reaches her age. Helen Burns introduces herself to Jane.
Helen reading a book in the garden
Jane, who is half happy that she had escaped her aunt's house, is still unsure as to what the place she is in. She finds Helen as a kind soul and asks her what did the sign Lowood, engraved on a stone next to the door, meant. Helen explains that Lowood institution was a charity based institution, which meant that they were not provided for by their family because they were orphans. Some people or government offers money to charity homes and schools to take care of such children. When Jane asks Helen if she was happy in the charity school, Helen avoids answering her, showing that there was something wrong.
As spring breaks out, the entire town is infected by an epidemic. Since it is only a charity home, the girls are not taken proper care of. Nearly half of the strength was infected because of not eating properly and being exposed to the cold water and weather. Helen was one of the students who got infected. Jane visits her and Helen is on her death bed. She says that being an orphan, God is her parent and she is going to him- her long last home. Jane bids her good night, but Helen dies the next morning. But as years pass, the school gets better and Janes finishes her education and works in the same school as a teacher. But she becomes lonely and yearns for freedom. She therefore applies in the newspaper 'The Herald Times' and gets a call from Mrs. Fairfax from Thornfield. Jane therefore leaves to Thornfield to work there as a teacher.
Helen is very sick and is in bed
Jane Eyre reaches Thornfield to work as a tutor to Miss Adela, who is the owner Mr. Rochester's daughter. Miss Fairfax, who is the housekeeper at Thornfield, welcomes Jane as soon as she reaches. She reaches there in the night time and therefore Miss Fairfax enquires after her. She makes her comfortable by asking her to sit by the fireside as the weather is very cold during the night time. Since there were very few transport facilities in the olden days, she understands that it must have been a tedious journey. She also sees to that her luggage is brought in, because being a housekeeper, she would be in charge of arranging for a stay in the house.
Miss Fairfax takes good care of Jane
Jane initially mistakes Miss Fairfax as the owner of the house and that she is there to tutor for her daughter. But she clears it up, saying that she is there to teach Miss Adele, who is the daughter of Mr. Rochester. She has no family and is looking after the house for him. Jane therefore stays the night, takes good rest and later goes out for a walk. Miss Fairfax enquires if Jane likes Thornfield, to which she replies that she loves the place.
Jane finally meets Miss Adela, who is accompanied by the maid Miss Varens. Miss Adela wishes her as soon as Miss Fairfax introduces her to Jane as her future teacher. Jane takes a liking to her, as she also has a single parent and lives a lonely life like her own childhood. Jane decides to have a different approach to learning with Adela. She does not go with the book materials, rather teaches through practical knowledge. She decides to take her for a walk and teach her about flowers, birds and animals around them. She also says that they can learn painting, as she believes that one can know oneself better through art. Adela likes Jane, that she wants to showcase her talents like dancing and singing. Miss Fairfax reminds her that Jane is going to stay with them and she may do so later. Later, Jane and Adela bond well and Jane starts a new life in Thornfield.
Jane teaches painting to Adela and bonds well
*Julia700702 / Shutterstock.com