#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.

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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

#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