#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter9 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 9

Resurgam: When Helen Burns Died In My Arms

The frosts of winter ceased, and the hardships of Lowood lessened. Serene May brought days of blue sky, placid sunshine, and soft gales. Lowood shook loose its tresses; it became all green and flowery and its great elm, ash, and oak skeletons were restored to majestic life.

The forest-dell, where Lowood lay, was the cradle of pestilence, breathed typhus through its crowded walls, and the seminary was transformed into a hospital. Disease became an inhabitant of Lowood, and death its frequent visitor.

Semi-starvation and neglected colds had predisposed most of the pupils to receive infection: forty-five out of the eighty girls lay ill at one time. Classes were broken up, rules relaxed.

Miss Temple’s whole attention was absorbed by the patients. She lived in the sick room. The girls who were fortunate enough to have friends and relations able and willing to remove them left, some went home only to die, others died at the school, and were buried quietly and quickly.

But I, and the rest who continued well, rambled in the wood, like gipsies, from morning till night doing what we liked. We lived better too. Mr. Brocklehurst never came near Lowood and the cross housekeeper was gone, driven away by the fear of infection; her successor provided with comparative liberality, and besides, there were fewer to feed.

My favourite place was a smooth and broad stone, rising white and dry from the middle of the beck, which was broad enough to accommodate, comfortably, another girl and me. My chosen comrade, Mary Ann Wilson, was witty and original. She was older than I and knew more of the world, so she told me many things I liked to hear.

Helen had been removed to the hospital portion of the house with the fever patients; for her complaint was consumption. On sunny afternoons, I watched Miss Temple take her into the garden wrapped in a blanket from the schoolroom window, as I was not allowed to speak to her.

One evening on returning from my walk I saw Mr. Bates, the surgeon, with a nurse and I asked her, ‘How is Helen Burns?’

‘Very poorly. Mr. Bates has been to see her.’

‘And what does he say about her?’

‘He says she’ll not be here long.’

“Where is she?”

‘She is in Miss Temple’s room.’

That night when my companions in the dormitory were all wrapt in profound repose, I crept out and set off in quest of Helen. I had to give her one last kiss and exchange with her one last word before she died.

I found the door slightly ajar and saw the outline of Helen’s body in a little crib. 

‘Helen!’ I whispered softly, ‘are you awake?’

She was pale, wasted, but quite composed. ‘Can it be you, Jane? Why are you here?’

‘I heard you were very ill, and I could not sleep till I had spoken to you.’

‘You are just in time probably.’

‘Are you going home, Helen?’

‘Yes; to my last home. I am very happy, Jane; 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, and the illness which is removing me is not painful; it is gentle and gradual: my mind is at rest. I leave no one to regret me much. By dying young, I shall escape great sufferings. I had not qualities or talents to make my way very well in the world: I should have been continually at fault.’

‘But where are you going, Helen?’

‘I am going to God.’

‘Where is God? What is God?’

‘My Maker and yours, who will never destroy what He created. I rely implicitly on His power, and confide wholly in His goodness.’

‘You are sure that there is such a place as heaven, and that our souls can get to it when we die?’

‘I am sure there is a future state; I believe God is good; I can resign my immortal part to Him without any misgiving. God is my father; God is my friend: I love Him; I believe He loves me.’

‘And shall I see you again, Helen, when I die?’

‘You will come to the same region of happiness: be received by the same mighty, universal Parent, no doubt, dear Jane.’

I lay with my face hidden on her neck and she said, ‘I feel as if I could sleep: but don’t leave me, Jane; I like to have you near me.’

‘I’ll stay with you, Helen; no one shall take me way.’

She kissed me, and I her, and we both soon slumbered.

The next morning, I was carried back to the dormitory and learnt that Miss Temple had found me laid in the little crib with my arms round Helen’s dead body.

Her grave is in Brocklehurst churchyard: for fifteen years after her death it was only covered by a grassy mound; but now a grey marble tablet marks the spot, inscribed with her name, and the word ‘Resurgam.’

