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Jane Eyre | Study Guide

Charlotte Brontë

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Chapter 1

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 1 of Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre | Chapter 1 | Summary



The story opens on a rainy November day at Gateshead Hall. Jane Eyre, age 10, is banished from the company of the three Reed children, Eliza, John, and Georgiana, who are gathered happily around their mother in the drawing room. Jane settles down in a window seat to enjoy making up stories about the pictures in a nature book. Constantly terrorized by John's bullying, Jane hopes to avoid being hit by him, but he hits her in the face. John tells her she has no right to read their books because she's poor and dependent on the Reeds, and then he throws the heavy book at her head, drawing blood. Provoked, Jane calls him "wicked and cruel." Then John charges at her, pulling her hair and grabbing her shoulder. Pushed to her limit, Jane fights back. Brought in by Georgiana and Eliza, Mrs. Reed intervenes and blames Jane for the incident. She orders her servants, Bessie and Abbot, to lock Jane in the red-room for punishment.


Jane's description of what seems to be a typical day in her life at Gateshead Hall reveals her isolated position in the Reed household. For the Reeds wealth seems to be the measure of a person's worth; Jane is poor, so she is considered unworthy of living with a gentleman's children. Jane, however, doesn't buy into their assessment of her. Her fury against John is buoyed by her strong spirit and sense of self and her certainty that she is being treated unjustly. Jane copes with her isolation by finding joy where she can—in reading, using her imagination, and appreciating nature. She has learned to deflect John's bullying by seeming to comply with his demands, but when she is pushed too far, her repressed anger erupts and she defends herself.

There is still much readers don't know about Jane: Who are her parents and what has happened to them? How did Jane come to live at Gateshead Hall? Why do the Reeds allow Jane to continue living with them if they dislike her so much?

Documents for Chapter 1

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Questions for Chapter 1

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