Homework Help

In the novel 'Jane Eyre', how is the bullying of Helen Burns presented, overcome, and...

user profile pic

shogunner66 | Student, Grade 11 | eNotes Newbie

Posted June 2, 2007 at 8:29 PM via web

dislike 1 like

In the novel 'Jane Eyre', how is the bullying of Helen Burns presented, overcome, and how is the bullying different to that of Jane's?

1 Answer | Add Yours

user profile pic

jamie-wheeler | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted June 4, 2007 at 8:19 PM (Answer #1)

dislike 0 like

Helen is presented as a gentle girl who nonetheless cannot escape the bullying tactics of the cruel school marm, Miss Scatcherd. Jane describes her humiliation on one particular day:

"It was English history: among the readers I observed my aquaintance of the veranda: at the commencement of the lesson, her place had been a the top of the class, but for some error of pronunciation or some inattention to stops, she was suddenly sent to the very bottom. Even in that obscure position, Miss Scatcherd continued to make her an object of constant notice.

When Helen answers all of the rest of the teacher's questions properly and promptly, Jane says, "I kept expecting that Miss Scatcherd would praise her attention; but instead of that, she suddenly cried out - "You dirty, disagreeable girl! you have never cleaned your nails this morning!"

Helen, it seems, can do nothing right in Miss Scathered's eyes, but she meets the verbal abuse with silence. Biblical modeling is important to Helen; she has learned to "turn the other cheek."

As for Jane, she cannot adopt this sort of passive resistance. In Chapter Six she explains to Helen: "'But I feel this Helen: I must dislike those who, whatever I do to please them, persist in disliking me. I must resist those who punish me unjustly. It is as natural as that I should love those who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved.'"

As a result of her defiance, Jane suffers all sorts of humiliations designed to "break" her character, but she remains strong throughout. Though she does pay for her actions, and eventually learns some restraint, Bronte certainly seems to be advocating a more active resistance than the Christian humility of Helen. After all, Helen dies and Jane lives, scarred, but alive.

Sources:

Join to answer this question

Join a community of thousands of dedicated teachers and students.

Join eNotes