Volume 1, Chapter 2

Synopsis of Volume 1, Chapter 2

Jane is locked in the red room, where her uncle died. She reflects on her position in the household and believes that she will never be accepted as an equal. She becomes afraid of the room and the possibility that it might be haunted by her uncle's ghost. After screaming with terror, she has a fit and becomes unconscious.

Commentary on Volume 1, Chapter 2

God... prayers … repent Jane's behaviour is seen by the servants as an offence against God as well as a challenge to the authority of Mrs Reed. Jane's refusal to conform to their expectations of a young girl suggests to them that she is in some way wicked and affected by original sin.

The Tabernacles build by the Israeliteslike a tabernacle The bed has curtains, and it reminds Jane of a tabernacle, a kind of tent which covered the portable altar, used by the Jews during their years in the wilderness.

a snowy Marseilles counterpane Marseilles is a stiff cotton fabric, often used for bedspreads or quilts (counterpanes); its main function here is to provide a contrast with the strong red of the room's decorations.

I was a discord in Gateshead Hall … the scapegoat of the nursery Jane's review of her situation at Gateshead contributes to the novel's themes. Sending out of the Scapegoat by William WebbSee Themes and significant ideas: Education; Class, wealth and power and Charlotte Brontë and childhood. A scapegoat is one chosen to be sacrificed or expelled to atone for the sins of the whole flock, just as Jane is punished for her cousins' misdemeanours. See Leviticus 16:10: ‘But the goat, on which the lot fell to be the scapegoat, shall be presented alive before the Lord, to make an atonement with him, and to let him go for a scapegoat into the wilderness'. The scapegoat is also seen as a prophecy of Christ's time in the wilderness and of his sacrifice for the sins of the world.

the revolted slave Jane is a self-dramatising and imaginative child and no doubt draws on her reading for the idea that she is a slave rebelling against her captivity. Moses leads the Israelites from their long captivity in Egypt in Exodus chapters 12 and 13. There were also uprisings by Roman slaves, the best known being that led by the gladiator Spartacus, who opposed the Roman authorities from 90-71 BCE. Tales from those involved in the abolition of slavery (which was achieved in full in 1833) would also have been in circulation at the time.

Investigating Volume 1, Chapter 2
  • What is the symbolic significance of the Red Room?
  • Make a list of the words and phrases that Mrs Reed, Bessie and Abbott use to describe Jane's behaviour in this chapter.
    • What do they tell us about the way in which Jane upsets their expectations of how a child – especially a girl – should behave?
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