Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 7
Chapter VII Mr Brocklehurst’s Visit to Lowood
My first quarter at Lowood was an irksome struggle as I habituated myself to new rules and unwanted tasks. The deep snows of January, February, and March, meant impassable roads which prevented our stirring beyond the garden walls, except to go to church which was even colder than Lowood. Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were our feet.
The scanty supply of food was distressing: with the keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to keep alive a delicate invalid. This deficiency of nourishment resulted an abuse, the older girls would coax or menace the little ones, like me, out of their portions.
Mr. Brocklehurst’s first visit occurred a month after my arrival. I dreaded that he had come to keep the promise he pledged to my aunt to apprise Miss Temple and the teachers of what he described as my vicious nature.
I was near enough to hear him complain to Miss Temple that we were getting extra clothes, bread and cheese without his authorisation.
‘Madam, You are aware that my plan in bringing up these girls is, not to accustom them to habits of luxury and indulgence, but to render them hardy, patient, self-denying, encouraging them to evince fortitude under temporary privation, such as the torments of martyrs and the exhortations of our blessed Lord Himself who said. ‘If ye suffer hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye.’
He then turned his wrath on Julia Severn. “Why is her red hair worn in a mass of curls? Their hair must be arranged modestly and plainly. That girl’s hair must be cut off entirely.’
Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted by three other visitors, his wife and daughters, splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs. The elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl, trimmed with ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls.
I had sat well back and held my slate up to conceal my face, but it slipped from my hand and fell with an obtrusive crash.
‘Let the child who broke her slate come forward!’ said Mr Brocklehurst.
When I stepped forward, he told someone to fetch a stool and I was placed there, hoisted up to the height of his nose.
‘Ladies,’ said he, turning to everyone. ‘It is my duty to warn you, that this girl is an interloper and an alien. You must be on your guard against her, avoid her company, exclude her from your sports, and shut her out from your converse. Teachers, you must watch her: keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinise her actions, punish her body to save her soul: if, indeed, such salvation be possible, this girl is a liar! Let her stand half-an-hour longer on that stool, and let no one speak to her during the remainder of the day.’
There was I, then, mounted aloft, in the middle of the room, exposed to general view on a pedestal of infamy.
Helen Burns passed by me, lifted her eyes, smiled and like an angel gave me her courage and strength to lift up my head, and stand firmly on the stool.
In this chapter we are informed that Jane is living in an inhospitable Lowood, suffering from extreme cold, and she is unhappy following many rules and carrying out unwanted tasks. She is also being underfed and bullied by the older girls who steal their meagre portions of food.
Mr Brocklehurst’s visit is devastating. Jane is insulted, defamed, humiliated and ridiculed in front of all the school, on a ‘pedestal of infamy’. Fortunately, she received courage from her friend, Helen Burns, to endure the ordeal.
Mr Brocklehurst’s splendidly attired daughters are a striking contrast to the poor, underfed and skimpily dressed girls at Lowood. Another minor detail, which I have included because of its significance, is that fact that Mr Brocklehurst orders Julia Severn’s curls to be cut off, while his wife is wearing ‘a false front of French curls’. Perhaps the curls will be used to make a wig for his wife?
The way the clergyman uses the name of ‘The Blessed Lord’ to justify the cruelty with which he expects the girls at Lowood to be treated, makes him a major villain in the novel. Although he has a minor role, he is the most despicable character and the greatest villain in the novel, much worse than her Aunt Reed, because he has been gravely mistreating all the girls at Lowood for years, for his own financial gain.
The plot thickens. Jane finds herself in a cruel and unjust situation once again. What will happen now? How will she move forward or out of the new pit she has been thrust into?
The summary is based on the free ebook by planet books which you can find here.
I’ll be posting a chapter of Jane Eyre in flash fiction every Friday. If you’re wondering why, read all about it here.
If you’d you’d like to Reread Jane Eyre with me, visit my blog every Friday for #JaneEyreFF posts.
See you next week for chapter 8!
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