Jane Eyre Summary and Analysis
Volume I, Chapters 6-10
Volume I, Chapter 6 Summary:
On her second day, Jane learns that life at Lowood School is difficult. The meals are hardly large enough to quell Jane’s hunger pangs, and the students are forced to sit through unending sermons. Jane becomes more friendly with Helen and observes as Miss Scatcherd continually berates and even whips Helen, who never makes any response. Helen tells Jane about her personal doctrine of endurance, since the Bible "'bids us return good for evil.'" She also refuses to call Miss Scatcherd cruel; she believes that she has numerous character flaws that Miss Scatcherd is correct to point out. Although Helen is very fond of Miss Temple and finds that she learns more from her, Helen tells Jane that Miss Temple’s mild-mannered teaching style does not force her to be actively good; rather, Helen is only passively good, and she believes "'there is no merit in such goodness.'" Jane disagrees with Helen's philosophy; she believes that one should repay goodness with goodness and cruelty with cruelty. She tells Helen about the Reed family, but Helen insists in a long speech that one must forgive one's enemies.
Helen presents her Christian philosophy of forgiveness and endurance: one must bear the sins of others, turn the other cheek, and love thy enemy. Jane, of course, is at odds with this idea, believing that standing up for herself often means fighting back. We have already witnessed several situations in which Jane availed herself of these tactics, particularly the fight against John and her lashing out at Mrs. Reed. The former led to her imprisonment in the red-room, while the latter was a short-lived victory that soon turned into remorse. While Helen's form of Christianity is not useful for Jane, neither is Jane's attitude of self-defense; she must find and develop her own brand of spirituality.
Volume I, Chapter 7 Summary:
Jane passes a difficult first quarter at Lowood, with both the snowy weather and strict environment contributing to her misery. After a long absence from the school, Mr. Brocklehurst visits Miss Temple's classroom and instructs her not to indulge the girls in the slightest way; their privations will remind them of the Christian ethic. He spots a girl with curly hair and deems it unacceptable for an evangelical environment, as are all the top-knots on the girls' heads. Jane, nervous that Mr. Brocklehurst will convey Mrs. Reed's warnings about her behavior to Miss Temple, accidentally drops her slate. Mr. Brocklehurst chastises her in front of the class and three visiting fashionable ladies (Mr. Brocklehurst's family) and tells everyone that she is a wicked liar. He orders Jane to stand on a stool in front of the class to repent for her wickedness and forbids any of the other students from talking to her. Jane’s only solace during the day is when Helen disobeys Mr. Brocklehurst’s orders and secretly smiles at her.
Jane attempts to test Helen's philosophy of Christian forgiveness when Mr. Brocklehurst punishes her. For the first time in her life, she does not fight back when she is mistreatment and accepts her humiliating punishment of standing on the stool. Yet, Jane inwardly seethes at the injustice and thinks, "I was no Helen Burns." Still, Helen’s encouraging smile gives Jane strength, and she feels less isolated even in her despair.
At this point in the text, Bronte points out that Mr. Brocklehurst's version of Christianity is made up of increasingly hypocritical flaws. Though he claims that privation leads to purity, his relatives are dressed in luxurious silks and furs, elegant ensembles that are in clear contrast to the tattered pinafores worn by the students at the school. Mr. Brocklehurst even wants to cut off one girl's naturally curly hair, simply because the curls seem to be an exhibition of vanity. His lust for absolute power over others reveals his truly unchristian nature and also speaks to the male dominated society of the time that provides him with a superior position to the benevolent Miss Temple.
Volume I, Chapter 8 Summary:
When school is dismissed, Jane falls to the floor, filled with self-pity and shame that all of the students despise her because of Mr. Brocklehurst’s false accusations. Helen assures her that everyone actually sympathize with her maltreatment. Jane tells Helen of her aching need to have love from others to survive, but Helen tells her that she puts too much stock in love from others; the rewards of spirituality and the glorious afterlife should be our ballast. Miss Temple finds them and takes Helen and Jane to her room, where she asks Jane to tell her version of the story concerning Mrs. Reed. Jane does, strongly insisting upon her innocence, and also mentions Mr. Lloyd's visit to her during her illness. Miss Temple believes her and promises to write Mr. Lloyd for corroboration; when he does, Jane's name will be cleared. She treats the girls to tea and cake and discusses intellectual matters with Helen.
The bedtime bell breaks the heavenly atmosphere, and Miss Scatcherd reprimands Helen for messiness as soon as the girls enter their bedroom. The next day Helen must wear the word "Slattern" on a paper crown around her forehead; at the end of the day, Jane tears it off for her and burns it. A week later Miss Temple announces to the school that Jane's name has been cleared of all of Mr. Brocklehurst’s charges, and she is officially reaccepted into the community. Jane is relieved to be cleared of blame and works harder in class, particularly in French and drawing. Despite its failings, Lowood is beginning to grow on her.
