In Jane Eyre, how does the opening establish Jane's position as an outsider in the Reed household and her unhappiness?

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scarletpimpernel eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As the novel opens, Jane reflects on her feelings of taking a walk with the Reeds and returning to their home.  Unlike most humans, she is not happy to return "home"--it holds no welcome or cheer as the word implies for most people.  In the second paragraph, Jane states that she dreads being chided by the nurse (even a servant of the household makes Jane feel unwelcome) and being

"humbled by the consciousness of [her] physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed" (9).

Jane is sure to include in her narration the children's last name because it, too, differs from hers and establishes them as part of the family and her as an outsider.

The novel's protagonist is also isolated physically--not just emotionally and psychologically--from the rest of the household.  As the children and Mrs. Reed lounge close to one another after their walk, Jane is sequestered because she is not a "happy, contented" child like the others.

Thus, from the first several paragraphs of her novel, Charlotte Bronte establishes Jane's plight, not just as a child, but also her existence throughout almost all of the novel.

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Jane Eyre

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