In Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre, what are a few differences between Jane and the Reed children? How is Jane treated differently from them?
Eliza, John, and Georgiana are the names of Jane's cousins, the Reeds. Their father and both of Jane's parents are dead. The Reed children are looked after by their mother who feels obligated to take care of Jane because of the dying wish of her husband. Mrs. Reed does not like Jane. Jane, therefore, is considered an ugly orphan leeching off of her and living under her roof rather than family. The Reed children are taught to see Jane as unequal to them because of their mother's prejudice. John is brutal to Jane both physically and verbally. The girls don't do anything to befriend Jane. John is 14 years old and feels it his duty to beat up on Jane who is only 10. When John catches Jane reading a book, he uses it as an excuse to discipline her and show her where her place is in the house. He says,
"You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mamma says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg and not to live here with gentlemen's children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mamma's expense. Now I'll teach you to rummage my book-shelves: for they are mine; 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" (8).
John then throws the book at Jane's head, drawing blood, and she retaliates only to be thrown into the red room as punishment.
As for her female cousins, Georgianna is blonde and beautiful whereas Jane is plain looking. The girls are dressed in the best clothes and treated like queens. Jane describes the girls in the following way:
"Eliza, who was headstrong and selfish, was respected. Georgiana, who had a spoiled temper, a very acrid spite, a captious and insolent carriage, was universally indulged. Her beauty, her pink cheeks and golden curls, seemed to give delight to all who looked at her, and to purchase indemnity for every fault" (12).
As Jane describes her cousins, she also mentions that the staff who work in the house never lift a finger to intervene on Jane's behalf either. One might wonder though if Jane would behave in like manner if the roles were shifted because she is also strong-willed, fights against prejudice, and refuses to succumb to the status quo. However, Bronte's heroine has more reason and occasion to fight for herself, whereas her cousins are safely brought under their mother's wing and comforted while she is not.