Jane Eyre Chapters 6-10
Day two at Lowood Institution commences for Jane. She is placed in the fourth class, and expresses bewilderment at the speed of classes and lessons, in her first active day. While sewing, Jane witnesses her new friend, Helen Burns, being whipped with a rod, by Miss Scatcherd. Helen is often punished for her 'slatternly' ways, lack of attention, or messiness. Jane is horrified and indignant over Helen's unfair treatment, as Helen really was not at fault or slatternly. She speaks to Helen later about the teacher's treatment, and Helen's calm behavior under duress. Jane says that she would desire only to break the rod beneath the teacher's nose,
"'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.'" Chapter 6, pg. 50
Helen explains to Jane that Miss Scatcherd is not cruel, but simply dislikes Helen's unruly habits and faults. She explains that sometimes it is one's responsibility to endure certain types of punishment, to "endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequence will extend to all." (pg. 49) She bids Jane return evil with good, instead, as it is not violence which will overcome hate--nor vengeance which will someday heal injury. Jane thinks about Helen's words, not agreeing with her in temperament or spirit, but feeling a deep intuition that Helen is indeed correct.
Jane passes her first quarter at Lowood successively, but with the natural adjustments necessary to a new environment and hardships. January, February, and March bring a great cold, and inhumane conditions of food and weather for the girls--long marches to church in the blistering cold wind, swollen and flayed fingers and feet, and chilblains on the hands. More and more in these hard times, Jane admits that Miss Temple is a positive role model, mothering and affectionate friend to both herself and to Helen.
Jane recounts the one afternoon only three weeks into her time at Lowood; Mr. Brocklehurst finally arrives for his monthly survey of the school, and harangue at the teachers. Mr. Brocklehurst rakes Miss Temple over the coals for administering two lunches of extra bread and cheese, days when the meals were prepared so horribly that they could not be consumed. The point of Lowood Institution is not to spoil these girls, but rather instill in them a good mortification toward the mortal flesh. With that, he surveys the school and declares that the older girls of the first form must cut off their longer hair (some with natural curls), because it violates the strict humble strictures of the school.
Jane believes that she has escaped Mr. Brocklehurst's disclosure of her deceit, until she accidentally drops her slate tablet on the floor, calling all attention to herself. Mr. Brocklehurst immediately recognizes her, calls her up, places her on a stool at the front of the room, and proceeds to lecture the entire room as to how Jane is already possessed by the Evil One; she is a liar, not an innocent little girl, she is deceitful and should be shunned by everyone. Jane feels horribly humiliated but somehow to her own surprise is able to endure the public censure for the rest of the day, alone of the stool. Finally, after the five o'clock bell sounds, Jane leaves the stool, falling on a desk crying. Helen joins her to bring comfort, kind words, and Jane's portion of brown bread and coffee.
Jane believes that she will never be able to regain any respect from the students or teachers now--everyone wrongly believes she is a liar--she is doomed. But Helen, with her logic, reassures Jane that Mr. Brocklehurst is not well-liked at Lowood; the teachers and students will judge Jane by her own future actions rather than random hearsay.
Helen and Jane, at the request of Miss Temple, join her in her room for tea, the treat of toast, and seed-cake. Jane tells Miss Temple of her history--the terrible tale of the red-room and the Reeds, most calmly and rationally, with Helen's advice of goodness in mind. Miss Temple explains to Jane that all criminals have the right to defend themselves; Miss Temple will write to Dr. Lloyd to agree with Jane's story. If he does, her name will be publicly cleared before the whole school. Jane is much relieved.
Jane is promoted to a higher class very soon, and allowed to begin study of French and painting. Her is name is soon publicly cleared, and she soon falls into the comfort and safety of Lowood, the warm companionship of her classmates and of Helen. She admits:
"Well has Solomon said--'Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.'
I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations, for Gateshead and its daily luxuries." Chapter 8, pg. 65
Spring comes to Lowood, and Jane expresses a great contentment in the arrival of many flowers, and the beauty of the grasses and green hills. But contagion has spread to Lowood; because of it location in a forest-dell, the coming fog has brought the Typhus pestilence all too soon. Already almost half the girls at Lowood have fell ill, and some have been buried or left for home. Miss Temple spends most of her time in the sick ward; rules for all the healthy girls are greatly relaxed. Jane and the other girls are allowed more food (a new housekeeper), and to run free in the woods most of the day in an effort to keep them away from the ill.
Helen Burns has taken ill as well, but with consumption (Tuberculosis) instead. Jane doesn't realize the severity of the illness until Helen is very bad indeed; it occurs to her one day after seeing the surgeon's carriage leaving Lowood's lane--she is struck with the sudden realization of death, an empathy with the ill girls, a fear, and a great desire to see Helen immediately. That night, Jane creeps into Miss Temple's room when she is absent to visit Helen, alone and pale in a curtained sick-crib. Helen is placid and at peace, and very happy to see Jane. They talk, and Helen admits knowledge of her impending death; she is at a great peace--her suffering is not great and she is going to God in the Kingdom of Heaven. Jane does not really understand what or where God or Heaven is, but she crawls next to Helen in the bed, hugging her around the neck with a sad love. She kisses Helen warmly as they speak:
"And I clasped my arms closer round Helen; she seemed dearer to me than ever; I felt as if I could not let her go; I lay with my face hidden on her neck. Presently she said in the sweetest tone,--'How comfortable I am! That last fit of coughing has tired me a little; I feel as if I could sleep: but don't leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me.'
'I'll stay with you, dear Helen: no one shall take me away.'
'Are you warm, darling?'
'Yes.'" Chapter 9, pg. 71
Eight years pass at Lowood for Jane. She completes her schooling, and spend two years teaching, as well. Lowood Institution is moved to a better building and location, and the living conditions are greatly improved on account of public horror over the sub-standard conditions associated with the Typhoid deaths. Toward the end of the eight years, Miss Temple marries a Reverend Nasmyth. At this point, Jane realizes that she has a great desire to leave Lowood, to see more of the world, and to better her living position: to find a new servitude. Since Miss Temple has left, Jane comments that the calm, peace, and feeling of home she associates with herself at Lowood Institution, has dissipated.
Jane places an ad in the local newspaper, advertising the presence of a teacher looking for a private position instructing a child below the age of ten. She is qualified to teach the essentials of a good English education, plus music, French and painting. Within a week a response in the form of a letter comes to the local post-office; Jane gives leave to Lowood, and obtains references from them, sending them off to a Mrs. Fairfax, c/o Thornfield Hall, Millcote, --shire. An unexpected visit from her old nurse, Bessie, comes the day before her departure; Bessie has gotten word about Jane from the letter Jane sent to Mrs.Reed to be absolved of all legal bindings to her aunt. A happy visits ensues. The next morning at four in the morning, Jane leaves Lowood Hall in a carriage, for the first time in eight years.