Right from the outset, Lowood is described as a sparse place, where there are no luxuries and few opportunities for happiness. It is a place where “plain fare, simple attire, [and] unsophisticated accommodations” are a way of life. Brontë’s description of the “simple attire” reflects the hardship and dullness of life at Lowood. The uniform is said to consist of “brown stuff frocks of quaint fashion, and long holland pinafores.”
When Jane wakes up on her first morning at Lowood, she discovers that there is “but one basin to six girls.” Brontë’s depiction of this woeful insufficiency provides another example of Lowood’s harshness. The schoolroom that Jane enters on that first morning is described as “cold and dimly lit.” This description enables Brontë to paint a picture of a harsh environment that is unconducive to learning.
Brontë uses a conversation between Miss Temple and Mr. Brocklehurst to give a vivid depiction of the harshness of life at Lowood School. Mr. Brocklehurst reprimands Miss Tucker over the fact that some of the girls had “two clean tuckers in the week” when they were only allowed one. He continues to reprimand her about the fact that the girls had been given “bread and cheese” for lunch on two occasions. When Miss Tucker responds that the girls’ breakfast had been inedible and she hadn’t wanted to starve them until dinner, she is told that by giving the girls food, she had contributed to the starvation of “their immortal souls.”
Another way in which Brontë depicts the harshness of Lowood school is her depiction of the typhus epidemic. Typhus is a disease spread by infected mites, fleas, and lice, and the presence of this disease within the school speaks volumes about the lack of sanitation and hygiene at Lowood. It is thanks to this outbreak that things finally start to change at the school.