Jane continues to settle in at Lowood, if you can call it settling in. Not only does she have to learn all the new school rules and the course material, she also has to cope with the fact that nobody in the school ever gets enough to eat and they’re always cold because their clothes are thin and old. There’s an especially gross description of chilblains (sores from exposure to the cold) on her hands and feet. We’re not sure if we’re more sorry for her or grossed out at her.
The little girls suffer most, because the older girls steal their food and crowd them away from the fires. Our heroine, of course, usually gives some of her food away to the smaller girls who are actually starving. Awww, isn’t that sweet.
Despite all the hardships, Miss Temple encourages all the girls and motivates them to keep going. All the other teachers are too depressed to try, and we can’t really blame them.
After Jane has been at the school for three weeks, as if things weren’t bad enough, that hypocrite Mr. Brocklehurst shows up to visit and inspect the school. This is going to go really well, we’re sure.
Jane hears Mr. Brocklehurst giving Miss Temple "instructions" about how to run the school. Well, that’s the nice way of putting it… he’s mostly just nitpicking and trying to make her be colder and crueler to the girls.
Mr. Brocklehurst is especially upset about the two times Miss Temple served the girls an extra lunch to make up for their burned porridge. He has a long, plausible-sounding explanation of why it would be better for their souls and their temperaments if they just took the opportunity to think of their hunger as a happy Christian martyrdom. We don’t know when Mr. Brocklehurst himself last missed a meal, but we’re guessing it was a long, long time ago.
The other thing that’s biting Mr. Brocklehurst is the hairstyles of various girls. None of the girls at Lowood are supposed to curl their hair, so why, he wants to know, does Julia Severn have curls in her hair? Of course, that’s because her hair curls naturally, but so what? Mr. Brocklehurst says that if she can’t get her hair straight, then she should just cut it all off to be humbler. He says he’ll send the barber tomorrow to cut her hair—and the hair of all the older girls, who have been wearing fashionable top-knots. Those hussies. They’ve been doing their hair. Now that’s sin right there, isn’t it? We hope they repent.
At this point, Mr. Brocklehurst’s wife and daughters enter and interrupt his kind-hearted, sweet-natured, humble instructions. As befits the family of so pious a clergyman, they wear plain woolen gowns and have their hair combed flat against their heads.
Ha! You didn’t believe that, did you?
Actually Mrs. Brocklehurst and her daughters are all dolled up in fancy gowns of expensive silk, velvet, and fur, with fashionable hats, delicately curled hair, the works. They’ve been upstairs, snooping around in the girls’ rooms, making sure none of them own anything too fancy.
Jane tells us that she’s been hunkering down behind her slate, hoping really hard that the Brocklehursts will come and go without noticing her. And they would—except she manages to drop her slate and break it. Whoops.
You can see where this is going, though. Jane gets called up front and made to stand on a stool in front of everyone while Mr. Brocklehurst goes off about what a careless, evil, lying, heathen, demon child she is. Really.
We’re glad he can get his kicks from mocking ten-year-old girls, because otherwise he would probably have to steal candy from babies or something.
Mr. Brocklehurst sweeps out, very pleased with himself, ordering that Jane stay on her stool in front of everyone for the rest of the day, and forbids anyone to speak to her.
Jane’s completely mortified, but her friend Helen makes an excuse to pass by her a few times and smile at her. The smiles are all that keep Jane going.