When Mr. Brocklehurst sees Julia Severe's radiant red curls, he mistakenly assumes she has curled her hair artificially, and he tells the school that this act is in "defiance of every precept and principle" of Lowood School (Jane Eyre, Broadview [1999], 127). He insists that Julia's curls reflect her sinful desire to "conform to the world" (127), and he lectures Miss Temple about his personal vision and motives for the young women.

"Madam," he pursued, "I have a Master to serve whose kingdom is not of this world: my mission is to mortify in these girls the lusts of the flesh; to teach them to clothe themselves with shame-facedness and sobriety, not with braided hair and costly apparel; and each of the young persons before us has a string of hair twist in plaits which vanity itself might have woven: these, I repeat, must be cut off; think of the time wasted, of ? [128]

As soon as he has finshed his lecture, his wife and two daughters appear, and Jane remraks wryly:

They ought to have come a little sooner to have heard his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs. The two younger of the trio (fine girls of sixteen and seventeen) had grey beaver hats, then in fashion, shaded with ostrich plumes, and from under the brim of this graceful head-dress fell a profusion of light tresses, elaborately curled; the elder lady was enveloped in a costly velvet shawl, trimmed with ermine, and she wore a false front of French curls [128].

Questions

1. Does Jane's characterization argue against the ideal of the Victorian Christian woman? Does the reader's sympathy for Jane sway our view of her as being a self-sacrificing woman, whereas in fact, without male constraints, she would be a less masculine character herself?

2. How would the function of Mr. Brocklehurst's tone towards Miss Temple serve to reveal the dynamics of male-female relationships during the nineteenth century? Taking into consideration his family, does the dynamic change according to social status and social power?

3. How are the words "curled" and "curls" effective in Jane's narrative? Why would Brontë repeat the root of the word?

4. Why would Brontë construct the syntax of Brocklehurst speaking so that the reader must slow down and purposely take on a voice of that of a preacher to a pupil? Also, how does the syntax style change in the second paragraph where Jane narrates and describes the trio?

5. In one line Brocklehurst states the girls hair should be "cut off," when incidentally he is cut off from speaking, evidenced by the usage of a dash. Does Brontë intend to be symbolic by it's usage and perhaps reveal her personal opinion of the evangelical movement in the Victorian Era?

6. Within the narrative section of the quotation, Jane describes the trio of women with no apparent aversion to them or their attire, despite her own circumstances. Does the contrast of language and tone of Brocklehurst's lecturing help reveal Jane's opinion of women? Is she lenient towards her own sex?
Victorian Overview Charlotte Brontë Jane Eyre

Last modified 27 January 2009