Volume 1, Chapter 5

Synopsis of Volume 1, Chapter 5

Jane travels by coach to Lowood Hall and arrives there late at night, to be greeted by Miss Temple, the head teacher. Miss Temple is a kind and gentle woman, but life at the school is very hard. It is very cold, the food is poor and the educational regime is based on rote learning and harsh discipline, which represses the girls' natural inclinations.

Commentary on Volume 1, Chapter 5

Lowood School This section draws on Charlotte Brontë's memories of the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge, attended by all four sisters in 1824-25, and where her two elder sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, were taken ill, returning to Haworth only to die. See Author section.

the dim light of the dips A dip is a kind of candle, made by immersing a length of wick in a vessel containing animal fat or grease. It gives a poor light and the smell is unpleasant, so the detail adds to the sense of physical discomfort at Lowood.

the day's Collect A short prayer used at the beginning of services, as set out in The Book of Common Prayer. See Liturgy Morning prayer:Collect

long grace said A grace is a prayer of thanks spoken at the beginning of a meal.

Tower of Babel by Brueghelthe Babel clamour of tongues In the biblical account, after the Flood, the descendants of Noah attempted to build a tower to heaven. In order to frustrate their attempts to reach his dwelling-place, God made them speak many different languages so that they could not co-operate during the building. The tower is known as Babel, and the term is now used to describe any confused and noisy conversation, especially one in which nobody understands anyone else.

a considerable organ of veneration A reference to phrenology, a popular method of character analysis in the nineteenth-century. It was based on a belief that various personality traits were represented by bumps on the skull (called ‘organs'). Practising phrenologists would ‘read' the client's skull by these bumps, recording their size and prominence and thus producing a portrait of the individual's character. Although now regarded as, at best, a pseudo-science, at the time it was taken very seriously, and reference to bumps, organs and skull-shape are quite common in Victorian fiction.

Prayer Book The Book of Common Prayer, used historically as the basis for Anglican worship, was developed during the sixteenth century and reached its final form in 1662. Its language and phraseology have been very influential. Modern versions were developed in the twentieth century but the 1662 version is still in use.

‘Let your light so shine before men …' Matthew 5:16; a quotation from Christ's Sermon on the Mount and a rather ironical text given the lack of light, in all senses, at Lowood School.

a girl Helen Burns is based on Maria (1813-25), the eldest of the Brontë sisters.

Rasselas A short philosophical novel published in 1759 by Samuel Johnson (1709-84). It recounts the adventures of Rasselas, a prince of Abyssinia, who grows weary of his life of luxury and ease, and travels the world with a group of companions to discover how other people live their lives. Its conclusion is that happiness is impossible to attain in this world and that one should give one's attention to the eternal perspectives of life. It is very appropriate reading for Helen Burns.

charity-children Nineteenth-century England contained many establishments similar to Lowood School, some specifically for the children of members of a particular trade or profession, others catering for orphans, neglected and unwanted children from all sections of society. They were funded by almsgiving or charitable organisations. See Educational context.

Investigating Volume 1, Chapter 5
  • What are Jane's initial impressions of Lowood School?
  • Jane soon meets Helen Burns (although she is not named until the next chapter)
    • What does her conversation with Jane tell you about the school and the situation in which Jane finds herself?
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