When Jane Eyre resided at Gateshead Hall, under the care of her aunt, Mrs. Reed, she yearned for a change. The treatment that she received at Gateshead Hall was cruel, unjust, and most importantly, lacked nurture. Jane wanted to escape Gateshead Hall and enter into a school. The school that was imposed upon Jane was Lowood Institution. Through her eight year stay at Lowood, Jane learned how to control her frustrations and how to submit to authority. After leaving Lowood Institution and taking the occupation as governess at Thornfield Hall, Jane realized that her experiences at Gateshead Hall and Lowood Institution had deeply rooted themselves into her personality. After departing Thornfield Hall, Jane wandered about as a vagabond. Arriving at Whitcross, Jane was starving, cold, and in need of help. It is St. John Rivers who aids in helping Jane back to health. Through her experiences at Gateshead Hall, Lowood Institution, and Whitcross, Jane Eyre becomes the recipient of the positive and negative aspects of the New Poor Law depicted by Charlotte Bronte in nineteenth-century England.
Under the care of Mrs. Reed, Jane's aunt, Jane is treated as though she is a "wicked and abandoned child" (60; ch. 4). Her "father had been a poor clergyman" (58; ch. 3) and both her parents died from typhus fever. She was given to her motherí's sister-in-law in "promise of Mrs. Reed that she would rear and maintain her as one of her own children" (48; ch. 2). Jane is treated just the opposite. She entered into Gateshead Hall, the residence of the Reeds, in hopes of being brought up a civil and well-nurtured child. Instead, Jane is treated as a subservient child who is abused not only by Mrs. Reed, but also by h...
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...cation at Lowood, she still "desired liberty" (117; ch. 10). After searching for a job, Jane realized she was once "an outcast, a beggar, and a vagrant" (387; ch. 31). She becomes grateful for the charity and job as a teacher that Mr. St. John Rivers bestowed upon her.
The charity that Mr. Rivers showed towards Jane exemplified the kind of philanthropy that Charlotte Bronte depicted as being genuine; on the other hand, the kinds of treatment that Jane received at Gateshead Hall and Lowood Institution were the types of charity that were governed by the New Poor Law administrators. In Charlotte Bronte's novel, Jane Eyre, she clearly illustrated how she viewed charity and philanthropy under the ruling of the New Poor Law.
Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. London, Penguin Books Ltd.: 1996. (Edited with an Introduction and Notes by Michael Mason).
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