Sunday, November 30, 2008

Social Contrast

“He gorged himself habitually at table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared eye with flabby cheeks. He ought now to have been at school; but his mamma had taken him home for a month or two, ‘on account of his delicate health.’ Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do very well if he had fewer cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home; but the mother’s heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined rather to the more refined idea that John’s sallowness was owing to overapplication, and, perhaps, to pining after home” (4).

This passage shows the difference between the two social classes inhabiting Mrs. Reed’s home. The upper class, in which Mrs. Reed and her children live, believes in extravagance and affluence, while the lower class, which Jane and the servants populate, do not know what it is like to live with such luxuries. Jane comments on the treatment Mrs. Reed gives her son John with a note of disapproval in her voice. Brontë uses Jane’s commentary to contrast the two different social castes and to show her own disapproval of the upper class’s behaviors.

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