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The nature of Charlotte Bronte’s views on education in Jane Eyre

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Charlotte Bronte tells the story of the life of Jane Eyre. Jane Eyre is an orphan living with her cruel, wealthy Aunt Reed (by marriage) and her 3 cousins, John, Eliza and Georgiana, who do not treat Jane fairly and constantly remind her she is dependant on them. Eventually, Jane is sent away to a boarding/ charity school for orphans and poor people called ‘Lowood Institution’, where not much money is spent on the pupils. They have awful accommodation and clothing, and not enough food. The school is extremely strict and devoted to religion. Jane spends ten years at Lowood, eight years as a student and two years as a teacher.

Jane Eyre’ was written in 1847, which were Victorian times. At that time, in Britain, women did not have many options where occupations were concerned. Jane was from the lower middle class, therefore her main options were to become a teacher or a governess; she also had the option of getting married and be dependant on a husband. Jane did not like the idea of being dependant, as she had been dependant on Mrs Reed, her benefactress, and was seen as unworthy; even the servants believed Jane was lower than them as she did not pay her own way. As Jane was an orphan, she had even worse chances and choices in life.

Charlotte Bronte’s mother died when she was young and her father was a clergyman. She used this in the story as Jane’s mother and father (who was a clergyman) died. Also, Charlotte’s Aunt came to help around the house when her mother died and she may have used this in the story on a count of Jane living with her Aunt Reed in the beginning of the story. Charlotte refers to religion a lot in ‘Jane Eyre’, mainly at Lowood, as they pray many times everyday and Mr Brocklehurst, the treasurer, uses Christianity to keep the girls humble and plain.

He also uses it as an excuse to punish, for example, when he cuts Helen Burns’s hair just because it curls naturally and he believes that plain girls should not have curly hair. He uses Christianity to make the girls behave and try to be good, although Mr Brocklehurst’s standards are ridiculous and unreachable. Christianity, school and religion were all a big part of Charlotte’s life, as she went to a boarding school, which was foundered on staunch religious principles and was very harsh. Also, at the time, almost everyone went to church regularly, said prayers before bed and read the bible.

In the early chapters of ‘Jane Eyre’, we learn that Jane is interested in reading fantasy tales, stories which include fairies and other magical creatures. Also, we learn that she is very religious, reads the bible and has values and morals. She likes to draw and do other creative things. This tells us that she will do well in the academic part of school however, she is also confident and outspoken, which means she probably would not do well with the strict rules and knowing not to answer back. In ‘Jane Eyre’, Jane’s cousin, John, went to school for a short while, but he was taken out by his mother ‘on a count of his ‘delicate’ health’.

The master of John’s school advised against it and against John eating so much. Jane likes the idea of going to school. Bessie, an employee of the Reeds’, told Jane about a school she had attended where there had been ‘beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them’. She also likes the idea of singing, French etc. She also knows John hated his school, but decided John Reed’s tastes were ‘no rule for mine’. When Jane is being interrogated by Mr Brocklehurst, who is the treasurer of the charity school mentioned in the summary.

He visits the Reeds’ home to interview Jane to decide whether he will allow her into ‘Lowood’. Mrs Reed finally decided to send Jane away to school because Jane stood up to Mrs Reed and then she decided to send Jane away. Plus, Mr Lloyd, the apothecary, suggests it to Mrs Reed to send Jane to school. She tells Mr Brocklehurst that she doesn’t want Jane home for holidays. We find out Mr Brocklehurst uses religion as a way of making the children behave well. He believes that religion is the most important thing above anything else.

He claims that his little boy would rather learn a psalm than eat a biscuit. He thinks Jane is evil just because she thinks that parts of the bible are not interesting: “Psalms are not interesting. ” I remarked. “That proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to change it; to give you a new and clean one; to take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. ” Mrs Reed thinks Jane is ‘deceitful’ and should not have a good life and should ‘suffer’ for her faults.

