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Mr Brocklehurst is a Christian “do-gooder” who wants to educate children

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Mr Brocklehurst, in Charlotte Bronte ‘s Jane Eyre, is the headmaster of Lowood Institution; a clergyman who feels like his mission in life is to “save” the young girls at Lowood and to point them in the direction of God, and all that is good and proper. I strongly disagree with the statement that Mr Brocklehurst is a Christian “do-gooder” who wants to educate children, and I shall be exploring this further within this essay. Schools in the Victorian era were expensive, if you were a family with little income and couldn’t afford the fees of a decent school, there was always the option of Charity Schools.

This is what the Lowood Institution is, a Charity School for girls whose parents could not afford to send them to a better school. These schools were unpleasant, for example the windows were placed high to deter the children from getting distracted by the outside world, this meant a great problem in ventilation and the lack of fresh air often caused children to faint. Corporal punishment was favoured over any other, the “Dunce” caps placed on the heads of pupils in which their progress was not deemed as good enough.

Teachers enjoyed humiliating the pupils as punishment, shown in Jane Eyre when Brocklehurst forces the young girl to stand on a chair for around half an hour just for dropping her slate. Pupils were beaten for stepping out of line, or breaking rules, being expected to “be seen and not heard”. Conditions were often unhygienic and disease spread quickly, causing many of deaths in the children. Two of Bronte’s sisters were killed by an outbreak of tuberculosis, her image of school perhaps not the most pleasant after her own experiences.

Her image of Brocklehurst could have been based largely on the headmaster of her school at this time, considering Jane Eyre is semi autobiographical. In chapter 4, when we first meet Brocklehurst, Jane describes him as a “black pillar”. In the bible it tells Christians to be like “pillars of light”. The colour black conjures dark, evil, threatening imagery, completely contradicting who Brocklehurst claims to be, a good Christian man wanting to help the souls of young girls. He is shown as callous and lifeless, “grim face”, “carved mask”.

The “mask” it speaks of could be the mask he presents to other adults, that he is running Lowood for the girls, and for God, Jane hinting at this mask to show Brocklehurst is not what he portrays himself to be. Brocklehurst is patronising towards Jane, his attitude demeaning her, “Your name, little girl? ” He treats Jane with little to no respect, it’s all very uniform and strict, with no compassion or kindness, surely a Christian man should be kind to the children he is trying to help? Brocklehurst judges Jane on her appearance as soon as he sees her, “he prolonged his scrutiny for some minutes”.

Brocklehurst judges her on appearance, however I believe that God wouldn’t care what someone looked like, as long as they had faith. Brocklehurst seems to take appearance over faith. Bronte sets out Jane’s thoughts of Brocklehurst almost like the big bad wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, “What a face he had… what a great nose! And what a mouth! And what large prominent teeth! ” This makes Brocklehurst look more like a savage predator than an innocent Christian headmaster.

Brocklehurst is gullible, as long as people do as he says, he doesn’t question it twice. “I have a little boy… ho knows six Psalms by heart: and when you ask him which he would rather have, a gingerbread-nut to eat, or a verse of a Psalm to learn he says: ‘Oh! The verse of a psalm! Angel sing psalms,’ says he; ‘I wish to be a little angel here below;’ he then gets to nuts in recompense for his infant piety… ” The young boy clearly knows exactly what to say to Mr Brocklehurst in order to receive two gingerbread-nuts instead of one, however he uses this against Jane in an attempt to make her look evil in the eyes of God, just because she isn’t as interested in the psalms as Brocklehurst is.

He fills Jane with fear at the thought of hell, informing her of how she will burn if she doesn’t make peace with God, “all liars will have their portion in the lake burning with fire and brimstone”. This seems a little contradictory, considering he rewarded a young boy with gingerbread-nuts even though the boy was only playing his gullible nature, and yet Jane doesn’t even lie, and yet she gets threatened with eternal torture in a lake of fire. Jane even refers to Brocklehurst as her “interrogator”, making him seem more threatening than caring, caring being the more Christian trait out of the two.

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