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After Jane's illness, Mrs. Reed separates the girl from her own children. Jane is condemned to eat, sleep and play alone. Eliza and Georgiana, obeying their mother's orders, do not associate with her. John continues to bully her, but Jane manages to keep him at a distance by punching his nose. During Christmas and the New Year, Jane is excluded from the presents and the parties, but she does not mind spending the evenings quietly with Bessie.
Then one day, Mr. Brocklehurst, the founder of Lowood School, visits Gateshead Hall and agrees to admit Jane into his school. He questions Jane about the Bible and gives her a lecture on obedience and honesty. Mrs. Reed lists all of Jane's faults in front of Brocklehurst. She wants him to warn everyone at Lowood against Jane's "deceitful" nature.
As soon as Brocklehurst leaves, Jane confronts her aunt and vehemently expresses her pent-up feelings. She even threatens to expose her to the people at Lowood School. Evidently frightened by this, Mrs. Reed retires, leaving Jane the "winner of the field," and Jane feels the ecstasy of having triumphed over an adult. This is the first time she tastes revenge. But these feelings are soon replaced by feelings of remorse. However, she does not apologize to Mrs. Reed as it would only invite scorn from her. Feeling dejected, she walks into the garden. Soon Bessie joins her and begins talking to her in a friendly manner.
In this chapter, Jane begins to feel the joy of freedom: she knows that she is soon to be released from the tyrannical authority of Mrs. Sarah Reed. She rightly remarks, "(M)y soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt."
The introduction of Mr. Brocklehurst in this chapter brings a new kind of oppression into Jane's life. Brocklehurst is described as a "black marble clergyman." Into the world of Jane, the child, he brings the fearful aspects of religion. He is not impressed with Jane when she tells him that she has read the following: "Revelations, and the book of Daniel and Genesis and Samuel, and a little bit of Exodus, and some parts of Kings and Chronicles, and Job and Jonah." Jane reacts against him rather unpleasantly at their very first meeting. The corruption of Brocklehurst's soul is reflected in the repulsiveness of his face.
It is interesting to notice the attributes Brocklehurst claims for his school: "Plain fare, simple attire and unsophisticated accommodations." These are only euphemisms for starvation, inadequate clothing and freezing quarters. The reader is prepared here for the intolerable cold, which freezes the water in the wash basins at Lowood School.
Jane emerges triumphant after her bold encounter with Mrs. Reed. She looks at her icy eyes, shakes from head to foot and then clears her mind of the negative feelings that she has for her guardian. This is the first victory she has gained in the world of adult authority. Her victory tastes like wine at first. After some time, however, even this victory fades. She goes outside, where black frost reigns. The sky is gray with snow-clouds, and the thought of victory is soon replaced by a feeling of misery. In this state she asks herself, "What shall I do?--What shall I do?" Jane has begun to feel that she needs to be saved not only from Gateshead Hall, but also from something within herself.