A girl at a window. She is seeking for freedom. Freedom is right there behind the window, so close to her, but Jane has to stay at Gateshead, reading the book about birds, and dreaming about the liberty and independence which is yet to come. Gateshead is the lavish home of the Reeds, Jane’s aunt and cousins, initially functions as a symbol of oppression in young Jane’s life. Even the name, “Gateshead,” is suggestive of a portal–though whether an ingress or egress is entirely dependent upon Jane’s choices. Penniless and orphaned, Jane discovers the “gate” that should have opened upon a loving and comfortable life closed to her with cruel and indifferent finality. Repeatedly she is reminded that she is not a part of Reed’s Family.”You have no business to take our books; you are dependent, mama says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not live here with gentleman’s children like us and eat the same meals as we do, and wear clothes at our mama’s expense.” (Bronte, 6). This passage shows how Jane was discriminated and excluded by this family.She represents not more than just a heavy burden for Mrs. Reed and her children.
At Gateshead Hall, Jane is tortured and oppressed by her cousin, John Reed, a boy who was acting like the owner of the house and even of Jane’s life, who had a great impact on his mother, who uses to favor him. He pleased to abuse her constantly, calling her a rat. She was trying to resist to his mockery, until he knocked her down throwing a book at her. Then hatred and anger overtook Jane, spreading through the whole being of her as fast as a disease. She called him “a murderer”, “a slave-driver” and comparing him to “the Roman emperors”. Hearing this, John Reed, got angry and attacked her. When Jane tries to defend herself, she is blamed for everything. She is accused of “flying at Master John” displaying “such a picture of passion” and “she?s like a mad cat”. Trying to defend herself from the further physical violence executed by her cousin, was an unacceptable and objectionable behavior, which does not correspond to a girl who should know her place in that house and society.
Mrs. Reed is linked to the promise she gave to her husband, Mr. Reed, who passed away, to bring his niece up, to provide her with a decent education and a happy childhood as each child deserves, but Mrs. Reeds, venomous woman, did not keep her promise. She mistreats and looks down on Jane, who does not conform to the image of a Victorian child. She is not quiet, obedient, and does not act in a pretty manner as she is expected to, by society. She embodies a fearless, strong spirit, to whom justice is the only truth. She is thoughtful, she questions a lot. Obviously, she creates a distress for Mrs. Reed, who states that lie is the biggest ailment of Jane. She is “termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking, from morning to noon and from noon to midnight” (Brontë 10).
After the incident that took place between Jane and her son, Mrs. Reeds locks Jane in the Red Room, she believes that insults and punishments are intended to transform her into the model Victorian child: pious, quiet, and above all, unquestioningly obedient. Gateshead Hall Bronte: (page 30) “…prepared as my heart was for horror,
shaken as my nerves were by agitation, I thought the swift darting beam was a herald of some coming vision from another world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my ears…I was oppressed, suffocated…” Red Room symbolizes a type of prison for Jane, not a physical, but an emotional prison , for all that, she pulls through, after being imprisonment. Jane reaches her ethical awakening, turning from a child into a more mature person. She ascertains that how much she would not strive, she will be forever an outsider for Reed’s family, a person with a different identity which is not well received by Gateshead Hall.
“All John Reed?s violent tyrannies, all his sisters? proud indifference, all his mother?s aversion, all the servants? partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a deposit in a turbid well” (Brontë 10) . She asserts for herself that she will never be accepted by Reed household, that she has only herself to trust. She is lonely and she faced this fear of being completely alone. After spending a night in Red Room Jane’s rebellious nature and her last punishment induces a fit of hysteria, a “gate” of opportunity opens for the young ward. Gateshead Hall marked the beginning of Jane’s journey. She had to move beyond or ahead of the gate to the new life waiting for her. She grows out of a little girl who is afraid of her cousins. She is less afraid to stand up for herself.