Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre: Ch. 2

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“Besides,” said Miss Abbot, “God will punish her:d He might strike her dead in the midst of her tantrums, and then where would she go?  Come, Bessie, we will leave her: I wouldn’t have her heart for anything.  Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself; for if you don’t repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimneyd and fetch you away.”

They went, shutting the door, and locking it behind them.

The red-room was a square chamber, very seldom slept in, I might say never, indeed, unless when a chance influx of visitors at Gateshead Hall rendered it necessary to turn to account all the accommodation it contained: yet it was one of the largest and stateliest chambers in the mansion.  A bed supported on massive pillars of mahogany, hung with curtains of deep red damask,d stood out like a tabernaclew in the centre; the two large windows, with their blinds always drawn down, were half shrouded in festoons and falls of similar drapery; the carpet was red; the table at the foot of the bed was covered with a crimson cloth; the walls were a soft fawn colour with a blush of pink in it; the wardrobe, the toilet-table, the chairs were of darkly polished old mahogany.  Out of these deep surrounding shades rose high, and glared white, the piled-up mattresses and pillows of the bed, spread with a snowy Marseilles counterpane.d  Scarcely less prominent was an ample cushioned easy-chair near the head of the bed, also white, with a footstool before it; and looking, as I thought, like a pale throne.

This room was chill, because it seldom had a fire; it was silent, because remote from the nursery and kitchen; solemn, because it was known to be so seldom entered.  The house-maid alone came here on Saturdays, to wipe from the mirrors and the furniture a week’s quiet dust: and Mrs. Reed herself, at far intervals, visited it to review the contents of a certain secret drawer in the wardrobe, where were stored divers parchments, her jewel-casket, and a miniature of her deceased husband; and in those last words lies the secret of the red-room—the spell which kept it so lonely in spite of its grandeur.

Mr. Reed had been dead nine years: it was in this chamber he breathed his last; here he lay in state; hence his coffin was borne by the undertaker’s men; and, since that day, a sense of dreary consecration had guarded it from frequent intrusion.

My seat, to which Bessie and the bitter Miss Abbot had left me riveted, was a low ottoman near the marble chimney-piece; the bed rose before me; to my right hand there was the high, dark wardrobe, with subdued, broken reflections varying the gloss of its panels; to my left were the muffled windows; a great looking-glass between them repeated the vacant majesty of the bed and room.  I was not quite sure whether they had locked the door; and when I dared move, I got up and went to see.  Alas! yes: no jail was ever more secure.  Returning, I had to cross before the looking-glass;d my fascinated glance involuntarily explored the depth it revealed.  All looked colder and darker in that visionary hollow than in reality: and the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms speckingw the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travellers.  I returned to my stool.

Superstition was with me at that moment; but it was not yet her hour for complete victory: my blood was still warm; the mood of the revolted slave was still bracing me with its bitter vigour; I had to stem a rapid rush of retrospective thought before I quailed to the dismal present.

X [d] “God will punish her:


Miss Abbot terrifies Jane by reminding her that far worse than any civil pubishment for rebellion is God's. Rebellion defies God's ordained order and mimics Satan's and the one-third of the angels who out of pride and resentment revolted against God. The consequence of their defeat was Hell and ultimately the Fall of man, expulsion from Eden, and Original Sin. Order for Abbot and m…

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X [d] to come down the chimney

Writing & Reading

Certainly not Santa Claus but some avenging angel and emissary of God. The threat seeds Jane's mind with the prospect.

X [d] deep red damask,


Damask often has an intricate design woven into it, but it's the deep red that introduces the novel's persistent color symbolism (along with white and black). The red reflects the rage that led to her confinement in the red-room. 

X [w] tabernacle


The tent-like construction that covers the Ark of the Covenant, which is the symbolic dwelling-place of God among the Hebrew devout. Brontë links in Jane's mind the cloth, drapery, and bedspread with the holiest of holies and so the terrifying nearness of divinity.

X [d] snowy Marseilles counterpane.

Writing & Reading

Marseilles is a stiff cotton fabric, a counterpane a quilt or coverlet for a bed, but the notable feature is the snowy color. At this point in the novel the color symbolism remains fluid, yet the spotless austerity and purity of the white, associated with the bed in which Mr. Reed died and with the angelic, seems as ominous as the red.

X [d] before the looking-glass;

Writing & Reading

Mirrors, like colors, play a significant role in the novel, for, as mentioned, the novel depicts Jane's need to define herself in relation to her body and to other women. 

The mirror gives Jane an objective image that is close to how others see her.  She is self-conscious about her small body—she remains small throughout the novel—and the mirror confirms that she is hardly more tha…

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X [w] specking

As in speckle; bit of white light within the gloom.