After breaking free of this family, many years later, Jane comes into contact with the Rivers family. She forms a close relationship with three benevolent people who turn out to be her cousins, and Jane finds the closest thing to a family in her life by residing with them. There is concrete evidence in Jane Eyre, as mentioned in Oates introduction, that Janes familial relationships in her lifetime strengthen her and define her as a person.
Janes longing for a true family, which is painfully brought out by the cruelty of the Reeds, is satisfied by a newfound relationship with the Rivers siblings at Whitcross. Janes horrible experience of living with the Reed family makes her grow stronger. Janes aunt, Mrs. Reed, is bound by the final wish of her husband to raise the child of the deceased Eyre family, a wish that she begrudgingly carries out. She shows no affection towards Jane, excluding her from many family activities such as sitting in the parlor together.
John Reed, her selfish and cruel cousin, causes Jane great fear and physical pain through his abuse: I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it¦it hit me, and I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it¦my terror had passed its climax¦Wicked and cruel boy! I said. You are like a murderer-you are like a slave-driver-you are like the Roman emperors! (Bronte 13). This violence, along with the scorn of Eliza and Georgiana, fails to interest or stir up any feelings of sympathy in Mrs. Reed.
Janes punishment for lashing out at John, being locked up in the red room, is an event that she will never forget because of the feelings of terror it stirs in her: My heart beat thick, my head grew hot¦I was oppressed, suffocated¦Mrs. Reed, impatient of my now frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrust me back and locked me in, without further parley¦I suppose I had a species of fit: unconsciousness closed the scene. (Bronte 21, 22). Such mistreatment causes Jane to be distant from the Reeds, even though they are her blood relatives.
Jane says, I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there; I had nothing in harmony with Mrs. Reed or her children, or her chosen vassalage. If they did not love me, in fact, as little did I love them. (Bronte 19). However, as abysmal and harsh as this environment is, it brings out Janes inner independence and headstrong attitude. Oates mentions the effect the Reeds have on Janes life, saying, Jane Eyre, orphaned and presumably defenseless, and a mere girl, discovers the strength of her personality by¦¦the Reed household, in which she is despised (Oates).
The first sign of real independence that readers can see within Janes character happens when she confronts Mrs. Reed after being called a liar in front of Mr. Brocklehurst. The appalling bad familial experience with the Reeds makes Janes character determined and resilient. Janes thirst for a family is satisfied by the discovery of blood relatives in the Rivers family. After Janes conscience causes her to flee Thornfield and abandon an immoral marriage with Rochester, she eventually finds herself in Whitcross.
In a state of severe starvation, Jane ends up at the doorstep of Moor House, where the Rivers family kindly takes her in. Under the false name of Jane Elliot, she lives at Moor House for a few months and finds true friendship with Diana and Mary, the young ladies of the house. St. John Rivers, on the other hand, is a minister with a more serious and almost cold character. Had he been a statue instead of a man, he could not have been easier¦.. his face riveted the eye; it was like a Greek face. (Bronte 396). Yet even he shows signs of kindness towards Jane.
This newfound friendship makes Jane very happy and helps keep her mind off of Rochester. However, the relationship abruptly changes when St. John, after visiting Janes little schoolmistress cottage in town, discovers her name written on one of her drawings. He then discovers shocking news: the Rivers siblings are Janes cousins! Jane, now even more amiable towards the Rivers family, is willing to make this family relationship work: she equally distributes the large inheritance that she receives from her uncles death among her cousins.
This loving family is a stark contrast from the Reeds: The miraculously realized family of Diana, Mary, and Rivers himself strikes us as a benign adumbration of the novels original household, in which Jane was despised by Eliza, Georgiana, and the spectacularly loathsome John Reed (Oates). Janes long search for a true group of blood relatives is finally over after forging a relationship with the Rivers family. Janes different encounters with family relationships in her life, both good and bad, help to bring out her independent and stubborn character and mold her into a strong person.
Janes childhood at Gateshead and the experience of living with a very hollow and selfish family like the Reeds helps her become aware of the importance of love in a family and strengthens her desire for a real family. She is then accepted by the Rivers family, and this loving relationship helps to satisfy her yearning for a family and finally find acceptance. Jane, poor, obscure, plain, and little (Bronte 292) as she is, is changed by her family experiences and is shaped into the unique Jane we know and love today.