Read the famous red room scene in Chapter II (attached). Then write two parts addressing the following questions: Part I: Why and/or how is the experience of the red room a transformative moment in the development of Jane’s sense of herself and her situation in Volume One? Part II: Identify and describe a moment in your own life that was transformative.
He ran headlong at me: I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder:
he had closed with a desperate thing. I really saw in him a tyrant,
a murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle
down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these
sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him
in frantic sort. I don’t very well know what I did with my hands,
but he called me “Rat! Rat!” and bellowed out aloud. Aid was
near him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone
upstairs: she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie
and her maid Abbot. We were parted: I heard the words –
“Dear! dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!”
“Did ever anybody see such a picture of passion!”
Then Mrs. Reed subjoined –
“Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there.” Four hands
were immediately laid upon me, and I was borne upstairs.
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I resisted all the way: a new thing for me, and a circumstance
which greatly strengthened the bad opinion Bessie and Miss Abbot
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were disposed to entertain of me. The fact is, I was a trifle
beside myself; or rather OUT of myself, as the French would say:
I was conscious that a moment’s mutiny had already rendered me
liable to strange penalties, and, like any other rebel slave, I
felt resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths.
“Hold her arms, Miss Abbot: she’s like a mad cat.”
“For shame! for shame!” cried the lady’s-maid. “What shocking
conduct, Miss Eyre, to strike a young gentleman, your benefactress’s
son! Your young master.”
“Master! How is he my master? Am I a servant?”
“No; you are less than a servant, for you do nothing for your keep.
There, sit down, and think over your wickedness.”
They had got me by this time into the apartment indicated by Mrs.
Reed, and had thrust me upon a stool: my impulse was to rise from
it like a spring; their two pair of hands arrested me instantly.
“If you don’t sit still, you must be tied down,” said Bessie. “Miss
Abbot, lend me your garters; she would break mine directly.”
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Miss Abbot turned to divest a stout leg of the necessary ligature.
This preparation for bonds, and the additional ignominy it inferred,
took a little of the excitement out of me.
“Don’t take them off,” I cried; “I will not stir.”
In guarantee whereof, I attached myself to my seat by my hands.
“Mind you don’t,” said Bessie; and when she had ascertained that
I was really subsiding, she loosened her hold of me; then she and
Miss Abbot stood with folded arms, looking darkly and doubtfully
on my face, as incredulous of my sanity.
“She never did so before,” at last said Bessie, turning to the
“But it was always in her,” was the reply. “I’ve told Missis often
my opinion about the child, and Missis agreed with me. She’s an
underhand little thing: I never saw a girl of her age with so much
Bessie answered not; but ere long, addressing me, she said — “You
ought to be aware, Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs.
Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have
to go to the poorhouse.”
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I had nothing to say to these words: they were not new to me: my
very first recollections of existence included hints of the same
kind. This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song
in my ear: very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible.
Miss Abbot joined in –
“And you ought not to think yourself on an equality with the Misses
Reed and Master Reed, because Missis kindly allows you to be brought
up with them. They will have a great deal of money, and you will
have none: it is your place to be humble, and to try to make
yourself agreeable to them.”
“What we tell you is for your good,” added Bessie, in no harsh
voice, “you should try to be useful and pleasant, then, perhaps,
you would have a home here; but if you become passionate and rude,
Missis will send you away, I am sure.”
“Besides,” said Miss Abbot, “God will punish her: He might strike
her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go?
Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn’t have her heart for
anything. Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself;
for if you don’t repent, something bad might be permitted to come
down the chimney and fetch you away.”
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They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them.
The red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in, I might
say never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at
Gateshead Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the
accommodation it contained: yet it was one of the largest and
stateliest chambers in the mansion. A bed supported on massive
pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask, stood
out like a tabernacle in the centre; the two large windows, with
their blinds always drawn down, were half shrouded in festoons
and falls of similar drapery; the carpet was red; the table at the
foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth; the walls were
a soft fawn colour with a blush of pink in it; the wardrobe, the
toilet-table, the chairs were of darkly polished old mahogany. Out
of these deep surrounding shades rose high, and glared white, the
piled-up mattresses and pillows of the bed, spread with a snowy
Marseilles counterpane. Scarcely less prominent was an ample
cushioned easy-chair near the head of the bed, also white, with a
footstool before it; and looking, as I thought, like a pale throne.
