| Quote #1
Bessie, when she heard this narrative, sighed and said, "Poor Miss Jane is to be pitied, too, Abbot."
Jane Eyre is famous for being a plain-looking girl rather than a beauty, and here we see the unfortunate and unfair consequences of her plainness: the servants find it difficult to sympathize with her just because she’s not cute and sweet and blue-eyed and curly-haired. Compassion and affection are easier for people like Bessie and Abbot to give to pretty girls. Yeah, they’re not shallow or anything.
| Quote #2
"Miss Temple, Miss Temple, what – what is that girl with curled hair? Red hair, ma’am, curled – curled all over?" And extending his cane he pointed to the awful object, his hand shaking as he did so.
Poor Julia Severn. Here we see Mr. Brocklehurst at his most unreasonable. Later, he’ll claim that the girls at Lowood Institution shouldn’t curl or braid their hair because that’s wasting time on worldly vanities. OK, that’s a little extreme, but we understand the logic: just take what you’re given and don’t worry about your appearance. But here he implies that, if Julia can’t find a way to straighten her hair and make it less good-looking, then he’ll give her one serious buzz cut. So he’s contradicting himself: if curls are bad because they’re an unnatural kind of ornament, then Julia’s, which are natural, should be OK. But here he freaks out and claims that "we are not to conform to nature" and that the girls should live under Grace (that’s the grace of God, if you’re following) instead. But didn’t God give Julia her curly hair? Why does Mr. Brocklehurst try to say that nature and Grace are different, then? That’s right, he’s an idiot.
| Quote #3
"I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each of the young persons before us has a string of hair twisted in plaits which vanity itself might have woven: these, I repeat, must be cut off; think of the time wasted, of – "
We’ve suspected all along that Mr. Brocklehurst was the worst kind of hypocrite, and here we get some very obvious confirmation of our suspicions. Just as he’s lecturing Miss Temple on why all the girls at Lowood must have very plain clothing and hair – he’s even against braids – his wife and daughters come in completely tricked out in the latest fashions with complicated hairdos and (we assume) their noses in the air. Maybe keeping the Lowood girls plain-looking is more about keeping them in their lowly place than about real Christian humility. Of course, Mr. Brocklehurst’s family members aren’t exactly charitable and good-hearted, either, so ironically his advice to Miss Temple does result in the girls at Lowood being, in a way, holier. But, and we might be going out on a limb here, we don’t think they’d be any less holy if they were allowed to braid their hair. Just a thought.