Volume 2, Chapter 6 / 21

Synopsis of Volume 2, Chapter 6 / 21

Robert, the coachman at Gateshead, now married to Bessie, arrives at Thornfield Hall. He brings news that John Reed has died, probably by suicide, after living a dissipated life and accumulating large debts, and that Mrs Reed is ill and impoverished and has asked to speak to Jane. In view of Rochester's anticipated marriage, Jane tells him that it is time for Adèle to go to school and for Jane herself to leave Thornfield. Rochester makes her promise that she will allow him to find her a new post.

Jane travels to Gateshead and finds that Georgiana has become a fashionable beauty, while Eliza is extremely religious and is preparing to join a religious order. Mrs Reed talks about her resentment of Jane, and confesses that three years earlier she received a letter from Jane's paternal uncle in Madeira, who was planning to adopt Jane and make her his heiress. Out of a desire for revenge, Mrs Reed had told him that Jane died of typhus at Lowood. Jane forgives her aunt and tries to be reconciled with her, but Mrs Reed refuses and dies later the same night.

Commentary on Volume 2, Chapter 6 / 21

to dream of children was a sure sign of trouble Although fundamentally a text which adheres to a Christian worldview, Jane Eyre is full of references to dreams, folk-lore, proverbs, fairy tales, ghost stories and superstitions.

That is a hundred miles off! An indication of the distance Jane has travelled to reach Thornfield.

that bourne so far away and unexplored See Shakespeare's Hamlet (1601): ‘death, / The undiscovered country from whose bourn/ No traveller returns' (1.1.84-6), in the famous speech beginning ‘To be or not to be'.

Bewick's British BirdsGulliver's Travels … the Arabian Nights See the earlier notes on these books.

Cairngorm quartz, photo by Hannes Grobe/AWI available through Creative Commonsher parent's Cairngorm eye A cairngorm is a semi-precious quartz from the Cairngorm mountains in Scotland.

they think you a ‘quiz' A word used to describe an odd or puzzling kind of person. The word has now lost this meaning, but it was common in colloquial speech among the upper and middle classes in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries.

Provided with a case of pencils Jane once again turns to sketching at a crucial moment in her life.

‘the Rubric' A guiding rule, here in matters of how religious services should be conducted.

in matters of religion she was a rigid formalist Eliza is anxious to do everything in the prescribed manner – a religious attitude that this novel associates with Roman Catholicism. See Religious / philosophical context.

There was something ascetic in her look … nun-like crucifix and beads This description suggests that Eliza has also adopted a way of dressing that resembles that of a nun. Rosay and CrucifixHer wearing of a crucifix (as opposed to a plain cross) was a Roman Catholic practice, while her beads presumably form a rosary on which Catholics tell out their prayers. Charlotte Brontë, herself a staunch Protestant, had encountered Roman Catholic practice when she was in Brussels in 1842 and 1843, and drew on this experience for her novel Villette (1853). See the Author and Religious / philosophical context sections, as well as Characterisation: Jane's female role models.

a retirement .. punctual habits Eliza clearly plans to enter a convent, a further indication that she is moving towards conversion to Roman Catholicism.

Eternity is before me Although Mrs Reed has previously shown no particular piety or signs of Christian virtue (some might say quite the reverse) as she faces the end of her life she feels the need to make a good death and to atone for her shortcomings.

‘you have my full and free forgiveness; ask now for God's and be at peace This completes Mrs Reed's attempt at atonement. But she dies unreconciled with Jane, who forgives her aunt but receives no forgiveness in return.

Investigating Volume 2, Chapter 6 / 21
  • What are Jane's feelings on returning to Gateshead?
    • How has her relationship with her aunt and cousins changed?
  • Re-read the passage beginning ‘I have had more trouble with that child than anyone would believe'. How does Charlotte Brontë use details of:
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