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What race are the Reeds?

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message 1: by Mathis (last edited Jun 03, 2013 05:17AM) (new) - added it

Mathis Bailey I recently started reading Jane Eyre and in chapter two I came across a passage that confuses me where Jane describes her aunt, Mrs.Reeds, and her cousin, John, as dark skinned people. She says " he called his mother old girl and reviles her dark skin , which is similar to his own." and on the next page she also says" Mrs. Reed probably considered she had kept this promise; and so she had, I dare say, as well as her nature would permit her; but how could she really like an interloper not of her race?".

The last qoute is Jane mulling about not fitting into her adopted family. So, what race are the Reeds?


Carlissa Mathis wrote: "I recently started reading Jane Eyre and in chapter two I came across a passage that confuses me where Jane describes her aunt, Mrs.Reeds, and her cousin, John, as dark skinned people. She says " h..."

I assume that they are white since Georgiana (John's sister) is described as having "pink cheeks and golden curls". I think that the term dark skinned is just referring to the fact that they are not fair-skinned and blond like Georgiana.


message 3: by Mathis (last edited Jun 03, 2013 05:18AM) (new) - added it

Mathis Bailey Carlissa wrote: "Mathis wrote: "I recently started reading Jane Eyre and in chapter two I came across a passage that confuses me where Jane describes her aunt, Mrs.Reeds, and her cousin, John, as dark skinned peopl..."

Okay, but what does she mean in the last quote where she mentions race? any thoughts?


Carlissa Mathis wrote: "Okay, but what does she mean in the last quote where she mentions race? any thoughts?"

I think that "race" is being used here as meaning a class or group of people; Jane's aunt thinks she belongs to the Upper Class and Jane is just a lowly orphan.


Jacquelyn Mathis wrote: "I recently started reading Jane Eyre and in chapter two I came across a passage that confuses me where Jane describes her aunt, Mrs.Reeds, and her cousin, John, as dark skinned people. She says " h..."

She may have been talking figuratively about her skin, just calling her aunt a dark person. Because she was, Mrs. Reed was a witch!


Brenda Clough When we refer to skin color, we moderns think of race. In England of that period, there were no persons of color, except the odd visitor from foreign climes. Everybody was of the same race (white). So when they refer to skin color, hair color, etc., they're always working from a white-race base line. All John Reed meant was that his mother had a darker skin tone than he did, in a period when the whiter your skin was, the prettier you were. (It is not confined to England; in China a very white skin is still considered more beautiful than a darker hue -- there's even a special word for it.)


Sara Mathis wrote: "how could she really like an interloper not of her race?"

I believe she meant her 'blood'. If I remember correctly, the uncle had a blood connection to Jane, not the aunt.


Aisling Was it not also the case that skin colour was related to social position? Tanned skin being associated with those who had to work for a living as distinct from landed class where the women in particular spent their lives cosseted and protected by parasols etc
The lighter the skin colouring therefore the more socially upmarket the individual was considered to be.


Brenda Clough Yep. If you had to work outside, in the fields or behind a horse, then you got tan. So a brown skin showed you were working class. Real ladies and gentlemen were pale, and a great deal of work (hats, gloves, veils, etc.) went into staying that way. Do you remember in PRIDE & PREJUDICE, when the rich folks deplore Lizzie Bennett for walking to their house? A real lady wouldn't risk getting dirty and tan, as if she were, ew! poor.
Everything changed when the main work became factory labor -- people inside running machines or sitting at keyboards. Then, suddenly, you only were tan if you had leisure, leisure to go to the beach and lay on the sand drinking a pina colada. Suddenly rich people were tan and poor people were pale.
You can see the same evolution going on about fat. For a long time, fat people were rich people -- if you were poor you didn't have enough to eat and were therefore thin. Now, when there is enough fast cheap food, poor people are fatter. Rich people have the money to hire dieticians, to go to Pilates classes, to get plastic surgery to pare down the muffin tops.


Brenda Clough It's not a purely British phenom. Being fair is often important in other countries as well. There is an actual Chinese term for being pale-skinned, and it is synonymous with 'beautiful'. And there is a huge market for skin-whitening products in vast swathes of the world.


message 11: by Bart (new)

Bart Govaert There are some more subtle stereotypes being used when describing John Reed, eg "some people call him a fine-looking young man; but he has such thick lips" (this echoes a racial stereotype of the time).
I am not entirely clear how this is all organized but it does not seem random to me.


message 12: by Tytti (last edited Nov 23, 2015 04:58PM) (new) - rated it 4 stars

Tytti Brenda wrote: "In England of that period, there were no persons of color, except the odd visitor from foreign climes. Everybody was of the same race (white)."

That's not exactly true. I am no expert but considering that both Dumas in France and Pushkin in Russia had a black ancestor, there must have been more of them around but they just don't get mentioned in history, just like most people don't (unlike for example Dido Elizabeth Belle or Olaudah Equiano). Also there have been Roma people in Europe for centuries, in Spain and elsewhere there were the Moors. And even before that England was ruled by the Romans, and I would be surprised if there were no black people in the Roman army.

"Records show that black men and women have lived in Britain in small numbers since at least the 12th century, but it was the empire that caused their numbers to swell exponentially in the 17th and 18th centuries."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/...


message 13: by Carrie (last edited Jul 11, 2019 12:39PM) (new)

Carrie Downs Tytti wrote: "Brenda wrote: "In England of that period, there were no persons of color, except the odd visitor from foreign climes. Everybody was of the same race (white)."

That's not exactly true. I am no expe..."


Yeah, I was surprised when I read Othello that the character is not only black, but is highly revered and respected. I think there were a lot less people of color back then but enough to where the common British person probably ran into them from time to time. I came here to look for this answer b/c it seemed to me that Mrs. Reed & John showed characteristics of having had a non-English ancestor, even if that's not what Charlotte Bronte was explicitly saying.


message 14: by Isla (new) - added it

Isla Jacquelyn wrote: "Mathis wrote: "I recently started reading Jane Eyre and in chapter two I came across a passage that confuses me where Jane describes her aunt, Mrs.Reeds, and her cousin, John, as dark skinned peopl..."

thank you! i was wondering lol- jane eyre is very very interesting :))


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