Charlotte Bronte's novel Jane Eyre the main character Jane is faced with many difficulties while attending Lowood School that force her to strengthen her resolve to persiveer in spite of many obsticles. While initially Jane is eager for an escape from her life at Gateshead she soon finds that the past often shapes ones future and that life away from her cruel Aunt does not necessarily mean an end to her unhappiness. Jane realizes that her own views of religion vary greatly from those around her and have potential to greatly influence the path her life takes. She also soon learns that the school is under the total domination of Mr. Brocklehurst, which adds to her torment as she realizes that, even that kind to her must in the end bend to his will.
At the novels opening Jane Eyre is subjected to various cruelties by Mrs. Reed leading her to renounce her family and hope for the relative escape of Lowood School. Jane is aware that she has little other chance for escape because her social standing as an orphan leaves little options for her future and welfare. While a male can easily strike off on his own an orphaned female's only options for escape are education at an acceptable school for females or through marriage.
Once she is given the chance to attend the Lowood School her ideas of a new and better life are short lived once she meets Mr. Brocklehurst, the headmaster, and finds that he is cruel and immediately angered by her views on religion.
Psalms are not interesting," I remarked. "That proves you have a wicked heart; and you must pray to God to change it: to give you a new and clean one: to take away your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. (Chapter 4)"
Though Jane has shown her spirit in reaction to Brocklehursts questioning in spite of Victorian England's views on women remaining always lady like and docile her actions only started her relationship with Mr. Brocklehurst on a bad note. This action also made it easier for him to believe her aunts claim that she was a liar, as she was already considered more verbal than was desirable.
Jane's arrival at Lowood School was accompanied with extremely bad weather and all around dreary conditions. Charlotte Bronte uses the poor weather to create a sort of psychological suspense in order to foreshadow the difficulties Jane will face at the school. This along with the first person narrative give the reader an insight into Jane's mind and her opinions with a great deal of strength.
Gathering my faculties, I looked about me. Rain, wind, and darkness filled the air; nevertheless, I dimly discerned a wall before me and a door (Chapter Five)"
Almost immediately upon the arrival at the imposing school Jane witnesses the deplorable conditions though she does not fully understand them and is willing to endure them for the relative freedom of the school.
The portions were handed round; those who liked took a draught of the water, the mug being common to all. When it came to my turn, I drank, for I was thirsty, but did not touch the food, excitement and fatigue rendering me incapable of eating: I now saw, however, that it was a thin oaten cake shared into fragments. (Chapter 5)"
Jane is to tired to realize that little amount of food and shared mug are standard practices at the school and that there is very little in the way of luxury at her 'refuge'.
As time goes on she realizes that there is very little in the way of food at the school or any other things that would often be considered necessities and resolves herself to continue her lessons with out complaints despite of the poor conditions.
The next day commenced as before, getting up and dressing by rushlight; but this morning we were obliged to dispense with the ceremony of washing; the water in the pitchers was frozen. A change had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned the contents of the ewers to ice.(Chapter 6)."
Aside from the inability to wash they are given only small meals of bread slices, a bit of coffee, and the like. Though food is scarce Jane must still perform hard labor while all are inadequately clothed. Jane is often hungry but refrains from complaining because she realizes things could in fact be worst and she even enjoys the fact that Mr. Brocklehurst is not there.
Our clothing was insufficient to protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with chilblains, as were our feet: I remember well the distracting irritation I endured from this cause every evening, when my feet inflamed; and the torture of thrusting the swelled, raw, and stiff toes into my shoes in the morning. (Chapter 7)"
This cruel and abusive treatment is on direct order of Mr. Brocklehurst who believes that the lack of adequate food and clothing are necessary for them to be good Christians.
If ye suffer hunger or thirst for My sake, happy are ye." Oh, madam, when you put bread and cheese, instead of burnt porridge, into these children's mouths, you may indeed feed their vile bodies, but you little think how you starve their immortal souls!(Chapter 7)"
On the second day of school Jane is introduced to her fellow classmates and meets Helen Burns who becomes her best friend. At this point religion is brought to for front of the story and the theme is dealt with and represented by Helen as well as Mr. Brocklehurst. The headmaster represents the evangelical form of religion that seeks to strip others of their excessive pride or of their ability to take pleasure in worldly things. In his efforts to instill his beliefs among the students he forced them to undergo harsh treatment and punishments. Jane strongly disagrees with these beliefs particularly since Mr. Brocklehurst does not seem inclined to share their suffering on behalf of his own immortale soul.
Helen, on the other hand, embodies the form of Christianity that stresses the teachings of tolerance and forgiveness in spite of everything. Once it is revealed to Jane that the school is a place for orphan girls she is full anger towards Mrs. Reed though Helen believes she should forgive her everything.
Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you." "Then I should love Mrs. Reed, which I cannot do; I should bless her son John, which is impossible." In her turn, Helen Burns asked me to explain, and I proceeded forthwith to pour out, in my own way, the tale of my sufferings and resentments. Bitter and truculent when excited, I spoke as I felt, without reserve or softening. (Chapter 6)"
Jane strongly disagrees with her method of belief for she sees no reason to forgive Mrs. Reed or forget the cruelties inflicted upon her. In the same way she disagrees with Mr. Brocklehurst for making them live in such deplorable conditions while he himself lives in the luxurious life he often preaches against.
Mr. Brocklehurst was here interrupted: three other visitors, ladies, now entered the room. They ought to have come a little sooner to have heard his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs. The two younger of the trio (fine girls of sixteen and seventeen) had grey beaver hats, then in fashion, shaded with ostrich plumes, and from under the brim of this graceful head-dress fell a profusion of light tresses, elaborately curled; the elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl, trimmed with ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls. These ladies were deferentially received by Miss Temple, as Mrs. And the Misses Brocklehurst. (Chapter 7)"
Though Jane finds Mr. Brocklehurst a complete and total hypocrite there is little she or any of the teachers can do against him. They are all brought up to believe that men are to be obeyed and that a woman's life is based not on her own beliefs, opinions, and worth but those of the men around them.
The lady who built the new part of this house as that tablet records, and whose son overlooks and directs everything here." "Why?" "Because he is treasurer and manager of the establishment." "Then this house does not belong to that tall lady who wears a watch, and who said we were to have some bread and cheese?" "To Miss Temple? Oh, no! I wish it did: she has to answer to Mr. Brocklehurst for all she does. Mr. Brocklehurst buys all our food and all our clothes.(Chapter 5)."