In chapter 7 of Jane Eyre, why does Jane avoid looking at Mr. Brocklehurst?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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Jane tries to avoid looking at Mr. Brocklehurst in Chapter Seven because of the way her last meeting with Mr. Brocklehurst went. If you remember, this happened back with Mrs. Reed and Mrs. Reed labelled Jane as a liar and a deceitful child. Mr. Brocklehurst therfore has a very bad impression of Jane, and during their first interview he promised to make sure that Jane would receive "special" attention. This is something that Jane remembers very vividly. As Chapter Seven represents the first visit to the school that Mr. Brocklehurst makes, Jane is eager to avoid his gaze. These are the measures she takes:

Hitherto, while gathering up the discourse of Mr. Brocklehurst and Miss Temple, I had not, at the same time, neglected precautions to secure my personal safety; which I thought would be effected, if I could only elude observation. To this end, I had sat well back on the form, and while seeming to be busy with my sum, had held my slate in such a manner as to conceal my face: I might have escaped notice, had not my treacherous slate somehow happened to slip from my hand, and falling with an obtrusive crash, directly drawn every eye upon me; I knew it was all over now, and, as I stooped to pick up the two fragments of slate, I rallied my forces for the worst. It came.

In spite of Jane's best efforts, unfortunately she draws attention to herself in the most public way possible, and because of this is named and shamed in front of all of her new teachers and students. This is of course a key passage for examining the way in which Mr. Brocklehurst allows Bronte to criticise evangelical religion and the hypocrisy that is contained within it.

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