This chapter is a disturbing combination of carefree time away from school, frolicking in the woods in the budding spring, during the month of May, and the dreadful typhus outbreak, which affected half of the girls at Lowood.

Jane made a new friend and was allowed to run wild in the woods, while the teachers looked after the sick girls. Unfortunately, her best friend, Helen Burns, was taken ill and later died in her arms. The way ten-year-old Jane recounts these dreadful events in such a matter-of-fact way, as if they are not such dreadful hardships, is disquieting.

I still remember the first time I read the paragraph in which she describes how Helen died in her arms while she slept, and it still sends shivers up my spine. I suppose hardship, death and disease were a normal part of Victorian life, but the degree of acceptance, bordering on lack of feeling, is heart wrenching. 

I found her narration of the typhus epidemic detached, as if the suffering of so many girls didn’t affect her and she was happy to spend her days having fun in the woods.

The way she narrates Helen’s death is also strangely disconnected. She must have been cold and breathing with difficulty when she died, but Jane says nothing of that, or how she feels about her friend’s death. Her reaction, the next day, when she found out her friend had died in her arms is oddly cool. The little girl has learned to control her deepest thoughts and emotions from everyone, including the reader.    

The event definitely affected her as she tells the reader she returned in 15 years’ time, at 25, after she had married Mr Rochester, to lay a headstone on her friend’s grave. The word ‘resurgam’ is Latin for “I shall rise again.” And it’s found in the Bible referred to the resurrection of Christ on the third day. Helen was fervently religious, as we can see from the extract. Helen was a fundamental influence in Jane’s religious beliefs and faith in God, especially regarding life after death. 

After everything she has already gone through, the reader is now more aware than ever that Jane will survive any crisis life throws in her way.

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 10! 

Images from Pixabay

#ThursdayPhotoThoughts ‘5 Steps to Writing a Poem’ #March2021 @Pixabay #Poetry #ThursdayMotivation

Today’s just one of those days…

The Moon's hiding
In night's black cave,
The darkest hour,
Seconds before 
You surrender,
The moment when
Hope has devoured
Your weary dreams,
Open your eyes,
Look up to sky,
The cloud has passed,
The moon is always there,
However dark the night.
@LucciaGray

Being almost 62, I’ve had a few dark days and the advantages of having so much experience is that I have some strategies to overcome some of those bleak moments we all have, now and again, sometimes for a reason, but often for none at all.

Here’s what I do. I have my WAM, or water and music therapy, described in this post, where I remind myself that I’m invincible. Other times I give in to my melancholy and write a poem. I love writing poems, and it comes fairly easily, but a proper poem to show the world takes at least two hours, plus sometimes I just leave it to rest in my mind and come back later or another day to revise or finish.

5 Steps to writing a poem when you’re feeling blue.

This is what works for me. You need pen and paper or your journal, that’s it. Optional: music, favourite poems, films etc.

First I just freewrite, stream-of-consciousness style. I get it all off my chest, but I put a time and length limit (I don’t want to (over)wallow in my misery), of about ten minutes or one page in my notebook or sheet of paper. This is really helpful, because it helps me understand how I’m feeling. That in itself will make you feel much better, but let’s continue.

Secondly, I look at the words and expressions I’ve used. In this case I had darkest hour, dark night, no hope, pitch black, dark cave, loss, sentences such as ‘the darkest moment is just before dawn’ came to mind, etc. . On another, clean page, write the main words or short phrases, taken from what you’ve written, each on a separate line. At this point You can think of song lyrics and poems or even film or book titles that align with your feelings and add the lines or words, or any other words and short phrases which come to mind.

Thirdly. Congratulations, your poem is there, but now you have to give your words a rhythm. I like to work with syllables, which is why I love haikus 5-7-5 or tankas 5-7-5-7-7. It’s simple, and it works. Order your words into the syllables and lines. You should be able to come up with a few short poems. You don’t need to use all the words, you wrote, just a few to highlight your feelings, and you can add synonyms for rhyming purposes.

Fourthly, Great! We’re nearly there. I play around with syllables and sounds, this time I’m paying closer attention to the meaning or feelings I wish to transmit. Here I often change the syllables and rhythm to suit my words and feelings. Today’s poem above is not a haiku or tanka, it’s mostly four syllable lines, except the last two which have six syllables.

