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How Charlotte Bronte conveys the experience of childhood and school in the first ten chapters of Jane Eyre

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At the beginning of Jane Eyre, Jane is at Gateshead. Gateshead creates a lonely, desolate contrast from the busy Victorian cities like London, and is also situated in the middle of nowhere. This means that there is no way of escape from Gateshead and because of this, Jane is forced to stay with her relatives, who treat her in a cruel and disrespectful way, due to the fact that she owns nothing. Charlotte Bronte portrays the Reed children as well dressed, well fed, happy and overall spoilt by Mrs Reed.

The said Eliza, John, and Georgina were now clustered around their Mama in the drawing Room. ” This portrays how the upper class children are loved and well treated, yet they still retain their selfishness and aloofness over Jane because she is not accepted by Mrs Reed, unlike her own children. This shows how in Victorian times people were labelled depending on the way they acted and the amount of possessions or money they owned, where the upper classes ruled over the lower working classes.

Mrs Reed is intolerant, strict and imposing. She despises Jane simply because she is not one of her own children who she loves and cares for. Mrs Reed had promised to Mr Reed before his death, when he was lying on his death bed that she would care of Jane as “one of her own”. However Mrs Reed had failed to maintain her oath, and instead treated her own children in more regard, with love and respect, whereas Jane was raised with no intentions of care or respect, and was cast out from the rest of the family.

Mrs Reed’s actions and words she uses towards Jane are often violent, as well as being mentally abusive to her, which makes her feel hurt inside as well as her physical pain inflicted by John. The effects this therefore leaves on Jane’s life, is that she is forced to believe that she is of a lower status than everyone else especially as Mrs Reed tells the rest of the children Jane is nothing and she is not worthy of being around them, the ones with money and family by saying “I told you not to go near her: She is not worthy of notice.

I do not choose that either you or your sisters should associate with her” Jane is very mature for her age which may be because she has had to grow up so fast, which is shown by the way she behaved when she was told by Mrs Reed that she couldn’t take part in story time until she had learnt some manners. She went into another room where she could be on her own with a book. The maturity is shown by her in being able to walk away. It also highlights her isolation from the family especially when she puts the curtain around her creating a barrier between her and ‘them. This is how Charlotte Bront shows the separation and difference between them. The isolation is also shown when Jane says “Me, she had dispensed from joining the group. ” This tells us how Jane is aware of how she is not wanted in the group from the very beginning of the book. The family isolated her at home so that she had nobody to turn to, to gain strength from so she became very vulnerable and they took advantage of that by bossing her around and intimidating her with their superiority and strength so that any normal child wouldn’t dare to talk back.

Jane, however, although she was very aware of her status stood up for what was right because she had strong views of what was wrong and right and what was fair and unfair. Lowood, the cheap boarding school Jane is sent to is more of a stricter, intolerant setting but in a united, and disciplined way. It also has a cold and spacious contrast, along with a cruel mood. Charlotte Bront portrays the school and teaching methods to show hardship, and not just for Jane, but also other pupils, by showing the obedient, unjust manner in which children were educated, within boarding schools, and these were those who were fortunate enough to be educated.

The school and teaching methods are shown, as very harsh and intolerant with little room for mistakes in such a cruel place. For example it says “for some error of pronunciation or some inattention to stops, she was suddenly sent to the very bottom. ” Although the methods used for even more undisciplined actions, were corporal punishment where the pupils were physically punished, as the text says, “the teacher instantly and sharply inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of twigs. ”

Charlotte Bront also contrasts different teachers to illustrate the right and wrong treatment of pupils, for example Miss Smith and Miss Scatcherd. Miss Smith is quiet, and placid with Jane as it says “I was glad, when about three o’ clock in the afternoon, Miss Smith put into my hands a border of muslin two yards long, ” which shows how Jane is more calm, under the solo teaching of Miss Smith. Whereas Miss Scatcherd is a prime example of the hardship of childhood at this time and whose presence causes more tension within the bigger classes, as her treatment of pupils is often very intolerant and demanding of them.

An example of this is when Miss Scatcherd says “nothing can correct you of your slatternly habits: carry the rod away. ” The overall impression of Lowood is that it is very military in the sense that it is wake up, work, eat, work, play, work, bed. It isn’t a relaxed timetable, it is all precisely timed. I also feel it is a very basic place because of the lack of food and the quantity is small which not enough especially in winter.

The school doesn’t spend much money on luxuries such as heating and warm clothes because when the girls get up the water they are meant to wash with is frozen and the clothes they have to wear aren’t warm enough for winter. This is done to make them “hardy and self-reliant” as Mr Brocklehurst says. The hardships because of the weather lessen in spring, but typhus hits the school and some of the school is turned into a hospital. Over half the girls were sick or died which shows how badly it was handled by the school by letting it spread so far.

During this time, Jane’s friend Helen died from consumption which brings Jane back to isolation from other people as she has spent so much time with Helen. The main things that you notice about Lowood are the strictness and the harsh punishment. After all the bad experiences of Lowood, it would all change in chapter ten when everybody finds out what the school is really like and improve it to make it a better experience for the pupils that go there. This makes Jane happy and she stays there for eight years, six as a student and two as a teacher.

The fact that Jane chose to stay there for two more years as a teacher shows that she liked the school and agreed with how it was being run. In conclusion Charlotte Bront has shown Jane’s experience of childhood to be hard and unpleasant because she was poor so she wasn’t accepted by her relatives who picked on her and harmed her mentally as well as physically. Charlotte Bront has portrayed the experience of Lowood School as a harsh environment because of the rules and the discipline for breaking those rules.

It also shows that there as a caring environment with some of the teachers such as Miss Temple who care for the children because they know the children have to live in poor conditions. When the school is improved, it makes you like the school more because it has become pleasant, the children are well cared for and they like it at the school. You can see as Jane leaves Lowood to go to another school as a governess that she had grown up from a young vulnerable child to an assertive and confident woman.

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