As a child, Jane harbors a bitter animosity toward her benefactress Mrs. Reed, yet she finds herself unable to express her sentiments for fear of provoking further abuse. Jane passively accepts her unjust treatment until she learns that she will be leaving Gateshead-hall for an education at Lowood School. This event serves as a catalyst for Jane. In her new circumstances, she overcomes her fear of Mrs. Reed and declares her contempt for her. However, immediately after her outburst, she finds herself doubting her actions.
I was left there alone — winner of the field. It was the hardest battle I had fought, and the first victory I had gained: I stood awhile on the rug, where Mr. Brocklehurst had stood, and I enjoyed my conqueror's solitude. First, I smiled to myself and felt elate; but this fierce pleasure subsided in me as fast as did the accelerated throb of my pulses. A child cannot quarrel with its elders, as I had done; cannot give its furious feelings uncontrolled play, as I had given mine, without experiencing afterwards the pang of remorse and the chill of reaction. A ridge of lighted heath, alive, glancing, devouring, would have been a meet emblem of my mind when I accused and menaced Mrs. Reed: the same ridge, black and blasted after the flames are dead, would have represented as meetly my subsequent condition, when half-an-hour's silence and reflection had shown me the madness of my conduct, and the dreariness of my hated and hating position.
Something of vengeance I had tasted for the first time; as aromatic wine it seemed, on swallowing, warm and racy: its after-flavour, metallic and corroding, gave me a sensation as if I had been poisoned. Willingly would I now have gone and asked Mrs. Reed's pardon; but I knew, partly from experience and partly from instinct, that was the way to make her repulse me with double scorn, thereby re-exciting every turbulent impulse of my nature.
I would fain exercise some better faculty than that of fierce speaking; fain find nourishment for some less fiendish feeling than that of sombre indignation. I took a book — some Arabian tales; I sat down and endeavoured to read. I could make no sense of the subject; my own thoughts swam always between me and the page I had usually found fascinating. I opened the glass-door in the breakfast-room: the shrubbery was quite still: the black frost reigned, unbroken by sun or breeze, through the grounds. I covered my head and arms with the skirt of my frock, and went out to walk in a part of the plantation which was quite sequestrated; but I found no pleasure in the silent trees, the falling fir-cones, the congealed relics of autumn, russet leaves, swept by past winds in heaps, and now stiffened together. I leaned against a gate, and looked into an empty field where no sheep were feeding, where the short grass was nipped and blanched. It was a very grey day; a most opaque sky, "onding on snaw," canopied all; thence flakes felt it intervals, which settled on the hard path and on the hoary lea without melting. I stood, a wretched child enough, whispering to myself over and over again, "What shall I do? — what shall I do?" [97-98]
Jane is thrilled by her newfound independence and voice, yet she is also troubled by it. She cannot avoid feelings of remorse caused by her confrontation and the resulting shift of power between herself and Mrs. Reed.
1. Brontë uses metaphor and simile to describe the capricious and heady emotions felt by Jane as a young child. To what extent are these descriptions believable for a 10-year-old child, and why is the reader able to relate to Jane's "turbulent impulse?"
2. How does Brontë employ imagery to assist in setting the mood of the passage?
3. Although Jane proved she had overcome her fear of Mrs. Reed, she remains apprehensive and uneasy about her actions. What does this reveal about Jane's character, and how does her confrontation influence her development?
4.The novel implies that an older, more self-aware Jane is narrating her own childhood. Does the adult Jane successfully separate hindsight from her precocious self-observations as a child? Or does the narration prevent us from determining how self-aware Jane actually was as a child?
Last modified 25 January 2009