What is the most important theme in Jane Eyre when Jane is at Gateshead Hall?

Expert Answers info

Octavia Cordell eNotes educator | Certified Educator

briefcaseTeacher (K-12)

calendarEducator since 2016

write1,019 answers

starTop subjects are Literature, History, and Social Sciences

The main theme of this section fo the book is escape. Jane is a second-class citizen in the Reed household; she is abused by her cousin, John Reed, and held in disdain by her aunt, who has taken her in as a charity case against her will.

In fact, Jane has many...

(The entire section contains 151 words.)

Unlock This Answer Now

check Approved by eNotes Editorial

bibphile | Student

The most important theme in Jane Eyre when Jane is at Gateshead Hall is isolation. This isolation is brought on by an obvious class distinction that exists between her and her overseer's who make sure to remind her of that distinction any chance they get.

Take her cousin John Reed as a first example where, in the opening chapters, while Jane is scouring the contents of one of the family's books her cousin John discovers this and verbally berates her all before physically assaulting her. She defends herself by giving the pompous pimple a pop on the nose then being ushered off into a cold and lonely red chamber by the servants at Gateshead. The servants even make remarks about her unruly character, not seeing the vast wit and intelligence that exists within the young girl.

The theme of isolation is given visual metaphor within the red chambers as she begs to be set free for fear of ghosts coming to snatch her away. She is utterly isolated from the rest of the house and the world at large. To add insult to injury, the head of the household, Jane's aunt Mrs. Reed, has given orders to the servants not to let her out until she sees fit. The only redeeming character at Gateshead Hall is a servant named Bessie who comes to Jane's aid and quietly takes Jane under her wing during her time at Gateshead. Jane ultimately requests to be sent off to school in hopes to escape her abusers and open herself up to a world less lonely and cruel. After being assessed by Mr. Brocklehurst, a wealthy bloke who runs Lowood, the school she is to attend, Jane puts her wits and genius on full display illustrating the ignored depths of her character to Mrs. Reed in a brilliant flurry of self-preservation and critique, a critique of her aunts own character.

Jane ultimately carries this sense of isolation into her adult adventures but it was through her initial childhood isolation that she was able to find the self-assured strength that would allow her to carry on and through the obstacles down the road.