A growing sense of unease takes hold of Jane and she only sleeps fitfully.
She has a recurring dream concerning a babe in arms, and she takes this as an ill omen.
She then receives news that her cousin John Reed, the child that bullied
her, has died and suicide is suspected. Her aunt Sarah Reed has suffered a stroke and wishes to see Jane.
Jane asks for leave of absence and Rochester is surprised that Jane has relatives. She explains that she has never spoken of them before as they had cast her aside. Jane makes the long journey to be at Sarah Reed’s bedside, and she receives a cool reception when she eventually arrives. Not surprisingly, the only person who is pleased to see her is Bessie, who is now married and is nursing her third child.
Jane is now far removed from the unhappy child that left Gateshead Hall, as
she arrives as a confident young woman.
Jane notices immediately that Sarah Reed’s two daughters have little time for their mother. Georgiana has left the gaiety of London to return to be with her mother, and is already bored. Eliza spends her time in religious study.
Mrs. Reed has summoned Jane as she wishes to unburden herself before she
dies. She reveals that she has broken her promise to her late husband by not bringing Jane up as one of her own, and she has also lied to Jane’s uncle John Eyre saying that Jane had died at Lowood.
She gives Jane John Eyre’s letter written three years earlier, asking for Jane’s address, because he wants to adopt her and make her his heir.
Jane offers the hand of forgiveness, but the bitter dying woman rejects
this. Soon after, she dies alone.
From the description given of the life in Gateshead Hall, it is not
surprising to the reader the way in which Sarah Reed’s children have turned out. The spoilt son continued his outrageous undisciplined behavior, running up huge gambling debts, which have brought poverty to
the whole family.
The two daughters have not been brought up to be well-molded individuals – one daughter can only think of marrying a rich husband and thinks London is the place to achieve this goal, and the other daughter immerses herself in a strict religious routine.
Despite the hostility that Jane receives, she is pleased to know that she
has an apparently caring relative in John Eyre. The actual letter is contained in this chapter, and it makes quite sad reading, and the reader hopes that perhaps Jane may be able to enjoy some family life with
this relative if matters don’t work out at Thornfield.
Bront' is quite clear that the reader should have no sympathy at all for
Mrs. Reed. She is receiving, in Bront'’s view, her just deserts for failing to keep her promise to her late husband, and spoiling her three children to the detriment of the book’s heroine, Jane.