Monday, 20 June 2016

Jane Eyre - Chapters V, VI & VII



Chapter V

On the morning of January 19th, Jane leaves the Reed residence of Gateshead, after saying a goodbye to Bessie and proclaiming that Mrs. Reed has never been a friend to her.  Again the scene is set, a wet and misty dampness cloaking her travel until she arrives at Lowood Institution.  Discipline is immediately apparent at this charitable school, yet we also see the compassion of Miss Temple, the supervisor, at the treatment of the pupils, who are fed a diet lacking in nutritious food.  In spite of the rigidity of the place, there does seem a concern for health and well-being as far as it is possible within the structure of which it is run.  Jane meets Helen Burns for the first time and we get an initial impression of her maturity and sensibility.  And thus ended Jane's first day at Lowood.

Again Brontë creates sympathy for Jane by referring to her long coach ride alone at such a tender age.    Our admiration is more fully developed by Jane facing her circumstances with a determination and resoluteness of someone twice her age.

While the school has a rigid code, we can see that there is flexibility among certain teachers.  The rigour is at first unfamiliar to Jane but the girl whom she meets (Helen) appears to accept them with an uncomplaining stoicism.  And again we see the importance of literary choices as foreshadowing, as Helen is reading Samuel Johnson's The History of Rasselas, Prince of Abyssinia when Jane approaches her, its storyline being the futility of realizing human happiness.


Two Young Girls Reading (1891)
Pierre-Auguste Renoir
source Wikiart

Chapter VI

Jane is a member of the fourth class of Lowood and is somewhat bewildered by the lessons and rules.  She is stunned by Helen's quiet acceptance of Miss Scatcherd's berating of her slovenly habits and later quizzes Helen as to how she could have born up under such abuse.  She learns a valuable lesson from her friend, as Helen encourages Jane to follow Christ's example of love for others, and presses her to attempt to see the situation from another point of view.  Their conversation is very enlightening:

"But I feel this, Helen:  I must dislike those who, whatever I do to please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish me unjustly.  It is as natural as that I should love those who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved."

"Heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine; but Christians and civilised nations disown it."

"How?  I don't understand."

"It is not violence that best overcomes hate ---- nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury."

"What then?"

"Read the New Testament, and observe what Christ says, and how he acts; make his word your rule, and his conduct your example."

"What does he say?"

"Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you."

"Then I should love Mrs. Reed, which I cannot do; I should bless her son John, which is impossible."

..............  "Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited?  Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity, or registering wrongs ......"

We have the impression that Jane is benefiting from Helen's wisdom in a way that will serve her well in the future.

School for Peasants' Children in Verkiai (1848)
Vasily Sadovnikov
source Wikiart


Chapter VII

The first quarter of January, February and March pass for Jane at Lowood, and we learn of the scarcity of food, as well as the tedious visits to Brocklebridge Church where Mr. Brocklehurt officiates.  Then one day their patron visits to grill the teachers on their extravagance of food, and the necessity of self-denial and hardship in order to save the students' souls, a much more important issue than practicalities.  Jane is hoping to escape the notice of this implacable man, but she drops her slate and as hard as it comes down, all his displeasure falls upon her.  Made to stand on a stool in the middle of the room as she is categorized as an ungrateful liar by Brocklehurst, Jane can hardly bear the shame, however an angelic look from Helen buoys her spirits and she is able to endure.  She sees in Helen a quiet self-assurance and love that lifts her above the petty spite and unjust actions of Brocklehurst, and the notice of the teachers and students. Helen has an inner power that appears beyond the comprehension of most of those around her.

"Such is the imperfect nature of man!  such spots are there on the disc of the clearest planet: and eyes like Miss Scatcherd's can only see those minute defects, and are blind to the full brightness of the orb."


The Schoolmaster (1954)
Rene Magritte
source Wikiart


⇐ Chapters III & IV                                                Chapters VIII & IX 


18 comments:

  1. Following your updates....b/c I won't be reading this book this year, perhaps 2017. I see your last line: "has an inner power that appears beyond the comprehension".
    ..s touch of Gothic mystery?

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    1. I'd never thought about Gothic. I was thinking more spiritual, especially with the contrast between Helen's quite admirable faith and Brocklehurst's hellfire-and-brimstone one. However, I tend to try to steer away from Gothic thinking when I'm reading quality lit ---- it's just my reading snobbery but I always equate Gothic with a lower level of writing ability .... sort of like movies that rely on special effects to draw people in. But others have certainly seen a Gothic bent in this book, especially with Jane's experience in the red room and the ghost of Mr. Reed. I'm looking forward to her meeting Rochester. Can't wait! :-)

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    2. I was referring more to 'gothic' elements that are in many novels: Thornfield Hall (J. Eyre) Miss Havisham's house (Dickens Great Expectations), Dombey's house gave me the 'gothic' chills! or the mysterious footprint on R. Crusoe's island. I'm not a fan of 'pure' Gothic with the dark and gloomy caves....but some elements of it are enjoyable to read. Did not know a ghost was in this book! There you go...gothic!

