How do we learn about Jane's appearance?within the first three chapters of Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.

1 Answer | Add Yours

mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted on

In the opening passages of Chapter 1 of Jane Eyre, the reader learns that Jane considers herself inferior to the Reed children:

...I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight...and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.

Also in this chapter is Jane's mention of the "bilious" John Reed, her cousin, who stuffs cakes and sweetmeats into his mouth constantly. When he approaches her, Jane narrates that "every morsel on my bones shrank when he came near me," suggesting that she is much slighter than John. 

While she explores "the depth" the mirror in the red room reveals, she notices, too,

the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and littering 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.

Jane is rather slight and plain as she also suggests in positioning herself in contrast to the Reed children further in Chapter 2. Bewildered by her treatment, Jane wonders why she always suffers and decides that it must be because of her physical appearance since Georgiana who has a temper and is a "very acrid spite," with a "captious and insolent carriage" is yet indulged because of her

beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, [that] seemed to give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indeminity for every fault.

Pondering upon all the characteristics of the other Reed children, Jane concludes,

I know that had I been a sanguine, brilliant, careless, exacting, handsome, romping child,...Mrs. Reed would have endured my presence more complacently....

It is, thus, more by contrast with the other children of the Reed family that the reader learns of Jane's small and unprepossessing appearance.

We’ve answered 317,537 questions. We can answer yours, too.

Ask a question