In this chapter, Jane reveals her constant need for love and affirmation from others. No doubt a result of her lonely and loveless time at Gateshead, Jane believes that love is the only thing that can make her happy. Helen counters by describing her belief that spirituality is enough; love in the earthly realm is nothing when compared to the spiritual love of God. While it is clear that Jane will never accept these notions completely, Helen is correct in noting that Jane needs to be less reliant on others. In order to gain independence and strength of character, Jane must learn to be dependent on herself and rely less on the love of those around her.
As we have seen before, Bronte uses ice as a motif for cruel, negative destruction, and fire fans out as a symbol of goodness and creation. The fire in Miss Temple's room warms the girls, as does Miss Temple's kindness, conversation, and cake. More interestingly, Jane burns Helen's shameful "Slattern" crown in fire; even when destructive, fire can serve a sort of positive destruction that obliterates evil in the world. This idea of destructive fire as a positive source will reappear in the actions of Bertha Mason later in the text.
Volume I, Chapter 9 Summary:
As spring arrives, Lowood becomes a more pleasant place. However, the warmer temperatures and dampness of the neighboring forest are ideal for breeding disease, and more than half the girls at the school fall ill with typhus. The disease is particularly bad because of the neglectful care that the students receive at the school. Jane, one of the healthy students, enjoys the outdoors, all the more so because Mr. Brocklehurst no longer visits the school. Jane is shocked to learn that Helen is dying, not of typhus, but of consumption. She is not allowed to visit Helen in Miss Temple's room, but Jane sneaks in at night, hoping for one last conversation. Helen accepts her impending death and place in heaven, and tells Jane not to grieve for her; she is happy to be entering heaven. Jane falls asleep in her arms, and Helen dies during the night. Her grave is unmarked at first, but fifteen years later, a marble tablet is placed over it inscribed with the Latin word "Resurgam," or "I will rise again."
Helen maintains her Christian beliefs to the moment of her death, and she fulfills her representation as a Christ figure for Jane, dying so that Jane can learn more of what it means to be a Christian. Although Jane’s devotion to Helen is moving, she continues to question Helen's unshakable faith; she wonders, though does not speak aloud, if heaven truly does exist. Although Jane is not willing to accept fully everything that Helen espouses, the "Resurgam" tablet on Helen’s grave (placed by Jane, it seems) indicates that she has adapted Helen’s beliefs to her own ideology.
Volume I, Chapter 10 Summary:
The epidemic of typhus fever incites an investigation into Lowood's unhealthy conditions and Mr. Brocklehurst’s management of the school, and a new group of overseers takes control of the school. With Mr. Brocklehurst’s dishonor, the quality of the school improves immensely, and Jane and the other students are able to focus on their education. Jane excels as a student under Miss Temple’s guidance for six years and then works as a teacher for an additional two years. When Miss Temple marries and leaves Lowood, Jane is left feeling empty and searching for a "new servitude,” a new job serving someone else. She places a newspaper advertisement in search of a post as governess and gains employment for a Mrs. Fairfax at Thornfield Manor. Before Jane leaves to take up this position, she is overjoyed by a visit from Bessie, who is now married to the coachman, Robert Leaven. Bessie brings news of the Reed family, informing Jane that John had become a compulsive gambler and alcoholic while Georgiana had attempted to elope with a certain Lord Edwin Vere but had been foiled by Eliza’s intervention. Bessie also mentions that Mr. John Eyre, Jane’s uncle, had come to Gateshead seven years ago in an effort to contact Jane before sailing to Madeira to work as a wine-merchant. After the brief visit, Bessie and Jane part ways, and Jane begins her adventure at Thornfield Manor.
This brief transitional chapter spans eight years of Jane's life, during which she matures from an angry girl bent on self-survival into a self-reliant young woman seeking to serve others. Bronte incorporates appropriate endings for some of the more significant characters at Lowood School: Mr. Brocklehurst is removed from power at the school, a just punishment for his negligence and cruelty, while the lovely Miss Temple escapes the difficult life of a teacher and becomes a happily-married woman. Bronte also uses this chapter to incorporate certain narrative details that will be important to the overall plot of the novel. The problems of the Reed family, particularly John’s descent into debauchery and vice, foreshadow Mrs. Reed’s final confrontation with Jane, as well as hinting that the Reed family is being punished for their mistreatment of Jane. The mention of Mr. Eyre’s visit to Gateshead also suggests that he will reappear in some form later on, perhaps with a more important role.
Jane Eyre Essays and Related Content
- Jane Eyre: Major Themes
- Jane Eyre: Essays
- Jane Eyre: E-Text
- Jane Eyre: Questions
- Jane Eyre: Purchase the Novel and Related Material
- Charlotte Bronte: Biography
- Jane Eyre Summary
- About Jane Eyre
- Character List
- Glossary of Terms
- Major Themes
- Quotes and Analysis
- Summary and Analysis of Volume I, Chapters 1-5
- Summary and Analysis of Volume I, Chapters 6-10
- Summary and Analysis of Volume I, Chapters 11-15
- Summary and Analysis of Volume II, Chapters 1-5
- Summary and Analysis of Volume II, Chapters 6-11
- Summary and Analysis of Volume III, Chapters 1-6
- Summary and Analysis of Volume III, Chapters 7-12
- The Madwoman in the Attic: Angel or Monster?
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