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    3. I know ..... everyone sees Gothic where I don't but I think it's an intentional blindness and that you are right and I'm wrong. I just can't compare something like The Mysteries of Udolpho with Jane Eyre, or Horace Walpole with Dickens. My mind rebels.

      It was Jane's imagining of a ghost or spirit and, I admit, it was rather Gothic. ;-)

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  2. I know exactly what you mean about Helen's inner power! But from a character creation perspective, she comes across a bit too pedagogic to me...I know I am going against the current here but I understand Helen's circumstance but not only to be constantly patient with all the ill treatment but also find excuse for the teacher and be so wise and forgiving...arrrgggghhhh I went to a girls convent and I know what even the most generous hearted girls are like, only so much tolerant...at 13, well you are 13!

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    1. I do know what you mean, in that if we view her as an acting character, she is almost too good to be plausible. I don't see Helen as a character in her own right, but more a supporting character put there to inspire and shape another (Jane). I can only suppose her life has been hard and that she has developed her fortitude and wisdom over a period of time and is now passing it on to Jane (don't laugh, but it reminds me of the Abbe Faria and Edmund Dantes in The Count of Monte Cristo). Personally, while I see the value of a believable character, I have scope for one who is meant to teach, and while reality is useful, at times I prefer to have a personality modelled which shows a mien that I would like to emulate. I may never get there, but Helen's patience, forgiveness and high-mindedness are characteristics that I certainly want to develop, KWIM? :-)

      A convent?! I always dreamed of going to school in a convent. Of course, with many years and a little maturity, I realize my vision must have been romanticized. However, you turned out so well, so there must have been some benefit to it! ;-)

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    2. the Abbe Faria and Edmund Dante comparison is very apt (and now suddenly I feel like reading Count of Monte Cristo!!!!Arrggghhh) I think you make a great point of having a model which one can emulate and from that perspective, I think Helen served as perfect example to Jane!

      Yes...that to an French-Irish convent, run in a very old world style. I was not too fond of school, but it did nurture my love for books...the library was brilliant and I think one of the best in the area. But I would not go ga-ga over a Catholic Convent school!!!it was a family thing - my grandmother, my mother and then I ...three generations, same school!

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    3. I know ..... my first thoughts were, "I haven't read TCoMC in a long time!"

      You are an interesting person, do you know that? I will come to you when I need to know anything Catholic .... LOL! ;-)

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    4. hahhhaaaa...thanks! By virtue of being Hindus, we were excused from catechism classes, which were instead replaced by a very pedantic "Moral Science"! Update - I am reading The Count of Monte Cristo...on Chapter 14...could not resist the temptation! There goes the reading plan!

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    5. Moral Science? That actually sounds interesting, while also sounding very curious.

      I can't believe you? I didn't know you were that easily influenced! At least you're well into it, which suppresses the temptation to follow your lead. I have Ivanhoe, which I started and has been sitting for awhile, and also Framley Parsonage, which I started to do well on when away and now is also lying unread. Back to reading the books already begun.

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    6. Well...the concept was good...it kind of aimed at teaching you to be a good human being. Sunday School without the religious frill kind of thing...except it was all very theory and good too shoes and therefore made me immediately want to indulge in nefarious activities!

      If you wanna join, I will wait! Its a good thing though if you finish what you started...I guess I have been good for 6 months and now I am breaking bad in my readings! LOL!

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    7. I can't join you ..... I just can't ..... :-( .... but have fun! In my very personal opinion, I don't think that you've been good for 6 months .... just sayin' ...... ;-)

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    8. awww..Cleo...I was just behind in some readings...now I seem to have almost given up the chase! Though I am reading good stuff, so cannot complain! :) I understand that you cannot join! NP...we have loads of other readings to go through together!

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  3. Oh, the scene where Jane has to stand on that stool--my heart ached for her! Helen Burns is a great character...I was recently reading in a book about how tuberculosis was represented in the Victorian age as a sort of "romantic" illness for those too good, pure, or spiritual for this world. That definitely fits Helen's case.

    Anyway, I am enjoying "reviewing" this book through your updates!

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    1. Brontë is so adept at arousing sympathy for Jane from the reader, isn't she? Thanks for that information about TB ..... I hadn't thought of it that way before, but now that you mention it, I totally see it.

      Thanks for stopping by, Kat! :-)

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  4. really like the Magritte picture; the others i've seen by him all have that undefinable quality that's so mystifying, like he's trying to say something in a language that hasn't been invented yet...

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    1. It's a very interesting painting. Very stark and why does the schoolmaster have his back to us? Is it that he is inaccessible? Or is he leading us into that stark, barren land? Worth pondering .....

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