Extract from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte: for Questions on "Fiction Commenting on Language"

Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte

 

'What were you doing behind that curtain?' he asked.

'I was reading,' I answered.

'Show me the book.' I gave it to him.

'You have no right to take our books,' he continued. 'You have no money and your father left you none. You ought to beg in the streets, not live here in comfort with a gentleman's family. Anyway, all these books are mine, and so is the whole house, or will be in a few years' time. I'll teach you not to borrow my books again.' He lifted the heavy book and threw it hard at me.

It hit me and I fell, cutting my head on the door. I was in great pain, and suddenly for the first time in my life, I forgot my fear of John Reed.

'You wicked, cruel boy!' I cried. 'You are a bully! You are as bad as a murderer!'

'What! What!' he cried. 'Did she say that to me? Did you hear, Eliza and Georgiana? I'll tell

Mamma, but first...'

He rushed to attack me, but now he was fighting with a desperate girl. I really saw him as a wicked murderer. I felt the blood running down my face, and the pain gave me strength. I fought back as hard as I could. My resistance surprised him, and he shouted for help. His sisters ran for Mrs. Reed, who called her maid, Miss Abbott, and Bessie. They pulled us apart and I heard them say, 'What a wicked girl! She attacked Master John!'

Mrs. Reed said calmly, 'Take her away to the red room and lock her in there.' And so I was carried upstairs, arms waving and legs kicking.

As soon as we arrived in the red room, I became quiet again, and the two servants both started scolding me.

'Really, Miss Eyre,' said Miss Abbott, 'how could you hit him? He's your young master!' 'How can he be my master? I am not a servant!' I cried.

'No, Miss Eyre, you are less than a servant, because you do not work,' replied Miss Abbott. They both looked at me as if they strongly disapproved of me.

'You should remember, miss,' said Bessie, 'that your aunt pays for your food and clothes, and you should be grateful. You have no other relations or friends.'

All my short life I had been told this, and I had no answer to it. I stayed silent, listening to these painful reminders.

'And if you are angry and rude, Mrs. Reed may send you away,' added Bessie.

'Anyway,' said Miss Abbott, 'God will punish you, Jane Eyre, for your wicked heart. Pray to God, and say you're sorry.' They left the room, locking the door carefully behind them.

The red room was a cold, silent room, hardly ever used, although it was one of the largest bedrooms in the house. Nine years ago my uncle, Mr. Reed, had died in this room, and since then nobody had wanted to sleep in it.

Now that I was alone I thought bitterly of the people I lived with. John Reed, his sisters, his mother, the servants - they all accused me, scolded me, hated me. Why could I never please them? Eliza was selfish, but was respected. Georgiana had a bad temper, but she was popular with everybody because she was beautiful. John was rude, cruel and violent, but nobody punished him. I tried to make no mistakes, but they called me naughty every moment of the day. Now that I had turned against John to protect myself, everybody blamed me.

And so I spent that whole long afternoon in the red room asking myself why I had to suffer and why life was so unfair. Perhaps I would run away, or starve myself to death.

Gradually it became dark outside. The rain was still beating on the windows, and I could hear the wind in the trees. Now I was no longer angry, and I began to think the Reeds might be right. Perhaps

I was wicked. Did I deserve to die, and be buried in the churchyard like my uncle Reed? I could not remember him, but knew he was my mother's brother, who had taken me to his house when my parents both died. On his death bed he had made his wife, Aunt Reed, promise to look after me like her own children. I supposed she now regretted her promise.

A strange idea came to me. I felt sure that if Mr. Reed had lived he would have treated me kindly, and now, as I looked round at the dark furniture and the walls in shadow, I began to fear that his ghost might come back to punish his wife for not keeping her promise. He might rise from the grave in the churchyard and appear in this room! I was so frightened by this thought that I hardly dared to breathe. Suddenly in the darkness I saw a light moving on the ceiling. It may have been from a lamp outside, but in my nervous state I did not think of that. I felt sure it must be a ghost, a visitor from another world. My head was hot, my heart beat fast. Was that the sound of wings in my ears? Was that something moving near me? Screaming wildly, I rushed to the door and shook it.

Miss Abbott and Bessie came running to open it.

'Miss Eyre, are you ill?' asked Bessie.