To Forgive and Forget


Jane Eyre, Bronte
EL237-- Writing About Literature

It's chapter 21, Jane goes back to Gateshead to the people who has treated her wrong throughout her childhood and she tries to make amends. This forces the reader to feel even more sympathy for Jane Eyre. Because Mrs. Reed had refused to open her heart to Jane, it gives Jane even more reason to hate her. She doesn't. Is it because she is dying? If she wasn't, do you think that Jane would be so kind? I think Jane had evry reason to hate her since we learned that Mrs. Reed held the fact that her father was looking for her. I want to stress how much of a turn this is in the story. It gives Jane more of heart than any other character in the story.


It seems like Jane seems to have absorbed more of Helen's attitude than it initially appeared, doesn't it? This is the kind of thing I was thinking about when I mentioned that we will see Jane have more opportunities to put her values into practice. Note that the Reed family fortunes are in decline, so that fairly soon all of the things that made Mrs. Reed devalue Jane will apply to Mrs. Reed's children. Of course, they are older than Jane, so they have more of an opportunity to make a life for themselves.

I think the importance of bringing Mrs. Reed back into the story was more to drive the mystery of Jane's possible relations rather than to let Jane forgive and forget. She even says that she will never forget her behavior before she goes to school and, as it is obvious that the narrative is from Jane's perspective later in life, I doubt this detail would be have been mentioned if later forgiveness was implied.

She probably would not have been as kind as she was if Mrs. Reed wasn't dying, but she had also changed quite a bit since she had last been at Gateshead. I'm betting she would have been upset, but she would have hid it as best she could. She had, after all, become much more subservient.

People tend to try and make amends for how they have behave in life on their deathbeds. Mrs Reed does not repent for her treatment of Jane. I would have majorly flipped out on Mrs Reed if I had found out that she had kept such a big scret from me, one that had the potential to vastly imporve my quality of life. But then again, I did not have a friend like Helen Burns to teach me not to dwell on what has passed. Once again, I believe that Helen was Jane's angel.

There's also the useful plot detail of getting Jane away from Mr. Rochester for a while. You know... absence makes the heart grow fonder.

The different fates of the Reed daughters -- one married hastily and poorly, the other converting to Catholicism (gasp!) and becoming a nun -- are important reference points when we see Jane facing some important decisions about faith and marriage in the last third of the novel. And John is, of course, an image of Rochester gone bad.