**This post is for my read-along of Jane Eyre. Learn more about it here, and feel free to join any time!**
In the first two chapters we learn that Jane is an orphan and she is treated extremely poorly by her cousins and her aunt, Mrs. Reed (or, as I like to call her, The Bitch). Poor Jane tries to do right but is constantly taking the blame for everything, which then lands her in the "red room," which is a secluded room in the house where her uncle died. Now I'm not one for believing in ghosts, but seriously, I would've freaked out in here. No wonder Jane is scared, and how cruel is Mrs. Reed to force her to stay in there when Jane is obviously scared beyond belief. This enforces her nickname.
In chapter three we are introduced to the first person who is truly kind to Jane: the apothecary Mr. Lloyd. He asks Jane if she'd rather stay with an unkind family than with her other relations, who are most likely poor. Jane says she'd rather stay with the meanies than have to beg. Not winning me over here, Jane, but I see your point. Anyway, Mr. Lloyd is the one who convinces Mrs. Reed she should go to school, so it's due to his kindness that she can get the hell out of there.
In chapter four we are introduced to the villainous Mr. Brocklehurst (what a great name, though). It becomes apparent that although he enforces order and thriftiness in his students, he does not see the same need to do so with his family. Mrs. Reed informs him that Jane is a very bad sort of girl and must be watched carefully, which he seems to believe completely, even though he's never met either of them before. My favorite part of this chapter, though, was when Jane stood up to Mrs. Reed and told her just what she thought of her. I was cheering Jane on, and was happy to see that Mrs. Reed could do nothing but cower. Oh, and when it's apparent Jane's leaving, Bessie, the nurse, suddenly becomes nice and acts like she loves her. Which maybe she does. But from what Jane has said, it doesn't seem like Bessie has really done her any special favors.
So. Then we get to Lowood Institution. What a dreary, depressing dump (alliteration, anyone?). Did anyone else find it strange that no one was interested in the new girl? Is this how it really was back then? I would think any break from the monotony would be welcome, but no one really seems to notice Jane is there. She finally talks to Helen Burns, who is very Christian and takes her punishments without a word, which appalls Jane, especially since she seems to be punished unjustly. Jane swears she could never do that, but we see that she does just that when Mr. Brocklehurst calls her out in front of the whole school and claims she's a liar who should be ignored by the students and punished by the teachers. (Seriously, what a jerk.) Jane sees Helen and takes strength from the older girl to bear the public humiliation. However, once she's alone, Jane breaks down. Helen comes to comfort her, and then Miss Temple, the superintendent (who is more like an angel).
Miss Temple actually gives Jane the chance to tell her side of the story, about how she was treated by her aunt and cousins, and then vouches for her in front of the school, publicly clearing her name. Suddenly Lowood is looking up for Jane. However, Spring brings typhus to the school and, while Jane is spared, many students are not. Poor Helen has consumption (which we got clues to in previous chapters, specifically chapter eight) and dies in Jane's arms. If anyone didn't already look it up, Helen's tombstone reads "Resurgam" which means "I shall rise again" in Latin.
And finally, chapter ten shows us that the deaths of so many students leads to public outcry, and Lowood is transformed into a proper school. After six years as a student and two years as a teacher, Jane finally decides it's time for a change (I personally would've wanted out long before) and places an ad for a governess position, which she receives. Bessie returns to see Jane before she leaves, and we learn that Bessie has since had two children, one of which she named after Jane. I really didn't see this coming, but I guess I didn't read enough into chapter four. We're told expressly by Bessie that Jane is not pretty (why was this important for Brontë to point out?) but she is a much more accomplished lady than either of her female cousins and is a better person than her male one. And, the most interesting piece of information for me, was that Jane's uncle had visited Gateshead a year after Jane left, but as he was leaving the country he did not inquire further. Really? He couldn't have even sent a letter?
So. Now we know where Jane comes from, how she spent her adolescence, and where she's going, along with the knowledge that a mysterious uncle may resurface later in the novel.
What did you think of the first ten chapters? Jack Murnighan, author of Beowulf on the Beach, claims these chapters are the weakest, which is good, since I didn't think they were all that bad. Do you like Jane so far? She really won me over when she yelled at Mrs. Reed, and she seems to be a pretty reliable narrator. Do you like where the story is going, or are you bored? Do you think Jane can find happiness as a governess, or will she eventually set her sights on something more grand?
Tell me what you think! And if you've written a post about this read-along and would like to share your thoughts there, please comment with a link to your post and I'll be sure to check it out.
Next week we'll discuss chapters 11-20.