This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent,
because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it
was known to be so seldom entered. The house-maid alone came here
on Saturdays, to wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week’s
quiet dust: and Mrs. Reed herself, at far intervals, visited it
to review the contents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobe,
where were stored divers parchments, her jewel-casket, and a miniature
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of her deceased husband; and in those last words lies the secret
of the red-room — the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of
Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber he breathed
his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne by the
undertaker’s men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary consecration
had guarded it from frequent intrusion.
My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me
riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bed
rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe,
with subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels;
to my left were the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between
them repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room. I was not
quite sure whether they had locked the door; and when I dared move,
I got up and went to see. Alas! yes: no jail was ever more secure.
Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass; my fascinated
glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed. All looked
colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and
the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and
arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where
all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought
it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie’s
evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells
in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travellers. I
returned to my stool.
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Superstition was with me at that moment; but it was not yet her
hour for complete victory: my blood was still warm; the mood of
the revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour; I
had to stem a rapid rush of retrospective thought before I quailed
to the dismal present.
All John Reed’s violent tyrannies, all his sisters’ proud indifference,
all his mother’s aversion, all the servants’ partiality, turned
up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a turbid well. Why
was I always suffering, always browbeaten, always accused, for
ever condemned? Why could I never please? Why was it useless to
try to win any one’s favour? Eliza, who was headstrong and selfish,
was respected. Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a very acrid
spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally indulged.
Her beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, seemed to give delight
to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for every fault.
John no one thwarted, much less punished; though he twisted the
necks of the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set the dogs
at the sheep, stripped the hothouse vines of their fruit, and broke
the buds off the choicest plants in the conservatory: he called
his mother “old girl,” too; sometimes reviled her for her dark skin,
similar to his own; bluntly disregarded her wishes; not unfrequently
tore and spoiled her silk attire; and he was still “her own darling.”
I dared commit no fault: I strove to fulfil every duty; and I was
termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking, from morning to
noon, and from noon to night.
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My head still ached and bled with the blow and fall I had received:
no one had reproved John for wantonly striking me; and because I
had turned against him to avert farther irrational violence, I was
loaded with general opprobrium.
“Unjust! — unjust!” said my reason, forced by the agonising
stimulus into precocious though transitory power: and Resolve,
equally wrought up, instigated some strange expedient to achieve
escape from insupportable oppression — as running away, or, if that
could not be effected, never eating or drinking more, and letting
What a consternation of soul was mine that dreary afternoon! How
all my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in insurrection!
Yet in what darkness, what dense ignorance, was the mental battle
fought! I could not answer the ceaseless inward question — WHY I
thus suffered; now, at the distance of — I will not say how many
years, I see it clearly.
I was a discord in Gateshead Hall: I was like nobody there; I had
nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen
vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love
them. They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that
could not sympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing,
opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a
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useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to
their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation
at their treatment, of contempt of their judgment. I know that
had I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome,
romping child — though equally dependent and friendless — Mrs. Reed
would have endured my presence more complacently; her children would
have entertained for me more of the cordiality of fellow-feeling;
the servants would have been less prone to make me the scapegoat
of the nursery.
Daylight began to forsake the red-room; it was past four o’clock,
and the beclouded afternoon was tending to drear twilight. I heard
the rain still beating continuously on the staircase window, and
the wind howling in the grove behind the hall; I grew by degrees
cold as a stone, and then my courage sank. My habitual mood of
humiliation, self-doubt, forlorn depression, fell damp on the embers
of my decaying ire. All said I was wicked, and perhaps I might be
so; what thought had I been but just conceiving of starving myself
to death? That certainly was a crime: and was I fit to die? Or
was the vault under the chancel of Gateshead Church an inviting
bourne? In such vault I had been told did Mr. Reed lie buried;
and led by this thought to recall his idea, I dwelt on it with
gathering dread. I could not remember him; but I knew that he was
my own uncle — my mother’s brother — that he had taken me when
a parentless infant to his house; and that in his last moments he
had required a promise of Mrs. Reed that she would rear and maintain
me as one of her own children. Mrs. Reed probably considered she
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had kept this promise; and so she had, I dare say, as well as her
nature would permit her; but how could she really like an interloper
not of her race, and unconnected with her, after her husband’s
death, by any tie? It must have been most irksome to find herself
bound by a hard-wrung pledge to stand in the stead of a parent to
a strange child she could not love, and to see an uncongenial alien
permanently intruded on her own family group.
