Last Updated on September 29, 2020, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1071
Jane’s hardship at Lowood continues throughout the winter. Despite the cold and their thin apparel, the girls are forced to spend an hour outside every day, which causes Jane’s feet to become swollen and inflamed. Due to the inadequate portions of food, many of the older students steal food from younger pupils like Jane. For nearly a month since Jane’s arrival at Lowood, Mr. Brocklehurst has been away. Jane, fearing his promise to tell her teachers of her deceitful nature, is very glad of this. When Mr. Brocklehurst finally arrives, he admonishes Miss Temple for being too easy on the girls. Infuriated by a young girl’s naturally curly hair, Mr. Brocklehurst orders that her hair be cut off and then decides that all the girls must have their top knots cut off to make them more modest. In the middle of this outburst, Mr. Brocklehurst’s wife and daughters enter the room wearing fine gowns and hats with their hair in elaborate curls. Jane hopes to go unnoticed by Mr. Brocklehurst but draws attention to herself by accidentally dropping her slate. Enraged, Mr. Brocklehurst forces Jane to stand on a stool in front of the whole school and proceeds to tell them that she is a wicked liar whom the other girls should shun. Utterly devastated, Jane is forced to remain on the stool for hours, her only consolation being the small smiles Helen gives her as she walks past.
Jane remains on the stool until five o’clock. Once the rest of the girls have left, Jane breaks down and cries, fearing that everyone at the school will now despise her. Helen appears and comforts Jane, explaining that Mr. Brocklehurst is not well-liked and that most of the students and teachers likely felt pity for her. Miss Temple invites both girls to her room and urges Jane to tell her side of the story. After Jane honestly describes her time at Gateshead, Miss Temple says she will write to Mr. Lloyd to confirm Jane’s account and publicly clear her of Mr. Brocklehurst’s accusation. Miss Temple spends several hours enjoyably conversing with the girls after kindly offering them seed cake and tea. A week later, Mr. Lloyd confirms Jane’s story, and Miss Temple announces to the school that Jane has been completely cleared from the accusations of deceit. Encouraged by the clearing of her name, Jane immerses herself in her studies and begins to excel at school.
By springtime, Jane’s life at Lowood has begun to improve. However, the warm temperatures and Lowood’s damp location make the school a breeding ground for disease. Soon, over half of the students are infected with typhus. Jane and the other healthy students are allowed to do as they please while the school allocates all of its resources to the sick students. Many girls are taken from the school by friends or relatives, and many others die. Jane remains healthy and spends her days outside with her new friend, Mary Ann Wilson. Meanwhile, Helen has taken ill with consumption and is sequestered in Miss Temple’s room. When Jane overhears that Helen is near death, she sneaks into Miss Temple’s room to see her. Helen tells Jane that she is not afraid of dying because she knows she will be returning home to God. They fall asleep embracing one another, but when Jane wakes, Helen is dead. Helen is buried in an unmarked grave in the churchyard, though Jane reveals that she later had a marble tablet inscribed with Helen’s name and “Resurgam” erected on the spot.
After the typhus epidemic, the large number of victims at Lowood attracts public attention. When the school’s wealthy benefactors learn of the unhealthy conditions and neglect suffered by the girls, Mr. Brocklehurst is demoted and Lowood is relocated. The school’s management is entrusted to a committee, and the conditions greatly improve. Jane remains at Lowood for another eight years—six as a student and two as a teacher. When Miss Temple marries and leaves Lowood, Jane—now eighteen—decides she is in need of a change and advertises her services as a governess. She accepts an offer from a Mrs. Fairfax and makes plans to travel to her new charge at Thornfield Hall. Before she leaves, Jane is visited by Bessie, who reveals that Mrs. Reed is constantly uneasy due to John’s irresponsible behavior. Bessie also informs Jane that her uncle, a Mr. John Eyre, showed up looking for her several years ago.
These chapters reveal the depths of Mr. Brocklehurst’s hypocrisy and illustrate the devastating consequences of his abuse. In the end, however, Mr. Brocklehurst is rightfully punished for his unchristian behavior and loses his position of power at Lowood, a turning point in Jane's time at the school. Contrasted against the cruelty of Mr. Brocklehurst is the inherent kindness and goodness of Miss Temple, who guides Jane, helping her to clear her name and encouraging her excel in her studies. Helen and Miss Temple are the first people to truly love Jane for herself, and after the loss of Helen, Jane comes to see Miss Temple as both a maternal figure and a dear companion. Through Miss Temple’s example, Jane learns to better regulate her passionate emotions, becoming more disciplined and subdued.
Bessie’s visit, which occurs just as Jane is about to move into the next phase of her life, highlights the extent of Jane's personal growth: she arrived at Lowood as a restless young girl but leaves an intelligent and accomplished young woman. Bessie admits that Jane’s abilities far outstrip those of her beautiful cousins, Eliza and Georgiana, illustrating once again that neither wealth nor physical beauty are an indicator of inner worth or ability. Though Jane possesses the education and manners of an upper-class woman, her decision to post an advertisement for a governess position serves as a reminder of her humble social position. However, rather than feeling sorry for herself for having been cast off by her only relatives, the Reeds, Jane embraces her need to work for a living as a form of independence. Interestingly, Bessie's visit also reveals that Jane may have a previously unknown relation—Mr. Eyre. Though it isn't yet clear why Jane’s uncle might be looking for her, his existence will become significant later on.
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