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Gateshead is the grand house where Jane lives in the beginning of the novel as a poor dependent with her Aunt Reed and three cousins, Georgiana, Eliza, and John. Her aunt is incapable of loving her and favors her own children. The Reed children, especially John, know they can get away with tormenting Jane cruelly. In this cold, hostile environment, Jane is formed as a person who understands what it is to suffer and be despised. She develops some of the anger (critics Gilbert and Gubar, in Madwoman in the Attic, famously argue that the name Eyre means ire or anger) that causes her to hate injustice (Jane will later confront Mrs. Reed about her cruelty) and wonder about a woman's constricted place in Victorian society. Gateshead is also her gateway to Lowood School, another cruel place, designed as a charitable institution to humble girls of poor origin. Ironically, despite the humiliation and deprivation she experiences there, at Lowood Jane finds the friendship and love lacking at Gateshead.

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