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Jane leaves Gateshead on the nineteenth of January to go to Lowood School. She travels all alone in a coach for fifty miles. At the school she is received by Miss Miller and Miss Temple, the superintendent. That night, she sleeps with Miss Miller and is woken up by the school bell in the morning. The weather is bitter cold and the girls shiver as they dress.
The day's business begins with a Bible reading. It is followed by a breakfast of burned porridge, which the children are unable to eat. The rest of the day is divided into lessons in geography, history, writing, arithmetic and music. Miss Temple compensates for the rotten breakfast by serving a lunch of bread and cheese at her own expense. During the lunch break Jane finds an older girl reading a book called Rasselas. She learns from this girl, Helen Burns, that Lowood is an institution maintained by charity. Here, orphans are educated with the help of subscriptions (donations) from benevolent people, in addition to the fifteen pounds paid by their relatives. The school was built by Naomi Brocklehurst, and her son is now the treasurer and manager.
As is characteristic of Jane, she keeps to herself. At the same time she continues to observe her environment. She sees that Miss Temple is liked by everyone. However, Miss Temple has no great authority, as she must answer to Mr. Brocklehurst for everything. On the other hand, Miss Scatcherd's oppression repulses Jane. She also notices the inferior quality of the food served at the institution.
A new chapter begins for Jane in her life at Lowood School. In contrast to the physical comforts of Gateshead, at Lowood there is only enough food to keep the young girls alive. Equally intolerable is the winter of Lowood. In an attempt to forget these problems, Jane delivers herself to the business of watching and thinking. Gateshead and her past life seem to float away. The present is vague and strange, and of the future she can form no conjecture.
From a senior student, Helen Burns, Jane gathers details about her teachers. She notices that all the girls are dressed in such a way that the prettiest of them is made to look unattractive: "in brown dresses, made high and surrounded by a narrow tucker about the throat, with little pockets of holland (shaped something like a Highlander's purse) tied in front of their frocks . . . all too wearing woolen stockings and country-made shoes, fastened with brass buckles."
Jane reports the only remarkable event of the afternoon, namely, the disgraceful dismissal of Helen Burns from the history class by Miss. Scatcherd. She is sent to stand in the middle of the large schoolroom. The punishment seems shameful to Jane, especially for a girl of Helen's age. However, Jane is surprised to see that Helen Burns shows no signs of distress or shame. She is left to wonder what sort of a girl Helen Burns is.