The epidemic and deaths expose the depravity at Lowood and Mr. Brocklehurst's neglect. New management takes over and improves the school.
Mr. Brocklehurst's negligence comes back to him. He receives divine and social justice.
Eight years pass. Jane excels in her studies during that time. Driven by a wish to please her teachers, she graduates first in her class and becomes a teacher at the school herself. But when Ms. Temple marries and leaves for a distant country, Jane yearns for a change herself, to venture out into the wide world and find a "new servitude."
Jane posts a newspaper advertisement for her services as a tutor, and a week later is offered a job by a Mrs. Fairfax to teach a young girl at the manor of Thornfield.
Jane's ad symbolizes her entrance into independent public life, though as a poor woman she must still serve others.
Just as she's leaving Lowood, Jane gets a surprise visit from Bessie. Bessie updates Jane about the Reeds—Georgiana tried to run off with a young lord, but her jealous sister Eliza ratted her out to Mrs. Reed. John Reed is failing school, spending money wildly, and generally disappointing his mother. Bessie thinks that Jane is far more accomplished than any of the Reed children.
Through her devotion to her education, Jane has gained self-confidence, admirable skills, and a respectable social position. Mrs. Reed may have rated her children above Jane, but raised without discipline and integrity, they turned out poorly.
Bessie also notes that Jane's family (the Eyres) was poor but respected—they even owned property. In fact, seven years previous (shortly after Jane left Gateshead), Jane's uncle John, a well-to-do wine merchant, had visited Gateshead looking for her. He didn't have time to visit her at Lowood, because he was headed to the island of Madeira on business.
Jane's social position becomes a little clearer. Though poor, she is a member of the gentry. Jane's uncle is a self-made man and a solid middle-class figure. His virtues parallel Jane's.