by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre Education Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Volume.Chapter.Paragraph)
Each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting: as interesting as the tales Bessie sometimes narrated on winter evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour; and when, having brought her ironing-table to the nursery-hearth, she allowed us to sit about it, and while she got up Mrs. Reed's lace frills, and crimped her night-cap borders, fed our eager attention with passages of love and adventure taken from the old fairy tales and older ballads; or (as at a later period I discovered) from the pages of Pamela, and Henry, Earl of Moreland. (1.1.13)
Very early in her life, stories, tales, and narratives are some of the most positive things that Jane experiences. It’s unsurprising that she becomes a teacher and governess, given that hearing tales from her nursemaid was a special treat, and that these tales naturally segue into hearing parts of, and then reading, novels. (By the way, we definitely recommend Pamela.) Even at the very beginning of the novel, Jane is learning to be an astute "reader" of the pictures in Bewick’s British Birds, and to connect the text with the pictures to understand what’s going on.
I scarcely knew what school was; Bessie sometimes spoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in the stocks, wore backboards, and were expected to be exceedingly genteel and precise; John Reed hated his school, and abused his master: but John Reed’s tastes were no rule for mine, and if Bessie’s accounts of school-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a family where she had lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhat appalling, her details of certain accomplishments attained by these same ladies were, I thought, equally attractive. She boasted of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed; of songs they could sing and pieces they could play, of purses they could net, of French books they could translate; till my spirit was moved to emulation as I listened. Besides, school would be a complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life. (1.3.70)
Jane instinctively embraces the opportunity to go to school—it’s a way to get away from Gateshead, and the fact that people she hates dislike school probably means that she’ll enjoy it. It’s sort of an "enemy of my enemy is my friend" thing.
She’s also really interested in being "accomplished," in learning, and in being a talented, cultured person, which is more than we can say for any of the Reeds. From the beginning, then, Jane’s motives for getting an education are complex: she loves learning for its own sake, but it’s also a way out of a bad living situation and a way to distinguish herself from louts like John.
I had meant to be so good, and to do so much at Lowood; to make so many friends, to earn respect, and win affection. Already I had made visible progress: that very morning I had reached the head of my class; Miss Miller had praised me warmly; Miss Temple had smiled approbation; she had promised to teach me drawing, and to let me learn French, if I continued to make similar improvement two months longer: and then I was well-received by my fellow-pupils; treated as an equal by those of my own age, and not molested by any: now, here I lay again crushed and trodden on; and could I ever rise more? (1.8.1)
From her first days at Lowood, Jane sees learning not only as something enjoyable (she thinks learning French is a special treat!) but as her way of rising in the world and earning friends and approval. Still, learning doesn’t make up for ethics, and Jane is very defensive about being slandered.