Chapters 9 and 10
At last spring comes and melts away the harsh winter, and slowly Jane is
becoming more integrated at Lowood.
She becomes friendly with another pupil, Mary Ann Wilson, who enjoys walking
in the countryside, and the pair takes the odd walk together when time permits.
However, the school is hit with an epidemic of typhus, which affects more
than half the girls, and some die.
Mr. Brocklehurst and his family are conveniently absent to avoid any possible contagion. The only benefit of this is a corresponding relaxation on supplies of food, and the girls’ portions increase.
Helen Burns develops consumption, and despite the surgeon, Mr. Bates, being
in attendance, nothing can be done for her. She is kept in isolation, but Jane joins her once everyone has gone to sleep. One morning, Jane awakens as the nurse carries her back to her own bed, and she
learns that Helen had died during the night.
After this typhus outbreak, public attention is given to Brocklehurst’s
management of the school, and it is agreed that he has been overzealous, and his powers are reduced dramatically. From this time, conditions in the school improved.
Miss Temple marries the Rev. Mr. Nasmyth, and Jane is sorry to lose this
role model who had become a surrogate mother for her.
Jane has now been at Lowood for six years as a pupil, and now two years as a
teacher, but she feels she needs to search for a ‘new servitude’.
She says, “My world had for some years been in Lowood: my experience had been its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real world was wide and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse.”
Jane had a sleepless night, and it seemed to her that a voice spoke telling
her to seek liberty from the prison that Lowood was to her.
Jane resolves to place an advertisement in ‘The Herald’ for a position as
Governess, to which she receives one response from Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield. Jane is offered the position provided she can obtain suitable references, and after what seems an age, she obtains these from the
governing board of the school, who cannot fault her for the service she has put in at Lowood.
The day before she leaves, Jane receives a surprise visit from Bessie Lee,
who gives Jane all the news concerning the Reed family. Bessie has married and has two children. She says that Mrs. Reed received a visit from John Eyre, Jane’s uncle wishing to trace his niece before he
took ship for Madeira. He did not have the time to come to Lowood to visit Jane.
As a result of the ill treatment to the girls of
Lowood, some have little resistance to the typhus epidemic that strikes them down.
It is fortunate that Jane has two friends in Helen and Mary, for when Helen
dies of consumption; she still has Mary to fall back on.
When Jane goes to see Helen on her last night, she tells Jane that she is
very happy, and “when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about.
We all must die one day, '' by dying young I shall escape great sufferings '' I believe; I have faith: I am going to God.”
Jane says, “and shall I see you again, Helen when I die?”
“No doubt dear Jane.”
Helen was buried in an unmarked grave in Brocklebridge Churchyard until
fifteen years later when a headstone was erected and the word, “Resurgam” was inscribed, which means ‘I shall rise again’.
Jane makes good use of her time at Lowood and expands her education.
She has no idea how she has developed until she meets with Bessie prior to
her departure from Lowood. Bessie is surprised at Jane’s education, and that she far outstretches her cousins Georgiana and Eliza Reed.
There is a further hint of the Gothic in the story by the way in which Jane
is spurred on to escape Lowood and obtain a life outside even though she refers to it as “a new servitude”.
The reader must also sense that the reference made to her Uncle John Eyre
will have some relevance later on in the story.