Chapter 8 (Pages 68-75)
Jane undergoes major changes and learns necessary lessons under the influence
of Helen Burns and, to a lesser degree, of Miss Temple.
Released from her public punishment, Jane is overcome by humiliation
and despair; she "ardently" wants to die (p. 68). The conversation between
Jane and Helen (pp. 69-70) has a life-long effect on Jane's values and guides
her behavior as an adult. Helen advocates living according to one's own
conscience, i.e., according to an absolute set of principles:
If all the world hated you,
and believe you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved
you from guilt, you would not be without friends (p. 69).
The truth of Helen's words will be proven when the greatest crisis in Jane's
life arises; the only guide and support she has is her own belief system
and her sense of her own self-worth. Jane, ruled by her emotions, cries:
No; I know I should think
well of myself; but that is not enough: if others don't love me, I would
rather die than live--I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen. Look
here; to gain some real affection from you, or Miss Temple, or any other
whom I truly love, I would willingly submit to have the bone of my arm broken,
or to let a bull toss me, or to stand behind a kicking horse, and let it
dash its hoof at my chest (pp. 69-70).
The intensity of her emotion rises to near-hysteria. Helen warns Jane,
"you think too much of the love of human beings" (p. 70) and urges her to
rely on God and talks of the spiritual world all around them. The spiritual
world and God's love are far more important in Helen's scale of values than
this material world and human love. Helen is guided by reason and religious
belief, not ruled by passion like Jane. Is Helen a spokesperson for Bronte,
i.e., is she expressing Bronte's values and views? You may not be prepared
to answer the last question yet.
For the first time in her life, Jane is given a chance to defend
herself against unjust treatment and accusations. Emotionally worn by her
earlier outburst and warned by Helen against denouncing Mrs. Reed, she decides
to tell her story in a "most moderate--most correct" manner (p. 71). This
decision is significant in terms of Jane's learning to guide emotion with
reason. Miss Temple promises to investigate; Jane's reasonable speech and
behavior immediately elicit a positive response from an adult in authority.
At Lowood, Jane will learn that she can succeed through her own efforts
and win acceptance. At the Reed residence, Gateshead Hall, her behavior
had no effect on the way she was treated; no matter what she did or how hard
she tried, she was rejected and abused.
A week later, Miss Temple clears publicly Jane of Mr. Brockelhurst's
charges. How does being publicly exonerated affect Jane? Is learning that
she has the ability to affect her own life an important lesson? She becomes
an excellent student, is proud of her accomplishments, and wins the approval
of her teachers. As a result of these successes, Jane says, "I would not
now have changed Lowood with all its privations for Gateshead and its daily
luxuries" (p. 75).
Chapter 9 (Pages 76-83)
With the coming of spring and typhus, Jane thinks seriously about dying
"to go who knows where" and makes her "first earnest effort to comprehend...heaven
and hell" (p. 80). Helen, with her dying words, provides an answer to Jane's
questioning. Helen's faith in God sustains her and she looks forward to being
in His presence, "I rely implicitly on his power and confide wholly in his
goodness; I count the hours till that eventful one arrives which shall restore
me to him, reveal him to me" (p. 82). Helen assures her that they will see
each other in heaven. Jane, as an adult, has an unwavering faith in God,
but Jane the child lying in Helen's death bed still has doubts. Is it likely
that watching Helen die firmly believing in a loving God will have a powerful
effect on Jane?
How important is Helen to Jane? Jane raises a tombstone on her grave
fifteen years later; remember that Jane is only ten years old
when Helen dies. Also Jane refers a number of times in this novel to Helen.
"Resurgam" means "I shall rise again." Does Jane's choosing this epitaph
indicate anything about her own faith or have any connection with Helen's
One last question about Helen's death: Helen says that she is happy
to be dying because she doesn't have the "qualities or talents to make my
way very well in the world" (p. 82). Is this an accurate statement? Why
or why not? Is the same thing true of Jane?
Chapter 10 (Pages 84-94)
What Jane learns from Helen she internalizes, i.e., it becomes a part of
her value system and affects her emotional responses, behavior, and decisions.
Miss Temple, on the other hand, serves as a model of behavior only so long
as she is present. Consider her description of Miss Temple:
had always something of serenity in her air, of state in her mien, of refined
propriety in her language, which precluded deviation into the ardent, the
excited, the eager; something which chastened the pleasure of those who looked
on her and listened to her, by a controlling sense of awe (p. 73).
So long as Miss Temple serves as Jane's "mother, governess, and, latterly,
companion" (p. 85), Jane is contented at Lowood. But when Miss Temple marries
and leaves, Jane becomes discontented with the inactivity and confinement
of Lowood. Her own nature or essential self reasserts itself,
I had undergone a transforming process; that my mind that
put off all it had borrowed of Miss Temple--or rather that she had taken
with her the serene atmosphere I had been breathing in her vicinity--and
that now I was left in my natural element, and beginning to feel the stirring
of old emotions. It did not seem as if a prop were withdrawn, but rather
as if a motive were gone; it was not the power to be tranquil which had failed
me, but the reason for tranquillity was no more (pp. 85-6).
Alone, she goes to the window and looks at the road and horizon. Is there
a symbolic significance to Jane's looking out the window? Is it a symbolic
barrier between her and the wide world that she yearns to be involved in?
Jane describes this turning point in her life,
I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I
uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing.
I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus: that
petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: "Then, " I cried, half
desperate, "grant me at least a new servitude!" (p. 86).
