Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapter 10

Summary

Eight years pass before Jane again picks up her narrative. Following an investigation into the cause of the typhus epidemic at Lowood, Mr. Brocklehurst is publicly humiliated, and a new building is erected. Brocklehurst remains the treasurer for the school, but other, more enlightened, gentlemen become the school's inspectors and it becomes a "truly useful and noble institution." Jane remains at Lowood for eight years: six as a student and two as a teacher.

Jane enjoys excelling in her studies, but after two years as a teacher, Jane needs a change. First, Miss Temple marries and moves far away, taking with her Jane's "serene" feelings about Lowood. Jane's old need for adventure returns and she longs to experience the perils of the real world. Since arriving at the school, Jane has never quitted it, even for holidays, and she now dreams of "liberty" and a "new servitude." Jane places an ad in the newspaper for a job as a governess. A response arrives from a Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield, Millcote, who needs a governess for a little girl, and Jane decides to take the job. Before leaving for her new position, Jane has an unexpected visit from Bessie Lee, the Reeds' nursemaid. From her, she learns that none of the Reed children has turned out well: Georgiana tried to elope with a young man and Eliza jealously tattled on them, and John leads a life of excess. Bessie is impressed with Jane's ladylike appearance and accomplishments. Jane also learns that her father's brother, John Eyre had come to the Reeds seeking Jane seven years ago. Unfortunately, he couldn't visit her at Lowood, because he was leaving for Madeira to make his fortune.

Analysis

Another portion of Jane's journey is about to end, and its demise is signaled by Miss Temple's departure from Lowood. Over time, Miss Temple has become more than a teacher to Jane: she is also mother, governess, and companion. Miss Temple's guidance has tempered Jane's impulsiveness and fire so that her thoughts have become "harmonious," her feelings "regulated," and her appearance "disciplined and subdued." But this appearance is only that: an external shell. When Miss Temple leaves Lowood, the shell cracks and Jane realizes that many of her new feelings didn't reflect her true nature, but were merely "borrowings" from her teacher. Jane's nature yearns for sensation, excitement, and the knowledge gained through experience, rather than the peaceful isolation of Lowood. The landscape reflects Jane's thoughts: She would like to leave Lowood's safe garden and explore the remote blue peaks in the distance.

As Jane's departure from Gateshead was signaled by her pseudo-supernatural experience in the red-room, her movement away from Lowood also has a paranormal component. Meditating upon the best means for discovering "a new servitude," Jane is visited by a "kind fairy," who offers her a solution. This psychic counselor gives Jane very specific advice: Place an advertisement in the local newspaper, with answers addressed to J.E. — and do it immediately. The fairy's plan works, and Jane soon has a new employment opportunity.

Jane is happy to see that the handwriting in the letter is old-fashioned, like that of an elderly lady. Why? Because it is important for her, as a single woman in Victorian culture, to maintain her decorum; "above all things, I wished the result of my endeavours to be respectable, proper, en règle." The chapter's emphasis on propriety and decency is continued during Bessie's conversation with Jane. In fact, the novel continues to ask what it means to be a "lady" or a "gentleman." Bessie is impressed because Jane has become "quite a lady": She can now play the piano, draw and speak French better than the Miss Reeds, yet they are still considered her social superiors, as is their alcoholic brother, John. Jane's social status may be higher, however, than the Reeds think. According to Bessie, Jane's uncle, who stopped at the Reeds' home on his search for Jane, "looked quite a gentleman." The conversation emphasizes the ambiguities of Jane's family's class status and of the class system in general. Should a lady be judged on her academic accomplishments, money, or family name? This question will become more pronounced as the novel progresses.

Glossary

en règle in order.

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