Mr Brocklehurst tells Mrs Reed that Lowood keeps the girls ‘humble’ and… Consistency, madam, is the first of Christian duties; and it has been observed in every arrangement connected with the establishment of Lowood: plain fare, simple attire, unsophisticated accommodations, hardy and active habits; such is the order of the day in the house and its inhabitants. ” In other words, if Jane went to the school she would have no luxuries. She would lead a dull and simple life. He believes that, as Christians, the girls should remain humble and should not have nice things. Lowood is a dark, dull building. It is a ‘long and irregular’ and is referred to as ‘Lowood Institution’, which gives it a negative connotation.

There are virtually luxuries at Lowood, as all 80 girls have to sleep in one room, sharing beds, and have to share one basin of water between six of them. Every morning at Lowood, a loud bell rings before dawn to wake the girls. They dress and wash and then, when the bell rings again, they go down to the schoolroom and prayers are read out to them by Miss Miller. For the next hour, they sit four to a table and read chapters from the bible and scriptures and then they go to another room for breakfast, which was sometimes burnt porridge.

Before eating, they say grace and sing a hymn. After eating, they say thanks for the food they had been given and then sing a second hymn. They then have a quarter of an hour free time before they have to go to lessons. They have lessons, such as Geography, History, grammar, writing, arithmetic and music. At twelve, they are given lunch and then go outside for some exercise. The bigger, healthier girls play sports and the weaker girls huddle together under a veranda to try to keep warm. There is also gardening as an extra curriculum activity.

Next, the girls are called for dinner. After dinner, they had more lessons until five o clock. Shortly after five, they have another meal of half a slice of brown bread and a small mug of coffee each. The girls then have thirty minutes of recreation, and then they study. After that, they are given a glass of water and a piece of oatcake. The girls say their prayers and go to bed at about nine o clock. The previous paragraph suggests that the girls have a very structured day at Lowood and do the same thing each day.

It is obvious that religion is a big part of their day, as they pray many times a day and sped a lot of there time reading the bible etc. Plus, the amount of, mainly plain and disgusting, food the girls are given is not enough and this is one of the main reasons typhus came to the school and infected so many girls. It is also a cause of the bad accommodations and situation of the school. It is all to do with the way Mr Brocklehurst runs the school, for example, the amount of money going to the school and making even the sick girls go outside in the cold.

Charlotte used her own school experiences in ‘Jane Eyre’, as she creates a positive image of Miss Temple, the teacher who is fairer and more sympathetic towards the girls, as someone who is clever and carries her self well. ‘In broad day light, she looked tall, fair and shapely; brown eyes with a benignant light in their irids, and a fine pencilling of long lashes round, relieved the whiteness of her large front; on each of her temples her hair, of very dark brown, was clustered in round curls, according to the fashion at the time. ‘

She is liked by all the girls. Miss Temple is very good and very clever; she is above the rest, because she knows far more than they do. ” However, the harsher teachers in the school are not liked by the girls and get a negative image. “Miss Scatcherd is hasty-you must take care not to offend her. ” Miss Temple is a kind teacher who treats the girls with respect and compassion. She helps Jane clear her name after Mrs Reed’s accusations. She is one of Jane’s first positive female role models (after Bessie); however, Jane believes that Miss Scatcherd is a sour and vicious teacher and that she picks on Helen Burns.

Bronte has the contrast between the two teachers to emphasise how different people treat children/ others and the effect it has on them. The girls are unfairly treated at Lowood and are constantly reminded of their place in society, as in they are dependant and must be humble and hard working. “We pay, or our friends pay, fifteen pounds a year each. ” “Then why do they call us charity children? ” “Because fifteen pounds is not enough for board and teaching, and the deficiency is supplied by subscription. ” “Who subscribes? ” Different benevolent-minded ladies and gentlemen in this neighbourhood and in London. ”

This conversation was between Jane and Helen Burns. It gives the impression that poor people are dependant on rich people-in other words, rich people are higher/ above poor people. The girls have virtually no luxuries or privileges. Also, they are punished for minor offences to the rules. For example, when Helen Burns doesn’t clean her nails properly, she is sharply whipped a dozen times with a bunch of twigs by Miss Scatcherd. At Lowood, the girls get ‘plain fare’ and ‘unsophisticated accommodations’.

