First, I'm sorry this read-along has gotten off to a slow start. I was gone most of last week, then hosted a yard sale on Saturday, and spent most of yesterday recovering from that, lol. Getting back on track now, and should be able to make these posts only have 1 or 2 days between them, not 3 or 4. But hey, that's summer, right?
And here Jane is at Lowood School. She makes her first solitary journey to get there, fifty miles by herself. Don't you get the feeling that Mrs. Reed almost hopes or wishes that something would befall Jane on that trip? Then she wouldn't have to be bothered by Jane's existence anymore. Because surely, even waaaaaay back then, sending a little kid on a long journey alone was dangerous. Think about Northanger Abbey when Catherine Morland had to travel home by post alone -- people freaked out, and she was way older than ten. Just another example of Mrs. Reed's malicious neglect for Jane, I guess.
I don't know if the edition you're reading does footnotes or not. I'm using the Barnes and Noble Classics, which has both end notes and footnotes -- the end notes explain things in a sentence or two, and the footnotes mostly just define archaic language, though later on they also translate the French passages, which I find invaluable. Anyway, one of the end notes for this chapter explains that when Bronte writes, "...and away we rattled over the 'stony street'," she's quoting Lord Byron's Childe Harold's Pilgrimage, which I'm mentioning because we're going to talk quite a bit about how Mr. Rochester is a "Byronic hero" pretty soon. And Harold is the original Byronic hero, so um... I guess I'm just saying, hey look, Bronte deliberately referenced Byron, so we know her creation of a hero patterned after his is no accident -- she was inviting that comparison.
Anyway, Lowood Institution. It's like if you mixed Oliver Twist with Madeline, isn't it? Terrible food, eighty little girls in two straight lines, etc. So many of the words in this chapter are disagreeable: dreary, gloomy, morose, blight, decay. The very name of the school has "low" in it, which is never good. But Miss Temple is there to cheer things a bit -- another name with some major connotations, huh? Already, Jane worships her a bit.
I'm amused by the initial conversation between Jane and Helen Burns. It's so like conversations I've had when I'm reading something and people ask me about it. If my book wasn't interesting, would I be reading it? Unless it was a textbook required of me, I mean. When I worked 3rd shift for four years after I got married, I had a whole hour for lunch, and I would read and read and read. And after a while, most of my coworkers knew not to bug me. But there was this one guy who, every time he saw I had a different book from before, would come over and sit down and ask me questions about it. Ohhh, the frigidity of my politeness. Helen Burns is positively welcoming compared to me after the first few such incidents with that guy.
But I find Helen's response later very telling. Jane asks, "Are you happy here?" Helen doesn't say she is or isn't. She just says, "You ask rather too many questions" (p. 62). Tells us a lot about her AND about Lowood, doesn't it?
Favorite Lines: I stood lonely enough; but to that feeling of isolation I was accustomed; it did not oppress me much (p. 59).
Possible Discussion Questions:
Helen Burns says that Miss Temple "is above the rest, because she knows far more than they do" (p. 62). What does that assessment say about life at Lowood? About Helen herself? And about Charlotte Bronte?