This is how my poem started off this morning,

Finally, because fifthly sounds funny, you need a new sheet of paper and write out your rough version or versions, you may have more than one. You add the final touches and if you’re happy, type it out and show it to the world, and if it doesn’t sound quite right and your inspiration is in tatters, put it in a drawer and come back later to finish.

Whatever you’ve written, I bet you feel better already. I always do! And, of course, I don’t publish them all. Some never get properly polished, they’re just for me and my journal.

Do you write poems when you’re feeling blue?

All pictures from pixabay and all thoughts my own, although I’m sure someone has already expressed some of them.

#SilentSunday ‘SIX Things that Happened in March 2021’ #OneWordSunday #haiku

Six little flowers and six little big things which happened this month, because each day is made up of wonderful little occasions which make life’s happy moments. These photos were taken over the last few days during my walks.

Every small flower

Brings a huge smile to my lips

Little things matter

1- My daughter and grandson, who live in Germany, stayed for two weeks.
2- I walked 182 kilometers, an average of 6K daily, which is my best so far this year.
3- I’ve kept up my morning, blogging and writing routine which I planned in January, about 90% of the month.
4- I’ve completed all 3 edits of Blood Moon and a revised edition of All Hallows at Eyre Hall to be published in May and June 2021.
5- I’ve gathered research, planned the main plot and character arcs of Christmas at Eyre Hall, to be published in December 2021.
6- I’ve uploaded my first podcast of a blog post (yesterday’s) on Spotify via Anchor.

This post was written in response to the One Word Sunday challenge on Debbie Smyth’s blog, Travel with Intent. Pop over and join in!

#SoCS Stream of Consciousness Saturday ‘The Question is Who, and the answer is…’ #SaturdayThoughts #Tanka

This post was written in response to Linda Hill’s weekly Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. 

 This week’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday Linda has asked us to begin a post starting with the word ‘who’. Join in and have fun!

This morning, as I do most mornings, as part of my morning routine, I wrote my morning pages. There are many ways to write your morning pages, more in tomorrow’s post, but for me it’s just one page of free writing which takes about ten minutes to write in my journal. This morning I responded to Linda’s prompt and started with the word ‘who’. Here’s what I wrote.

****

The Question is ‘Who’, and the Answer is….

Who said life would be easy, or fun, or even interesting?

Who told you all your dreams would come true?

Who predicted true love and happiness were in your path?

Perhaps it was your parents, or a TV ad or programme, or a grandparent, friend, teacher, or even a therapist?

Or maybe You decided that You were worth it, that You were enough, that it was You who foretold and visualised your future and then made it come true by turning wishes into goals with careful planning, perseverance, hard work, motivation and determination? And why not? A little help along the way.

It was You who made the promises, and it is You who can make them come true.

Who said it was possible, valuable and deserved? You

Who said it was impossible, worthless or undeserved? You

Who is right either way? You

It is always You. So, believe in yourself, work on yourself, plan to make your dreams become goals and make them come true, because your life is a gift, and You have the power; it’s in your hands.

The question is WHO, and the answer is YOU.

Writing this post has reminded me of the poem Invictus by William Ernest Henley.

Here’s the last stanza:

It matters not how strait the gate,
      How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
      I am the captain of my soul.

I Hope you’re having a wonderful Saturday! Take care and stay safe.

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter8 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 8

How I was promoted to a higher class

Five o’clock struck; school was dismissed, and all were gone into the refectory to tea. I ventured to descend from the stool, sat on the floor, and overwhelmed by grief, I wept. I had been crushed and trodden on and ardently I wished to die.

Helen Burns approached with my coffee and bread. ‘Come, eat something,’ she said and sat beside me; but I would have choked in my present condition.

‘Helen, why do you stay with a girl whom everybody believes to be a liar?’

‘There are only eighty people who have heard you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions.’

‘But what have I to do with millions? The eighty, I know, despise me.’

