Jane Eyre Chapter 2 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson provides an overview of the events and characters in the second chapter of ''Jane Eyre.'' We will learn how Jane came to live with the Reeds and we will find out what the deal is with the dreaded 'red-room.'

Kicking and Screaming

As Bessie the nurse and Miss Abbot the lady's maid attempt to carry Jane to the red-room on Mrs. Reed's orders, Jane lashes out--'Hold her arms, Miss Abbot' Bessie cries, 'she's like a mad cat.' Jane continues her fight as Bessie and Abbot attempt to put her on a stool in the red-room, only surrendering to her fate after Bessie threatens to tie her to the stool with Miss Abbot's garters. She settles down quickly as Miss Abbot turns to 'divest a stout leg of the necessary ligature,' which was probably an alarming sight.

Jane's Family and Her Dependence

As Miss Abbot and Bessie scold the defiant Jane, we hear again about Jane's dependent relationship to the Reed family. They tell her, 'you are under obligations to Mrs. Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have to go to the poor house.' Through young Jane's memories and through the reflection of older Jane (who is our narrator) we gain a better understanding of just how Jane came to be such a dependent. The late Mr. Reed was Jane's mother's brother. After Jane's parents died, Mr. Reed lovingly took her in. On his death bed, he told his wife (Mrs. Reed) to continue to care for Jane as if she were her own child. After observing Mrs. Reed's treatment of the young girl, it is clear this promise was only marginally kept.

The Red Room

As Jane sits fuming in the red-room, we are provided with its physical description and some of its history. The linens and draperies of the room are a deep red color, which give it its name. It is a large and stately room, but it is rarely used unless all other rooms are filled. Its disuse, we discover, could be because it was in this very room that the late Mr. Reed died. This morbid fact could understandably discourage guests from sleeping there.

From Anger to Depression to Panic

After being left in the red-room, Jane initially retains her indignation. 'Why was I always suffering?' she wonders angrily to herself, 'always browbeaten, always accused, for ever condemned?' After such mistreatment, it is no wonder that she cries out, 'Unjust!--unjust!'

As her temper fades so does her strength, however, as she recalls, 'my habitual mood of humiliation, self-doubt, forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers of my decaying ire.' The sad effects of life-long abuse are evident here as she begins to wonder if those who called her 'wicked' were actually correct. From this depressed state, her young mind devolves easily into fear.

It is getting dark. She is young and alone. Abbot of the stout legs left her with the words, 'if you don't repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney and fetch you away.' Jane also finds herself thinking of her deceased uncle, wondering if his ghost might wish to comfort her. In her miserable state, this thought is absolutely terrifying. As her fear rises, Jane sees a light appear on the opposite wall, traveling slowly upward. To her young and frightened mind, this signals the arrival of some supernatural being, which sends her into a panic. She screams and pounds on the door, begging to be released.

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