Sunday, June 13, 2010

Chapter 5: A Journey for Jane

Really, what's better for a ten-year-old than a fifty-mile coach journey by herself? Over early-nineteenth-century roads? I think Mrs. Reed would say the answer is "nothing."

Jane's just arrived at Lowood School, and while her arrival there doesn't sound like a lot of fun, it's not overly inauspicious:
"I passed from compartment to compartment, from passage to passage, of a large and irregular building; till, emerging from the total and somewhat dreary silence pervading that portion of the house we had traversed, we came upon the hum of many voices...a congregation of girls of every age, from nine or ten to twenty. Seen by the dim light of the dips, their number to me appeared countless, though not in reality exceeding eighty; they were uniformly dressed in brown stuff frocks of quaint fashion, and long holland pinafores."
Now, I've never tasted porridge in any form, let alone burnt. Or rotten potatoes, for that matter. But "burnt porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes" is one of the lines I remember from this book. Ugh.

But Miss Temple, one of the unequivocally good characters here, jumps in to save the day:
"'You had this morning a breakfast which you could not eat; you must be hungry:—I have ordered that a lunch of bread and cheese shall be served to all...It is to be done on my responsibility,' she added, in an explanatory tone to them, and immediately afterwards left the room."
Brave Miss Temple. We'll be returning to this decision in a few pages.

One other important character makes her debut in chapter 5: Helen Burns. But we'll leave her details for next time.

While we're having fun with alliteration, here's another J word for Miss Jane: judgmental. Nothing's stopping this girl from forming opinions, even if she's smart enough not to share:
"none of whom precisely pleased me; for the stout one was a little coarse, the dark one not a little fierce, the foreigner harsh and grotesque, and Miss Miller, poor thing! looked purple, weather-beaten, and over-worked"
And on Helen's choice of reading material:
"a brief examination convinced me that the contents were less taking than the title: 'Rasselas' looked dull to my trifling taste; I saw nothing about fairies, nothing about genii; no bright variety seemed spread over the closely-printed pages."

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