How is poetic justice presented in Jane Eyre on Mrs. Reed?

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litteacher8 eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Mrs. Reed does not treat Jane well, and she gets what she deserves when she dies.

Mrs. Reed is rude to her niece, and accuses her of being worse than a servant because she does not earn her keep.  Mrs. Reed also pays no attention to the abuse Jane gets at the hands of her cousin John.

I had no appeal whatever against either his menaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offend their young master by taking my part against him, and Mrs. Reed was blind and deaf on the subject… (ch 1)

Mrs. Reed also tells the schoolmaster that she lies, therefore making sure Jane is as uncomfortable as possible in her new school.

As a child, Jane considers the impact her aunt has on her life, and decides to forgive her anyway.

Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some fearful pangs of mental suffering. But I ought to forgive you, for you knew not what you did: while rending my heartstrings, you thought you were only up-rooting my bad propensities. (ch 3)

Yet Jane changes her mind, and tells Mrs. Reed that her husband would not have approved of the way she treated Jane. She also tells her she is not a liar, and she does not love her.  Mrs. Reed seems confused, saying she wants to be Jane’s friend and “children must be corrected for their faults” (ch 4). 

When Mrs. Reed is dying, she sends for Jane.  She goes despite how she has not thought of the family for years.  Mr. Rochester does not want her to go, but go she does.  She even addresses her as “dear aunt.”  Her aunt sends her away, but on her deathbed calls her back.  She tells Jane she has wronged her twice.

  • “… One was in breaking the promise which I gave my husband to bring you up as my own child; the other—… and then I may get better; and to humble myself so to her is painful.” (ch 21)

She shows Jane a letter from an uncle who wanted to adopt her.  She never told her, so Jane missed the opportunity to have a family.  Mrs. Reed dies of a life “shortened by trouble.”


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Jane Eyre

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