Volume 1, Chapter 4

Synopsis of Volume 1, Chapter 4

After some months, there is a visit from Mr Brocklehurst, Treasurer of Lowood School for orphans. Mrs Reed describes Jane's character in very negative terms, but Brocklehurst assures her that her niece's behaviour will be improved by the regime at his school. Encouraged by the prospect of leaving Gateshead, Jane accuses her aunt of treating her cruelly and carelessly. Mrs Reed is all the more glad to be rid of her defiant and outspoken niece.

Commentary on Volume 1, Chapter 4

graven image This phrase is used in the Bible to describe a carved stone image created to be worshipped. The second of the Ten Commandments prohibited this (Exodus 21:4-5). As is often the case with the biblical allusions in Jane Eyre, the verses are applied in a secular rather than a religious context, so that there is something sacrilegious about them.

Mr Brocklehurst This character is based on the Rev. William Carus-Williams, founder of the Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire, attended by the Brontë sisters in 1824-5. He appears as an evangelical clergyman who believes in original sin and the need to treat children firmly, even harshly, for the sake of their salvation.

I like Revelations … and Job and Jonah With the exception of the apocalyptic Revelations, Jane mentions only books to be found in the Old Testament, appearing to have no interest in the Gospels and other parts of the New Testament.

a wicked heart … a heart of stone … a heart of flesh See Ezekiel 11:19: ‘I will give them one heart, and I will put a new spirit within them; and I will take the stony heart out of their flesh, and will give them an heart of flesh'. The new heart promised here is associated with faith and trust in God, and a consciousness of sin. Brocklehurst's assumption of Jane's innate wickedness is typical of a Christian argument about original sin being applied to children: they are vessels of sin who need to be cleansed and improved.

Lowood school See note to Chapter 5 and Educational context.

Christian grace … worldly pride … Christian duty Brocklehurst's words are full of irony, since it is clear that, although his work at Lowood school may be the outcome of his idea of Christian duty, his harshness suggests a lack of grace and it is quite clear that both he and the daughter, whose words he quotes, are guilty of pride, as is Mrs Reed.

my friend the Archdeacon Archdeacons occupy an important position in the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the Church of England, usually taking responsibility for part of a diocese or one section of its work. Brocklehurst is again displaying worldly pride by hinting at his close relationship with such a senior figure.

a great emblem of my mind Here, as frequently elsewhere in the novel, Jane associates her state of mind with elements in the natural world. See Imagery, metaphor and symbolism in Jane Eyre: Nature.

Illustration from One Thousand and One Nightssome Arabian tales A positive side-effect of Jane's comparative neglect at Gateshead is that she is able to read at will from her uncle's library. Tales from the East enjoyed a great fashion in the eighteenth century, when the celebrated Arabian Nights Entertainments, or The Thousand and One Nights were translated into both French (1704) and English (1708). In these translations the explicit sexual content of the tales were censored. Other anthologies of such stories – which recounted wonderful journeys, adventures and tales of clever trickery – were also available. The Tales are also important because, in certain respects, they contribute to the narrative style and structure of the book.

Investigating Volume 1, Chapter 4
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