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Jane Eyre Chapter 5 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

In this, the fifth chapter of Charlotte Bronte's ''Jane Eyre,'' we see Jane finally on her way to school. This lesson provides an overview of the chapter, which marks the beginning of Jane's new life at Lowood.

The Journey

Jane's eagerness to leave Gateshead Hall is evident as she is awake and ready of her own volition before five o'clock on the morning she is scheduled to leave. Far from being sent off in the family carriage with a companion, Jane is loaded into a public coach with only a stranger as a chaperone for the 50-mile journey to Lowood. Indeed, we learn that Mrs. Reed has admonished Jane to not even wake her or the children before she leaves in the morning, so she is seen off only by Bessie and the darkness before dawn. Relying on the power of horses instead of on horsepower, this trek takes all day. Jane arrives at school well after dark.

First Impressions: The First Nnight

Jane is bewildered and exhausted when she arrives at Lowood after her long journey. She is received with kindness at first by a tall woman with dark hair. This woman shows real concern for Jane, asking if she is tired and hungry, and arranging for her to be fed and put to bed soon. The woman touches Jane kindly, too, resting a hand on her shoulder and touching her cheek gently with a finger. After her initial assessment, this woman leaves Jane in the care of Miss Miller, whom we learn is one of the under-teachers.

Miss Miller takes Jane into another room, where rows of uniformly dressed girls sit studying their lessons. Jane is seated alone on a bench without any introduction. Miss Miller calls out orders for the girls to put away their books; she calls for trays of water and 'thin oaten cake' to be brought in and circulated among the girls. Afterward, the girls are marched up to the bedroom, where they undress in the cold and sleep two per bed. The night is dark and silent within, but punctuated by roaring wind and driving rain without.

A Nauseous Mess: The First Morning

The next day starts before dawn, signaled by the ringing of a bell. All of the girls get up, dress, and share washbasins (six girls to each basin). Jane struggles to dress because she's shivering in the shocking cold. The bell rings again and the girls line up and march down to the school room. Here, Jane is placed at the bottom of the lowest class as lessons begin.

Prayers, recitation, and scripture reading go on for more than an hour before the ringing bell signals breakfast. Jane, who is starving after eating nothing during her journey the day before, looks eagerly forward to a meal. This happy anticipation is crushed, however, when she discovers that the breakfast is sending 'forth an odour far from inviting.' The fetid smell turns out to be an accurate advertisement for the breakfast of burnt porridge, which Jane calls 'a nauseous mess.'

Finding A Place: The First Day

In the 15 minutes of relative freedom before the start of lessons, the girls loudly express their disgust at their awful breakfast. At precisely nine o'clock, the girls are called to order and the day's lessons commence.

There are three other teachers besides Miss Miller. The tall, kind, dark-haired woman who greeted Jane upon her arrival returns, and it's revealed that her name is Miss Temple. She is the superintendent of Lowood. After three hours, lessons end and Miss Temple announces that, in lieu of their inedible breakfast, she ordered them a lunch of bread and cheese. The other teachers seem a little shocked by this declaration, but they are placated when Miss Temple assures them that she is taking responsibility for this decision.

After finally receiving some nourishment, the girls are sent outside to 'the garden,' which, in January, is not exactly lush and inviting. At this point, Jane has neither been introduced nor made welcome by any of the other students.

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