‘Jane, not one in the school either despises or dislikes you: many, I am sure, pity you.’

‘How can they pity me after what Mr. Brocklehurst has said?’

‘Mr. Brocklehurst is little liked here. Had he treated you as a favourite, you would have found enemies. Teachers and pupils may look coldly on you for a day or two, but friendly feelings will prevail if you persevere in doing well.’

I put my hand into hers, and she chafed my fingers gently to warm them. ‘If others don’t love me, I would rather die than live—I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen.’

‘Hush, Jane! You think too much of the love of human beings; you are too impulsive, too vehement. Besides this earth, and besides the race of men, there is an invisible world and a kingdom of spirits who are commissioned to guard us. God waits only the separation of spirit from flesh to crown us with a full reward of happiness and glory.’

Helen’s words had calmed me. I rested my head on her shoulder and we reposed in silence until Miss Temple approached.

‘Jane Eyre, I want you in my room. Helen Burns may come too.’

We walked through the intricate passages and mounted a staircase to her apartment, which contained a cheerful fire.  

‘Have you cried your grief away?’ she asked.

‘I have been wrongly accused. Everybody thinks me wicked.’

‘If you continue to act as a good girl, you will satisfy us.’ said she, passing her arm round me. ‘And now tell me who is the lady whom Mr. Brocklehurst called your benefactress?’

‘Mrs. Reed, my uncle’s wife. My uncle made her promise on his deathbed that she would always keep me.’

‘When a criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his own defence.’

So I told her the story of my sad childhood. I mentioned Mr. Lloyd’s visit after the frightful episode of the red room.

‘I shall write to Mr Lloyd; if his reply agrees with your statement, you shall be publicly cleared from every imputation; to me, Jane, you are clear now.’

She kissed me and keeping me at her side she addressed Helen Burns.

‘How is the pain in your chest? Have you coughed much to-day?’

‘I am a little better.’

‘Tonight, you are my visitors.’ She rang her bell.

‘Barbara,’ she said to the servant who answered it, ‘I have not yet had tea; bring tea and bread and butter for these two young ladies.’

When Barbara said Mrs. Harden, the housekeeper, had refused the extra food, Mrs Temple unlocked a drawer, and gave us some seedcake which tasted like nectar and ambrosia.

Then I was struck with wonder as Helen and Miss Temple spoke of nations and times past; of countries far away; and books they had read, including French and Latin texts.

The following morning, Miss Scatcherd wrote ‘Slattern’ on a piece of pasteboard and bound it round Helen’s forehead as a punishment for her untidiness. The moment Miss Scatcherd left, I tore it off and thrust it into the fire.

About a week later, Miss Temple received Mr Lloyd’s reply in which he corroborated my account, and Miss Temple assembled the whole school and announced that I was completely cleared.

Thus relieved of a grievous load, I resolved to pioneer my way through every difficulty. I toiled hard, and my success was proportionate to my efforts. In a few weeks I was promoted to a higher class and in less than two months I was allowed to commence French and drawing.

I learned the truth of Solomon’s words: ‘Better is a dinner of herbs where love is, than a stalled ox and hatred therewith.’

I would not now have exchanged Lowood with all its privations for Gateshead and its daily luxuries.

This chapter begins with ten-year-old Jane going as far as to wish her own death after the humiliation suffered because of Mr Brocklehurst’s false accusations.

Although Helen’s words console her, it is Miss Temple’s kindness and her promise to get in touch with Mr Lloyd in order to clear Jane’s name that she is hopeful, Jane finally regains her self-esteem and motivation and her life takes an unexpected turn for the best when her name is cleared and her efforts are rewarded and she can learn French and Drawing, her favourite subjects.

Despite its dire beginning, we have a hopeful chapter in Jane’s childhood, at last.  

Her knowledge of French is what will enable her to become Adele’s governess, and her Mr Rochester is impressed with her drawings when he meets her. Jane is learning to control her temper and the value of hard work to improve her station in life.

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 9! 

Images from Pixabay

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter7 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

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.

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is jane-on-stool.1-1.jpg

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!