The girls are made to share beds and are given simple, mainly burnt, plain food, of which there is not much for each person. Also, the food is so disgusting; a lot of it is inedible. Miss Temple realises how bad the food is and a very rare treat for the girls is brought in, consisting of bread and cheese. Mr Brocklehurst. The treasurer, also knows it I bad, but he still does not give any more money because his greedy and just wants money for himself to sustain his comfy lifestyle. He says that he believes it will keep the girls humble, which is extremely hypocritical, since he lives a relatively luxurious life.

Earlier in the book, Mr Brocklehurst tells Mrs Reed that when his daughter visited the school, she had said that all the girls look plain and ‘down’. She had also said that the girls looked strange in their unpleasant uniforms, as she wears nice clothes. When Jane first arrives at Lowood and meets Mr Brocklehurst again, he makes her stand on a stool, where all of the other girls can see her, and tells everyone that Jane is a liar and insists that no one shall be permitted to talk to her for the rest of the day. This humiliates Jane and undermines her confidence, by making her feel ashamed.

However, Miss Temple believes Jane is not a liar and writes to Mr Lloyd asking him about Jane and her manner/ actions. At this point, Miss Temple is spending more time with Jane and Helen and is getting to know her for her self. Mr Lloyds reply finally arrives confirming Jane’s story that she is innocent of the charges by Mr Brocklehurst. Miss Temple tells everyone that Jane is a good girl and restores Jane’s reputation. Helen and Jane are alike in many ways, as they are clever, studious and creative, but they are also different, for example, they have different interests when it comes to books.

Helen likes serious, grown-up books, such as ‘Rasselas’ by Dr Johnson; whereas Jane likes more childish stories with fairies and genii. Also, Helen accepts punishments and consequences of her actions. She practices a doctrine of Christian endurance, which means she will love her enemies and accept her privations. However, Jane strongly disagrees and believes that punishment for such minor things, like not cleaning their nails, is frivolous and unfair. “You must wish to leave Lowood? ” “No! Why should I? I was sent to Lowood to get an education; and it would be of no use going away until I have attained that object. ”

“But that teacher, Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you. ” “Cruel? Not at all! She is severe: she dislikes my faults. ” “And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose. ” Jane likes Miss Temple and feels she is a great teacher and a great person. Jane wants to be like her. All the girls like Miss Temple, especially Helen and Jane: At the utterance of Miss Temple’s name, a soft smile fitted over her grave face.

“Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any one, even the worst in the school: she sees my errors and tells me of them gently; and, if I do any thing worthy of praise, she gives me my meed liberally. One strong proof of my wretchedly defective nature is, that even her expostulations, so mild, so rational, have not influence to cure me of my faults, and even her praise, though I value it most highly, can not stimulate me to continued care and foresight. ‘ Also, Jane appreciates that Miss Temple believes Jane is a good child and is not deceitful.

Miss Temple is concerned about the girls’ health and wishes to help nurse them back to health, especially when typhus invades the school, even though she is at risk of catching the illness. Eventually, it is found out that Mr Brocklehurst’s negligent treatment of the girls is found to be the cause of typhus coming to the school, so a new group of overseers is brought to run the school and control the money going to the school.

Mr Brocklehurst is still technically involved, yet he is massively discredited. The conditions of the school and the treatment of the girls are dramatically improved. Jane’s further six years as a student at Lowood is generally enjoyable and she excels in all her subjects. I think Charlotte Bronte thought schools were too harsh on the students, especially in the charity/ lower class schools. Charlotte probably remembered her own experiences at school and used her memories to describe Jane’s experiences at Lowood Institution.

It also comes across that richer people can do what they want and take education for granted, in the case of John Reed, who abused his master and did what he wanted at school, yet he still wanted to leave school and stay at home. I think Bronte thought children could benefit from having different kinds of teachers, as it is mentioned that the girls generally behaved and were sincerely pleasant and polite to Miss Temple, as she was kind to them and respected them, however, they behaved extremely well for Miss Scatcherd and never put a foot out of line out of fear, therefore they behaved, but felt that they could not talk to her.

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