Chapters 5 and 6
Jane arrives at Lowood School just after dark having said farewell to
Gateshead Hall, and only Bessie wished her well.
One of the teachers, Miss Miller, brings Jane in to the main schoolroom
where seventy plus girls aged between 9 and 20 study their lessons.
Jane soon fits into the daily routine of the school, which starts before
dawn and goes on until 5.00 p.m. in the evening.
Their lessons are only punctuated with three meal-breaks. She soon becomes friends with an older girl, Helen Burns, which explains that Lowood teaches orphans and part of the fees are paid by donations from the public.
Some of the teachers are kind, but others are cruel like Miss Scratcherd,
who seems to pick on Helen Burns most cruelly.
The school is always cold, and in fact one morning the water is frozen in
the washing pitchers. One morning Helen is beaten with a bundle of twigs (the birch) as punishment for having dirty nails. Jane wonders at Helen’s resilience to withstand this cruelty, but she herself
confesses that she is careless and lacks concentration.
Feeling that she has a kindred spirit in Helen, Jane recounts her life at
Gateshead Hall. Helen encourages Jane not to feel hatred for her aunt and her cousins, but to follow Christ’s teachings and to love thy enemy.
Bront' provides a vivid description of life in this Boarding School.
The orphaned girls wore drab uniforms which included a straw bonnet and a
gray cloak which they used whilst outside.
The meals consist of burned porridge, bread and cheese, and stew and
potatoes, but with very little meat. Sometimes they may get an additional meal, which would comprise of coffee and a slice of bread, or perhaps water and oatcakes.
The actual hours of study are long, and for those intelligent girls they
will at least be well educated by the time they finish at Lowood.
Helen Burns is a curious character seeming to have advice for Jane beyond
She accepts her harsh treatment by the teachers stoically and she is almost too good to be true. Clearly Bront' wishes to portray her as an angelic person who has a lasting effect on Jane and her behavior later on in the story. The reader may recall Jane’s parting words to Mrs. Reed and it will be shown that Jane offers Mrs. Reed, her aunt, forgiveness later on in the book.