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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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CHAPTER 6

Jane's first friend at Lowood is an older girl named Helen Burns. Helen loves reading, but the school's nastiest teacher, Miss Scatcherd, constantly picks on her because she's dreamy and a little clumsy. Jane can't understand why Helen submits to Miss Scatcherd's persecutions without complaining. Helen quotes the New Testament: "Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and despitefully use you."

Jane argues that this attitude only encourages people like Miss Scatcherd who enjoy picking on the weak. "When we are struck at without a reason," Jane argues, "we should strike back again very hard; I am sure we should-so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again."


NOTE:

Submission or resistance? Pacifism or self-defense? Which is the best way to respond to evil?

Even Jane, the rebel, doesn't mean to say that she'd actually hit a teacher. She just means that she'd find some way to fight back against unfair treatment. Many readers feel that Jane is right and that Helen is simply too good to be believable. A few even get angry at Helen; they argue that people who submit to evil are cooperating with it. Another view, probably closer to Charlotte Bronte's own, is that Jane and Helen represent opposite extremes, with neither being completely correct. Jane wants to fight every battle and is in danger of becoming a bitter person. Helen is moral, almost saintly, but perhaps not very well prepared to survive in an imperfect world.

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