Jane Eyre | Study Guide

Charlotte Brontë

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Chapter 5

Professor Regina Buccola of Roosevelt University provides an in-depth summary and analysis of Chapter 5 of Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre.

Jane Eyre | Chapter 5 | Summary

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Summary

A coach comes, and Jane clings to Bessie's neck until she is put on the vehicle, with the servant telling the coach's guard to take care of the girl. Jane then travels by herself for a full day on a coach to Lowood, where she meets Miss Temple and another teacher. Jane describes her first evening and day at Lowood. The sprawling building houses about 80 students. Daily activities, from meals to prayers to classes, are highly regimented. The dormitories are cold; the girls are dressed in old-fashioned, cheap uniforms; and the meals are insubstantial and of poor quality.

Jane observes classes, and Miss Temple replaces the poor breakfast with lunch she pays for herself. This lunch is eaten in the garden. In the garden Jane meets an older girl, Helen Burns, who answers Jane's many questions about the school and the teachers. Helen agrees with Jane that the school superintendent, Miss Temple, is the best teacher at Lowood. Later that day a teacher, Miss Scatcherd, makes Helen Burns stand in the middle of the schoolroom as punishment for some infraction in class. Jane is impressed and puzzled by the way Helen accepts her punishment—not with "distress and shame," as Jane would have done, but with serene composure.

Analysis

Jane describes Lowood—the setting for the next phase of her life—without expressing her reactions to the poor conditions and bad food, but the details conjure the reader's sympathy for the students, who are clearly ill-treated. There is no suggestion she feels she might have made a mistake by coming to Lowood. This might be an indication of how bad things were for her at Gateshead. Jane is drawn to Miss Temple, the headmistress, who embodies qualities Jane admires—intelligence, independence, grace, and beauty. Her presence at the school might make Lowood's shortcomings seem less important, and her gesture with the lunch shows her kindness toward the students. Jane is also impressed with Helen Burns, who will become a close friend and an important influence on her life.

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