Images from Pixabay

#ThursdayPhotoThoughts ‘Invincible’ #March2021 @Pixabay #Haiku #ThursdayMotivation

Today I needed a WAM Morning, that is my Water And Music therapy. Step 1: I get up and jump into the shower while my favourite motivating song/s of the moment are playing, loud enough to block out my terrible singing!

The songs vary depending on my mood. Today it was The Champion sung by Carrie Underwood on replay, and by the time I went downstairs for Step 2: my first cup of tea, I already felt energised. I did 7 minutes of quick exercises, stretches and breathing while the water boiled, as usual. Step 3: I then carried my tea into my study and write my morning pages in my journal, again as usual.

I don’t follow any set rules for my morning pages; I freewrite whatever I need to say to myself or get off my chest, or what I’ve dreamed of, or what I’m worried or happy about, for no longer than ten minutes. I have a busy day ahead, so there’s no point in wasting more time than is strictly necessary on brooding or daydreaming.

And now I’m ready for Step 4: to face the day with a big smile on my face!

What do you do to bring a smile to your face on a challenging morning?

All pictures from pixabay and all thoughts my own, although I’m sure someone has already expressed some of them.

 

#SoCS Stream of Consciousness Saturday ‘Stay Calm’ #SaturdayThoughts

This post was written in response to Linda Hill’s weekly Stream of Consciousness Saturday prompt. 

This week’s prompt for Stream of Consciousness Saturday Linda has asked us to use a word starting with the letters “cal” as our prompt word. Join in and have fun!

****

Stay Calm

Calm is a word which has become one of my favourites. Every day is full of tiny problems which give could lead to disaster if I don’t find a solution. A broken washing machine, losing my car keys, forgetting my best friend’s birthday, a toothache, a traffic jam which makes me late to an important appointment, a bad hair day…

On any day, so many little things can go wrong and cause havoc, but if I react by losing my nerves, which I sometimes do, it only makes matters worse. On the other hand, I can usually find simple solutions to most small, daily problems if I react calmly.

Machines can be repaired, if it’s urgent I can access a dry cleaners or laundromats, hairdresser’s, dentists, or an Uber. If I calm down, I can find most misplaced objects (once I put the keys in the freezer and found them retracing my steps!). A heartfelt apology or an honest excuse will often work wonders when I’ve made a mistake. Responding to a rude client (in my case student) with more rudeness or anger will only increase the problem, calm them down or ask them to leave. But if I’m worked up, the solution to even the simplest problem becomes impossible.

So how do I calm down when I’m feeling hysterical? The following simple activities take between 2 and 10 minutes and I find they usually help me relax.

1- Controlling my breathing does wonders, I love the breathing technique recommended by Dr Chatterjee; three in, hold for four and breathe out in five, then repeat until I feel calmer.

2- If I can, I find a quiet spot and close my eyes, and breathe slowly and visualise the problem and think of a solution.

3- I’m a great believer in the power of writing lists, so just sitting down for a few minutes and writing a list of possible solutions, also helps.

4- Asking for help. If I can’t solve it myself, I think about who I could phone and ask for help.

How do you keep calm? 

#JaneEyreFF Rereading Jane Eyre in #FlashFiction #Chapter6 #VictorianFiction #CharlotteBronte

Jane Eyre in Flash Fiction Chapter 6

My First Conversation with Helen Burns

The north-east wind, which whistled through the crevices of our bedroom windows all night long, had frozen the water in our pitchers. After an hour and a half of prayers and Bible-reading, I felt ready to perish with cold. I was grateful for today’s meagre portion of unburnt porridge, but I was still hungry.

Three months had passed; it was March. Being little accustomed to learn by heart, the morning lessons appeared to me both long and difficult and the frequent change from task to task, bewildered me.

In the afternoon, as I sat in a quiet corner of the schoolroom doing needlework, I watched Miss Scatcherd make a girl called Burns the object of her constant scolding.

‘You dirty, disagreeable girl!’ she said and inflicted on her neck a dozen strokes with the bunch of twigs.

After classes, I saw the girl reading a book by the dim glare of the embers.

