Jane Eyre

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Jane Eyre Chapter 21 Summary & Analysis

Summary
Analysis
One afternoon, a messenger from Gateshead brings Jane some shocking news. John Reed, heavily in debt from gambling, has committed suicide. Now Mrs. Reed is deathly ill and demands to see Jane, who travels from Thornfield to Gateshead.
With his debts, drinking, and suicide, John Reed contrasts with Jane's learning and poise, showing that virtues are not based on class.
Themes
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
At Gateshead, Jane has a pleasant reunion with Bessie. The Reed sisters, meanwhile, have grown into two very different types of people. Eliza is stern, organized, and highly religious, while Georgiana is a social butterfly who gushes about her romances.
The Reed sisters are caricatures of judgment and feeling taken to extremes. Jane has learned to avoid extremes and instead seeks balance.
Themes
Love, Family, and Independence Theme Icon
Social Class and Social Rules Theme Icon
Gender Roles Theme Icon
Religion Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon
Though she's on her deathbed, Mrs. Reed shows no remorse for her treatment of Jane. On the tenth day of Jane's visit, Mrs. Reed calls Jane into her room and confesses to keeping a letter from Jane. Jane's uncle—John Eyre, a successful wine merchant—had requested custody of Jane three years ago. But Mrs. Reed, hoping to squash any chance of Jane's getting ahead in life, told him that Jane had died of fever at Lowood. Jane is upset and angry, but nonetheless tries to heal her relationship with Mrs. Reed. She rebuffs Jane, and dies that night.
Mrs. Reed is a liar and lacks the religious virtue of repentance. Like Rochester in the attack on Mr. Mason and the fire in his room, Mrs. Reed has created a cover-up. He wants things his way, just as Mrs. Reed does, and is willing to lie to get what he wants. In contrast to them, and like a good Christian, Jane is able to forgive Mrs. Reed despite her awful actions.
Themes
Religion Theme Icon
Feeling vs. Judgment Theme Icon