When orphans of the nineteenth century were able to receive an education, it usually came from a charity instution. These charity institutions were founded on a basis of religion. This is the case in Jane Eyre for Mr. Brocklehurst is a clergyman who owns and overlooks the Institution that Jane became a part of. Jane's conversation with the newly met Helen Burns exposes this to the reader. Jane asks the question, "Who was Naomi Brocklehurst?" The reader finds out that she was the lady who built the new part of the Institution. It is her son, Mr. Brocklehurst who "overlooks and directs everything." At Lowood he "is the treasurer and manager of the establishment." It is also at this time that Jane finds out Mr. Brocklehurst is a clergyman (82; ch.5).
The goal of charity schools was to teach religion and morals to orphans. Knowing this, and feeling as though Jane needs more moral and religious instruction, Mrs. Reed tells Mr. Brocklehurst that "this little girl has not quite the character and disposition I could wish: should you admit her into Lowood school, I should be glad if the superintendent and teachers were requested to keep a strict eye on her, and, above all, to guard against her worst fault, a tendency to deceit" (65; ch. 4).
However, religious and moral teaching were secondary to grammar. Before the Elementary Act of 1870, religious instruction was limited to the beginning or the end of the school sessions (Curtis 386). This is true at Lowood. After the girls get up and wash, they go into a "dimly-lit schoolroom" and the prayers are read. Then, "Business now began: the day's Collect was repeated, certain texts of Scripture were said, and to these succeeded a protracted...
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...d takes great care to be plain and dress neatly. Before she leaves her room, she checks to make sure that everything is neat and orderly. She is "still by nature solicitous to be neat" (130; ch. 11). After Mr. Rochester asks her to marry him, when he says that he will send for the family jewels, her relpy is, "No, no, sir! Think of other subjects, and speak of other things, and in another strain. Don't address me as if I were a beauty; I am your plain, Quakerish govnerness" (287; ch. 24). She cannot have jewels because it would upset her plainness and she would no longer look like that "plain, Quakerish" type of girl. Lowood had quite an impact on her life as it was sure to have had on the other children that went there.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. London, Penguin Books Ltd.: 1996. (Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Michael Mason).
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