‘Is it still ‘Rasselas’?’ I asked.

‘Yes, and I have just finished it.’

‘What is your name besides Burns?’

‘Helen.’

‘Do you come a long way from here?’

‘I come from the borders of Scotland.’

‘Will you ever go back?’

‘I hope so; but nobody can be sure of the future.’

‘You must wish to leave Lowood?’

‘No! I was sent to Lowood to get an education.’

‘But Miss Scatcherd, is so cruel to you.’

‘She dislikes my faults.’

‘If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose.’

‘If you did, Mr. Brocklehurst would expel you from the school. It is far better to endure patiently, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you; and besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil.’

‘But it is disgraceful to be publicly flogged.’

‘I am careless, and I forget rules. I provoke Miss Scatcherd, who is naturally neat, punctual, and particular.’

‘Is Miss Temple as severe to you as Miss Scatcherd?’

At the utterance of Miss Temple’s name, she smiled. ‘Miss Temple is full of goodness; she sees my errors and tells me of them gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives it to me.’

‘If we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard, so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again.’

‘You will change your mind, I hope, when you grow older.’

‘I must resist those who punish me unjustly.’

‘Heathens and savage tribes hold that doctrine, but Christians and civilised nations disown it.’

I could not comprehend this doctrine of endurance. ‘How?’

‘It is not violence that best overcomes hate—nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury.’

‘What then?’

‘Read the New Testament, and observe what Christ says, and how He acts; make His word your rule, and His conduct your example.’

‘What does He say?’

‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you.’

Helen listened patiently as I told her about my aunt’s cruelty. ‘Would you not be happier if you tried to forget her severity, together with the passionate emotions it excited? Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs. Revenge disgusts me. I live in calm, looking to the end.’

A monitor, a great rough girl, interrupted us, exclaiming, ‘Helen Burns, if you don’t put your drawer in order, I’ll tell Miss Scatcherd to come and look at it!’

Helen sighed and obeyed without reply as without delay.

In this chapter Jane is an angry, bitter child who hates the world and is on a crusade against injustice, but Helen, who is a few years older and has a calmer character, teaches her that it is better to adopt Christian values, not hold grudges or hate, and bear whatever life sends your way.

At this point, Jane doesn’t agree with her new friend, but as the novel progresses, she will adopt some of Helen’s ideas, for example, she will eventually forgive her aunt on her deathbed.

The chapter also brings up an interesting debate on education and the merits of strict discipline versus kindness and understanding. Miss Temple prefers a sympathetic approach, while Miss Scatcherd’s teachings force Helen to face her shortcomings by using humiliation and violence. Jane prefers the first approach and Helen the second. We will soon see, when Jane is a teacher, which one of the two prevails.

Regarding Helen’s stoic philosophy, it is influenced by the Bible and Rasselas, a philosophical novel published in 1759 by Samuel Johnson.

Rasselas is the Prince of Abyssinia, who lives a life of luxury in Happy Valley, but at 26, bored with his pleasurable but unhappy life, he decides to travel the world and discover whether it’s possible for mankind to attain happiness. He finally returns to his Happy Valley and accepts that life on earth is not meant to be happy.

Rasselas has realised that the search for happiness on Earth is futile. Everyone is unhappy regardless of their circumstances and situation. Consequently, Man should search for God by focusing on one’s immortal soul, and thereby reach eternal happiness after death.

Helen is telling Jane that happiness does not depend on external circumstances, but that it is within ourselves. The kindness or cruelty we are subject to are merely different means to the same end: self-improvement or godliness. We must try to be the best version of ourselves in whichever circumstances we live by following the dictates of Christianity; ‘Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you.’ Because heaven will recompense you after death, as she says, ‘looking to the end.’

This is a fascinating and intense chapter with a profound discussion on education, happiness, and the meaning of life, bearing in mind that Jane is ten years old, although Helen is a few years older. Jane has not yet read Rasselas, although as it seems to be a required text at Lowood and she will read it in the future. As the novel progresses, Jane will tame her rebellious nature, although she will never be as meek and submissive as Helen.

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 7!

Images from Pixabay