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In the opening chapter of Bronte's narrative, when little Jane Eyre is not allowed to sit with her cousins near Mrs. Reed because she has not yet acquired the proper social disposition, Jane retreats to a window seat where she closes the curtain around her and privately reads a book. Later, hoping to terrorize Jane, John bursts into the breakfast room yelling, "Boh! Madam Mope!" [as in moping about something], but Jane does not respond. However, when she hears him call out to notify her aunt, Eliza tells him that Jane is in the window. So, Jane asks John what he wants. To this blunt question, John demands that Jane show more respect:
"Say, 'what do you want, Master Reed,"
Seating himself in an armchair, John motioned for Jane to "approach and stand before him."
As narrator, Jane mentions that John "bullied and punished" her continually to the point that "every morsel of flesh on my bones shrank when he came near."
Jane is "[H]abitually obedient to John" as he is so cruel to her. He sticks out his tongue and Jane realizes that he "would soon strike, and...dread[s] the blow." Seeming to read Jane's thoughts about his ugly and disgusting appearance, he
struck suddenly and strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back a step or two from his chair.
"That is for your impudence in answering Mama a while since...and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!"
When John asks Jane what she has been reading, she produces the book only to be scolded about taking John's books since
"all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows."
In her anger, Jane likens John to a murderer. Incensed by her insult, John runs at her, grasping her hair and shoulder; they fight and John yells "Rat! Rat!" Of course, Mrs. Reed comes to his rescue and Jane is accused of attacking John and sent to the red room.
Clearly in this chapter John Reed conveys the attitude that he is the master of the house, all belongs to him; Jane must obey his very commands and be submissive to him or suffer the consequences.
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