Jane Eyre Chapters 1-4 Summary

     The novel opens with the description of gloomy November day, with little Jane Eyre sitting in a drawing room. Jane's cousins Eliza, John and Georgiana are clustered around their mother, Mrs. Reed. Jane knows that her presence is undesirable, so she withdraws in a breakfast room, hides behind curtains and reads a book. She seems to be at peace in that corner, but soon her peacefulness is interrupted by John, determined to find her so he can tease and bully her, as he always does. Accustomed to his abuse, Jane knows that the best way to avoid conflict is to be obedient. However, obedience does not spare her from the vicious attack. After reminding her that Gateshead is not her home, that she is poor and homeless, he hurls a book at her, hitting her in the head, answering with even more violence on her desperate shouts. Enraged with injustice and the treacherous attack, Jane fights back, hitting him until he starts screaming. This turmoil draws Mrs. Reed's attention, who assumes that Jane is to blame for the fight, and immediately orders servants to lock Jane into the so called "red room," where Mr. Reed died.

     Chapter 2 is all about the "red room." Locked inside, feeling its eerie atmosphere, Jane describes this spacious, remote and cold room, with red carpet, mahogany bed and crimson cloth. She recalls the memory of her uncle who brought her to this house after her father and mother died of typhus, wondering if things would have been better if her uncle was still alive. Wandering around the room, she passes by a mirror and sees a ghostlike reflection, which give her chills. Dark mood develops into a sensation of not being alone in the room. She feels that her uncle is right there with her, making an apparition so he can punish his wife for not raising Jane as her own child. Overwhelmed with fear, she starts screaming, but no one helps her, assuming that she trying to draw attention. The chapter closes with Jane passing out with anxiety.

     In the next scene, Jane is lying in her bed, with an apothecary, Mr. Lloyd, by her. He makes sure that she is conscious and asks her what happened. Not giving her the opportunity to say what really happened, servant answers that Jane had a fall. However, Jane reveals that she was locked in the room, but that does not seem to evoke emotions in Mr. Lloyd. He continues to chat with Jane until she admits that she is very sad because she has no family. Tender, but oblivious to the actual situation, Mr. Lloyd reminds her that Mrs. Reed and her children are now her family and that she should be happy for living in such a beautiful house. Jane opposes, saying that Gateshead is not her house, as her status is lower than servants'. He then asks if she would rather live with her own poor family, if she had any, but Jane takes a second to think, concluding that she would not choose the poor family, since that choice would force her to adopt their social status, lifestyle, manners, ignorance. By choosing a wealthy family, at least she has some hope for a brighter future and proper education.

     Their little chat gives Mr. Lloyd an idea to ask Jane if she would like to go to school. When she confirms, Mr. Lloyd suggests to Mrs. Reed that Jane needs change in air and scene for the sake of her health. It seems that Mrs. Reed is pleased with the idea to get rid of her.

     After the incident in the "red room" Mrs. Reed finds Jane even more repulsive than before and keeps her away from her children. Jane spends days in solitude, counting days to her final departure from Gateshead. The only person who is willing to interact with her is a servant Bessie. Although sometimes harsh to Jane, she is the only one polite to her in the entire household. However, John cannot help but provoke Jane, sticking out his tongue whenever he sees her and complaining to his mother about her being nasty. Although Jane got used to constant humiliations, Mrs. Reed's remark that she is not worthy of notice and that they should not associate with her, stings Jane so much that she cannot keep her feelings hidden, so she asks what would her uncle say if he heard her words. Surprised by this unexpected outburst, Mr. Reed shakes Jane and boxes her ears, leaving the question unanswered.

     Afterwards, Jane's days are blunt until she is summoned one day to meet her visitor. It is Mr. Brocklehurst, a supervisor of Lowood Institute. Since Jane is represented to him as a naughty and disobedient girl, he immediately tries to intimidate her by asking questions about the Bible, heaven and hell. He asks her if she knows that bad girls go to hell after they die, and interrogates her about prayers and Psalms. When Jane answers that she does not like Psalms, Mr. Brocklehurst is shocked, concluding that it only proves how wicked her heart is. Mrs. Reed jumps in to warn him about Jane's "tendency to deceit," which hurts Jane even more than previous barb about her not being good enough for their company. She patiently waits for Mr. Brocklehurst to leave before she confronts Mrs. Reeds by saying her how much she hates her. Unable to stop the torrent of words, Jane exclaims that she will never call her an aunt, nor come to visit her when she grows up because she is the one deceitful. Mrs. Reed is startled by the fierceness of Jane's words. She does not seem to know how to react to this, so she tries to convince Jane that everything she does is for her wellbeing. However, Jane is not buying into it. After the argument, Jane is distracted, but finally at ease. In order to clear her mind she heads outside and observes the nature. Everything is calm and quiet, yet gray and cold. The importance of this description, as well as of any other description of weather and nature in the novel is that it reflects the atmosphere of a scene, or Jane's feelings and state of mind.

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