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Free Study Guide-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 6

Summary

The next day turns out to be very cold. The water in the pitchers is frozen, and the girls are unable to wash. Although Helen is the best in the class at the history lesson, Miss Scatcherd picks on her for not having cleaned her nails. But Helen only listens to her patiently, without offering any explanation. Miss Scatcherd also gives her a ruthless beating, but she does not become even slightly angry.

Later, Jane questions Helen about her forbearance. Helen maintains that her own failings, such as her carelessness and lack of concentration, are the cause of her punishment. She confesses that she often loses herself in the memory of her home in Northumberland. She believes that being a student, one should not protest against the teachers. It is her strong conviction that one can learn even from criticism.

Jane narrates to Helen her experiences at Gateshead, particularly Mrs. Reed's and John's cruelty. But Helen's opinion is that life should not be spent in cultivating animosity. She advises Jane to follow Christ's example and return good for evil.

Notes

This chapter falls into two distinct sections. The first section relates Jane's second day at Lowood. The second section describes her conversation with Helen Burns. So far, Jane has been only a spectator at Lowood. Now she becomes an actor. Jane finds the lessons both long and difficult. The frequent change from task to task astonishes her. She is particularly shocked to notice Miss Scatcherd's harshness towards Helen Burns. Jane finds the play-hour in the evening to be the one pleasant part of the day.


During Jane's second conversation with Helen Burns, a serious discussion ensues "by the dim glare of the embers" of a fire. It symbolizes kindness, friendship and acceptance. From Helen, Jane learns how to remain patient under apparent injustice. In this chapter Helen Burns is contrasted with Jane: Helen preaches the orthodox Christian lessons of endurance, forgiveness and meekness. Jane, the rebel, is no doubt attracted to Helen. However, she is reluctant to be passive and to endure suffering without resistance.

Jane cannot comprehend Helen's doctrine of endurance. Still, she feels that Helen Burns has a certain wisdom. It is possible that Helen has derived this doctrine of endurance from her study of Doctor Johnson's novel, Rasselas. Helen Burns is carrying a copy of the book and reading it at the moment when Jane meets her. In Rasselas, Johnson puts this significant remark into the mouth of one of his characters: "Human nature is everywhere in a state in which much is to be endured and little to be enjoyed."

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