Jane Eyre Chapter 8 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

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

In an overview of the 8th chapter of ''Jane Eyre,'' discover if Jane is able to recover from the public scolding she received in the previous chapter, or if she is doomed to endure the same cruelties at Lowood that she knew at Gateshead.

Despair. Again.

At the start of this chapter, we find Jane still standing on her stool of infamy. The school day has ended and she is left alone in the classroom. In the dark and solitude, the strength that held her up fades. She climbs down from the stool, lays herself out on the floor, and gives way to great, wracking sobs.

She feels all is lost - after what Mr. Brocklehurst told everyone about her, how can she ever hope to succeed or have friends here at Lowood? She had recently been moved to the head of her class and had received praise from both Miss Miller and Miss Temple. Now, she worries it is all for nothing. She feels 'crushed and trodden on,' and she wonders hopelessly, 'could I ever rise more?' She abandons herself to this despair and wishes she would die.

The Comfort of Friends

Just as Jane feels most alone and hopeless, Helen arrives, bringing with her comfort and a snack. Jane is not coaxed from her despair immediately, but instead laments that 'everybody' now thinks she is a liar. Helen makes an excellent point against this as she suggests, 'Everybody, Jane? Why, there are only eighty people who have heard you called so, and the world contains hundreds of millions.'

From here, Helen goes on to assure Jane that criticism from Mr. Brocklehurst is more likely to engender sympathy in the other students than contempt. No one can stand him, and all can plainly see his cruelty and hypocrisy. Gradually, Helen calms Jane, and they rest together for a moment in peace.

Miss Temple then enters and invites both Jane and Helen up to her room. Once there, Jane again expresses her concern that she will be hated by everyone, Miss Temple included. 'We shall think you what you prove yourself to be, my child,' Miss Temple assures Jane, adding 'Continue to act as a good girl and you will satisfy us.' To satisfy Miss Temple is one of the things Jane wants most. She blossoms under Miss Temple's kindness and encouragement.

Jane is allowed to tell her side of the story and to speak in her own defense against the claims of Mr. Brocklehurst. Miss Temple then offers to verify the facts of her story and, if they check out, acquit her of all Mr. Brocklehurst's charges just as publicly as he levied them.

Kindness, friendship, and justice must seem to Jane just as water seems to one left days in the desert after all the cruelty, loneliness, and injustice she has endured. Helen and Jane enjoy tea together with Miss Temple. 'We feasted that evening as on nectar and ambrosia,' Jane tells us.

Miss Temple gives the girls her ration of toast and a generous helping of seed cake from her private store. Helen and Miss Temple discuss literature, history, and art. Jane is amazed by Helen's education, intelligence, and persistent humility. This small evening, salvaged out of deepest despair, is the happiest we have yet seen Jane in the course of this novel.

Concern for Helen

We are reminded of the 'hollow cough' that haunted Jane's first few days at Lowood as Miss Temple asks Helen, 'How are you to-night, Helen? Have you coughed much?'

The wording here suggests this cough is a chronic thing Helen has struggled with. We are further alarmed when Miss Temple also asks her, 'And the pain in your chest?' Just before this, we are also told that, after talking at some length, Helen 'breathed a little fast and coughed a short cough.' Shortness of breath, chest pain, and chronic coughing are troubling symptoms, indeed. Our concerns are not dispelled when we read, 'her spirit seemed hastening to live within a very brief span as much as many live during a protracted existence.' Is that foreshadowing? The reader can't help hoping it isn't.

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