A singular notion dawned upon me. I doubted not — never doubted
— that if Mr. Reed had been alive he would have treated me kindly;
and now, as I sat looking at the white bed and overshadowed walls
— occasionally also turning a fascinated eye towards the dimly
gleaning mirror — I began to recall what I had heard of dead men,
troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes,
revisiting the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the oppressed;
and I thought Mr. Reed’s spirit, harassed by the wrongs of his
sister’s child, might quit its abode — whether in the church vault
or in the unknown world of the departed — and rise before me in
this chamber. I wiped my tears and hushed my sobs, fearful lest
any sign of violent grief might waken a preternatural voice to
comfort me, or elicit from the gloom some haloed face, bending over
me with strange pity. This idea, consolatory in theory, I felt
would be terrible if realised: with all my might I endeavoured
to stifle it — I endeavoured to be firm. Shaking my hair from
my eyes, I lifted my head and tried to look boldly round the dark
room; at this moment a light gleamed on the wall. Was it, I asked
myself, a ray from the moon penetrating some aperture in the blind?
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No; moonlight was still, and this stirred; while I gazed, it glided
up to the ceiling and quivered over my head. I can now conjecture
readily that this streak of light was, in all likelihood, a gleam
from a lantern carried by some one across the lawn: but then,
prepared as my mind was for horror, shaken as my nerves were by
agitation, I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some
coming vision from another world. My heart beat thick, my head grew
hot; a sound filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings;
something seemed near me; I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance
broke down; I rushed to the door and shook the lock in desperate
effort. Steps came running along the outer passage; the key turned,
Bessie and Abbot entered.
“Miss Eyre, are you ill?” said Bessie.
“What a dreadful noise! it went quite through me!” exclaimed
“Take me out! Let me go into the nursery!” was my cry.
“What for? Are you hurt? Have you seen something?” again demanded
“Oh! I saw a light, and I thought a ghost would come.” I had now
got hold of Bessie’s hand, and she did not snatch it from me.
page 24 / 853
“She has screamed out on purpose,” declared Abbot, in some disgust.
“And what a scream! If she had been in great pain one would have
excused it, but she only wanted to bring us all here: I know her
“What is all this?” demanded another voice peremptorily; and Mrs.
Reed came along the corridor, her cap flying wide, her gown rustling
stormily. “Abbot and Bessie, I believe I gave orders that Jane
Eyre should be left in the red-room till I came to her myself.”
“Miss Jane screamed so loud, ma’am,” pleaded Bessie.
“Let her go,” was the only answer. “Loose Bessie’s hand, child:
you cannot succeed in getting out by these means, be assured. I
abhor artifice, particularly in children; it is my duty to show
you that tricks will not answer: you will now stay here an hour
longer, and it is only on condition of perfect submission and
stillness that I shall liberate you then.”
“O aunt! have pity! Forgive me! I cannot endure it —
let me be punished some other way! I shall be killed if — ”
“Silence! This violence is all most repulsive:” and so, no doubt,
she felt it. I was a precocious actress in her eyes; she sincerely
page 25 / 853
looked on me as a compound of virulent passions, mean spirit, and
Bessie and Abbot having retreated, Mrs. Reed, impatient of my now
frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrust me back and locked
me in, without farther parley. I heard her sweeping away; and soon
after she was gone, I suppose I had a species of fit: unconsciousness
closed the scene.
The next thing I remember is, waking up with a feeling as if I
had had a frightful nightmare, and seeing before me a terrible red
glare, crossed with thick black bars. I heard voices, too, speaking
with a hollow sound, and as if muffled by a rush of wind or water:
agitation, uncertainty, and an all-predominating sense of terror
confused my faculties. Ere long, I became aware that some one was
handling me; lifting me up and supporting me in a sitting posture,
and that more tenderly than I had ever been raised or upheld before.
I rested my head against a pillow or an arm, and felt easy.
In five minutes more the cloud of bewilderment dissolved: I knew
quite well that I was in my own bed, and that the red glare was the
nursery fire. It was night: a candle burnt on the table; Bessie
stood at the bed-foot with a basin in her hand, and a gentleman
sat in a chair near my pillow, leaning over me.
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