For those familiar with Victorian novels, the exposition that begins in media res is not unusual. Effectively the motif of entrapment is introduced in this way. Then, in Chapter 2, the Gothic element is introduced with the horror of the red room. And, the third chapter adds a poignancy to the narrative. These are the 3 main ingredients of Bronte's classic.
I'm kind of in the middle on this one. While I do think those opening chapters set the stage for everything which is to some, I still don't like them. They make me uncomfortable and, as mentioned above, I am outraged at her helplessness and the horrible treatment she receives at the hands of those adults who should have been loving and protecting her. I think the word I want is disquietude, and it's always disconcerting to read those chapters. Effective writing has the power to do that, and this novel is effectively written.
I am sorry but I don't agree with blazedale - I think the first three chapters are brilliant pieces of literature that set the scene in many ways for all that is to follow. From the first line, the sense of being entrapped or encaged is introduced which serves as a theme that runs throughout the whole novel. Jane as a character is entrapped by her position in society, by other characters and by nature itself. Of course the novel tells the story of how she breaks out of that. Also, it very clearly paints a picture of the patriarchal world in which Jane lives - she is a nobody, a dependent who is able to be abused by her cousins and Aunt. The red room incident in particular is a key part of the novel that is echoed at a number of stages in the text when Jane feels particularly friendless and isolated. So, all in all, a brilliant start to a brilliant book!
Personally I found the first three chapters very difficult to read. It took me a few readings to actually get through them! The style was kind of strange, and I didn't really "get" the characters.
Now, I think it's a wonderful book but I encourage people to get through the first couple chapters because in my opinion, it gets much better!
Jane Eyre was one of the first books I ever read cover-to-cover as a young girl. For me, I need only read the introductory sentence to be captivated once again. The first person narration immediately endears me to Jane. I feel her indignation at her mistreatment, her humiliation, her desire to learn despite being continually abused.
I felt outraged at her being made felt a lesser human being for her orphaned status. Remember the scene in which the evil John Reed makes her show him the book she was trying to hide?
"You have no business to take our books," he sneered, "you are a dependent, mama says. You have no money...you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentleman's children like us...I'll teach you to rummage my book shelves: for they are mine; al the house belongs to me."
John throws the book at Jane and strikes her. Jane tries to defend herself from futher attack, and the wicked boy calls for his parents, who lock Jane in the "red room."
The second chapter is filled with gothic horror, cold and isolated. We feel for Jane as she cries out, "Unjust! Unjust!"
The third chapter finds some kindness towards Jane in the character of Bessie and gives us some hope for Jane: "I felt an inexpressible relief," says she, "a soothing conviction of protection and security."
Chapter 3 also introduces the mystery element to the text as Jane overhears Bessie and Sarah talk about the "ghost."