Jane Eyre Chapter 4 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

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

In the fourth chapter of Charlotte Bronte's ''Jane Eyre'', we see Jane further developing her ability to speak in her own defense, and we gain a glimpse of where the next chapters of her life--and of this book--will lead.

Waiting. Still.

Chapter four of Jane Eyre opens on Jane still waiting to see if anything will come of Mr. Lloyd's suggestion that she be sent off to school. Several months pass in waiting. Meanwhile, Jane experiences even greater degrees of isolation and neglect. We learn that she has been made to sleep in a closet by herself, that she must eat all her meals alone, and that she is bidden to stay in the nursery all day while the other children are invited out to do things.

Even Christmastime does not induce Mrs. Reed or the children to include Jane in a more loving way. The only enjoyment Jane is able to glean from the seasonal festivities is in watching the other girls, Georgiana and Eliza, get dressed for parties and listening to the scraps of music which drift up to the nursery from the warm, bright gatherings below. Jane's loneliness is perhaps most effectively expressed, however, in the fond attachment she has for her doll: 'human beings must love something, and in the dearth of worthier objects of affection, I contrived to find a pleasure in loving and cherishing a faded graven image, shabby as a miniature scarecrow.'

Jane with doll

School, Finally.

After so much waiting and neglect, Jane is suddenly one morning rushed to the breakfast-room door, told she is wanted there, and then left again alone to face this jarring change. She tells us, 'I feared to return to the nursery, and feared to go forward to the parlour.'

Overcoming fear and indecision, Jane finally resolves to enter the room, wherein she meets Mr. Brocklehurst, whom we learn is to be Jane's new school master at Lowood School. He doesn't do much to make a pleasant impression on Jane (or on the reader), however, as one of the first questions he asks Jane is, 'Do you know where the wicked go after death?' The rest of this interview follows similar lines, with a fair amount of discussion on pits of fire and eternal burning and damnation.

Mrs. Reed of course finds this delightful and contributes to the conversation by telling Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane is a naughty child who tells lies and who must be sent to an environment where such wicked tendencies can be rooted out and extinguished. United in their diabolical plans, Mrs. Reed and Mr. Brocklehurst arrange Jane's fate with alacrity and without consulting her opinion on the matter. In thus having disposed of Jane, Mrs. Reed declares she is 'anxious to be relieved of a responsibility that was becoming too irksome.'

Jane Asserts Herself

After hearing herself defamed and watching as she was practically sold as chattel to this shady Mr. Brocklehurst, Jane faces her aunt with defiance. Years of unexpressed indignant feeling and outrage at the treatment she has received seem to bubble over as she lets loose on Mrs. Reed, 'You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. ... People think you are a good woman, but you are bad; hard-hearted. You are deceitful!'

Jane stands her ground and delivers these and other pointed words to her aunt with a strength and daring she has yet only shown in spurts. The effect is significant. Instead of retaliating and inflicting punishments upon Jane, Mrs. Reed retreats, leaving Jane alone in the breakfast-room. Thus alone, Jane feels she is the 'winner of the field.' She enjoys for a moment having gained some ground, but we see her true heart as she is soon beset by remorse. Jane wishes afterward to seek forgiveness from her aunt, but she knows from past experience that if she were to do so she would only incur more ill treatment.

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