Jane Eyre

by

Charlotte Brontë

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Jane Eyre: Satire 1 key example

Definition of Satire
Satire is the use of humor, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule to criticize something or someone. Public figures, such as politicians, are often the subject of satire, but satirists can take... read full definition
Satire is the use of humor, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule to criticize something or someone. Public figures, such as politicians, are often the subject of... read full definition
Satire is the use of humor, irony, sarcasm, or ridicule to criticize something or someone. Public figures, such as politicians... read full definition
Chapter 5
Explanation and Analysis—Abuse at Lowood:

Jane Eyre is more serious than many satirical novels, but it nonetheless uses satire to critique society's treatment of orphans and poor children. In Chapter 5, the narrator recounts the callous mistreatment of the students at Lowood:

Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my portion without thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger blunted, I perceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess – burnt porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon sickens over it.

The girls at Lowood are very hungry, but the food they are offered is "almost as bad as rotten potatoes." They are at risk of starvation at the institution that is supposed to care for them. Charlotte Brontë and her siblings were not orphans by today's standards, but their mother died when they were young. In the early 19th century, children who had lost one parent were considered orphans. Like Jane and Helen, Brontë's siblings were sent to charity schools. Some of them died there because of neglectful care.

What makes Brontë's description of Lowood satire is that she emphasizes the foolishness and inhumanity of the logic behind the way the school operates. Miss Temple does her best to remedy the situation with the burnt porridge by giving the students a good lunch,  but Mr. Brocklehurst chastises her for doing this. Having good food is antithetical to what he thinks the charity school's mission is (training the students to be good, submissive, productive young women). Their appetites, he believes, are unbecoming. But in order for the children to grow into adults at all, they will need to survive childhood. Chapter 6 begins with a description of the dangerously cold dormitories:

A change had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned the contents of the ewers to ice.

It is cold enough for the water to freeze: these are conditions that could be life-threatening. Later, a student is punished for being unclean, and the administration of the school blames the student rather than the iced-over pitchers of water with which she would have had to bathe. Brontë is doing more than describing bad conditions. She is using satire to make the school administration look outrageously uncaring toward poor children. As she promised in her prologue, which praised Thackeray over more low-hitting satirists, Brontë is taking a fairly serious tone with her satire. She does not want readers to laugh at the school so much as be disgusted by it.

Chapter 6
Explanation and Analysis—Abuse at Lowood:

Jane Eyre is more serious than many satirical novels, but it nonetheless uses satire to critique society's treatment of orphans and poor children. In Chapter 5, the narrator recounts the callous mistreatment of the students at Lowood:

Ravenous, and now very faint, I devoured a spoonful or two of my portion without thinking of its taste; but the first edge of hunger blunted, I perceived I had got in hand a nauseous mess – burnt porridge is almost as bad as rotten potatoes; famine itself soon sickens over it.

The girls at Lowood are very hungry, but the food they are offered is "almost as bad as rotten potatoes." They are at risk of starvation at the institution that is supposed to care for them. Charlotte Brontë and her siblings were not orphans by today's standards, but their mother died when they were young. In the early 19th century, children who had lost one parent were considered orphans. Like Jane and Helen, Brontë's siblings were sent to charity schools. Some of them died there because of neglectful care.

What makes Brontë's description of Lowood satire is that she emphasizes the foolishness and inhumanity of the logic behind the way the school operates. Miss Temple does her best to remedy the situation with the burnt porridge by giving the students a good lunch,  but Mr. Brocklehurst chastises her for doing this. Having good food is antithetical to what he thinks the charity school's mission is (training the students to be good, submissive, productive young women). Their appetites, he believes, are unbecoming. But in order for the children to grow into adults at all, they will need to survive childhood. Chapter 6 begins with a description of the dangerously cold dormitories:

A change had taken place in the weather the preceding evening, and a keen north-east wind, whistling through the crevices of our bedroom windows all night long, had made us shiver in our beds, and turned the contents of the ewers to ice.

It is cold enough for the water to freeze: these are conditions that could be life-threatening. Later, a student is punished for being unclean, and the administration of the school blames the student rather than the iced-over pitchers of water with which she would have had to bathe. Brontë is doing more than describing bad conditions. She is using satire to make the school administration look outrageously uncaring toward poor children. As she promised in her prologue, which praised Thackeray over more low-hitting satirists, Brontë is taking a fairly serious tone with her satire. She does not want readers to laugh at the school so much as be disgusted by it.

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