Even in the midst of intense emotion, Jane is aware of her financial constraints
and social limitations and accommodates herself to them.
The eighteen year old Jane has lived a sheltered life, first at Gateshead,
then at Lowood. What traits does her placing a personal ad and finding employment
reveal about her? Would Hedda Gabler, say, be capable of such an action?
Bessie's visit serves several functions: it establishes Jane's credentials
as a lady (social status is very important to Jane) and her superiority to
her cousins, Georgiana and Eliza; it confirms Jane's plain looks (she isn't
being modest when she refers to them); and it prepares for later action with
the reference to an uncle. After living at Lowood for eight years (stasis),
Jane journeys to new life, new experience.
Chapter 11 (Pages 94-109)
Jane is pleased with but wary of Mrs. Fairfax's welcome and feels relief
at learning she is the housekeeper, not the mistress of the house, "The equality
between her and me was real; not the mere result of condescension on her
part; so much the better--my position was all the freer" (p. 102)? As a
housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax is an upper servant; her social status is higher
than that of the maids, cook, butler, etc. Her higher status keeps her from
socializing with the lower servants, so she is delighted at the arrival of
a governess, who is also an upper servant. They are social equals.
A discordant note is introduced and dismissed with the reference
to Bluebeard's castle and to a strange laugh (pp. 108-9). The laugh comes
from a common-looking servant. Does Jane give in to imagination, or has there
been some growth since her Red Room experience?
Chapter 12 (Pages 110-120)
After a few months of the uneventful, limited life at Thornfield, Jane
becomes restless again. She wants "more of intercourse with my kind, of
acquaintance with variety of character, than was here within my reach" (p.
111). Jane spends time on the roof, looking at the countryside and horizon.
Her imagination is stimulated by visions of the "incident, life, fire, feeling,
that I desired" (p. 111). Jane is aware that many people would disapprove
of her discontent and desire for a more active life, and she defends her discontent,
It is in vain
to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility; they must have
action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned
to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their
lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment
in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very
calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their
faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they
suffer from too rigid a constraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely
as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures
to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting
stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless
to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more
than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex (pp. 111-12).
Richard Chase calls Jane Eyre "a feminist tract" and refers to this
passage. Is it a feminist statement? As you read the novel, think about
whether Jane Eyre is a feminist novel. You might want to define "feminist."
In her restlessness at the confinement of Thornfield, Jane walks
to town. Jane offers to help a man whose horse has fallen. Based on his
description, do you expect him to be the hero, the villain, someone unimportant?
Jane briefly describes Rochester's appearance on page 115. On page 118 she
reflects on his unfamiliar appearance; his face "was masculine; and, secondly,
because it was dark, strong, and stern." The next description is considerably
I knew my traveller with his broad and jetty eyebrows;
his square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair.
I recognised his decisive nose, more remarkable for character than beauty;
his full nostrils, denoting, I thought, choler; his grim mouth, chin, and
jaw--yes, all three were very grim and no mistake. His shape, now divested
of cloak, I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy; I suppose
it was a good figure in the athletic sense of the term--broad chested and
thin flanked, though neither tall nor graceful (p. 122).
Rochester is presented as intensely masculine, with an emphasis on his
power, energy, and forcefulness. With the repeated descriptions is there
a suggestion of physical or sexual attraction on Jane's part? Do any qualities
in Rochester's description suggest sexuality?
Jane says she wouldn't have insisted on helping if he had been "a
handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman" (p. 115). Why does she feel this
way? Does she feel that an attractive man would not be interested in an unattractive
woman? She explains, "I should have known instinctively that they neither
had nor could have sympathy with anything in me, and should have shunned
them as one would fire, lightning, or anything else that is bright but antipathetic"
(p. 116). This is Jane's first explicit reference to people having an affinity
because they are of the same kind or nature. This affinity will be an important
element in Jane and Rochester's relationship.
Rochester's abruptness puts her at ease. Why? Is Jane comfortable
with rude behavior because of the abuse she suffered as a child? Does she
accept it because it is familiar to her?
After the horseman leaves, she feels invigorated (p. 118). She
feels that, however briefly, she was active and that she was involved in
a new experience, however unimportant. She says she "did not like re-entering
Thornfield" (p. 118), which she refers to as "stagnant." What causes her
Chapter 13 (Pages 120-130)
Jane is pleased that the owner of Thornfield has returned, "a rill from
the outer world was flowing through it; it had a master; for my part, I liked
it better" (p. 120). People are coming and going; there is activity; Thornfield
has become exciting. Jane's desire for activity and involvement in the world
is being fulfilled by Rochester's return.
In their conversations, she is put at ease by his "harsh caprice"
(p. 122); is she possibly used to being abused? is she comfortable with harsh
treatment? She explains that his rudeness gives her the advantage and "Besides,
the eccentricity of the proceeding was piquant: I felt interested to see
how he would go on" (p. 122). Rochester is an unknown type to Jane (think
of how few men she has had contact with in her restricted life at Gateshead
and Lowood). Is he interesting to her because his behavior and conversation
are unlike any she has experienced?
How would you characterize their conversation? Is it conventional,
trivial, challenging, for instance? Does Jane hold her in the conversation?
You may find these questions easier to answer after reading the next few
chapters. Keep in mind that Rochester is a man of the world, almost twice
Jane's age, which is only eighteen.
She shows him her paintings. Without trying to assign a symbolic
reading to them, what would you say they reveal about Jane's nature and emotional
state when she painted them? Why does Rochester ask if she was happy when
she painted them?