Lowood Hall is an institution that prepares girls for work as teachers or governesses. The lexis ‘low’ infers the low position of the girls in society, which links to the novel as a social protest. The lexis ‘wood’ suggests they are hidden and protected from the outside world, as if society is ashamed of them, because in main part the school is consisted of orphans from impoverished backgrounds. The school constantly reminds them of their lowly and dependent social status and it is the next place where orphaned Jane settles to, after leaving Gateshead. For Jane, it represents a continuation of mistreatment and harassment, a low period in her life. Her first meeting with Lowood Institution takes place in a rainy and windy night. The gothic and gloomy setting barely allows newcomer pupils to distinguish any presence of windows or lights. The next day, Jane discovers by the daylight a "convent-like garden", i.e. enclosed, and a building whose inner façade is partially "lit by mullioned and latticed windows, which gives it a church-like aspect”.
This place was ruled by Mr. Brocklehurst, who uses his power to oppress the girls at school and to repress their individuality and identity. Religion is used as a tool to oppress them as well, threatening that the naughty girls will burn in hell. Mr. Brocklehurst, employs a host of brutal techniques to enforce submission in the girls, ranging from beatings to the withholding of food, water, and rest. Most significant, however, are the emotional and spiritual abuses to which the girls, and Jane in particular, are subjected. This dreadful treatment depicts Victorian class ideologies in which poverty was considered as a sign of physical, psychological, and spiritual failure. Frequently, Victorian society was attributing the outbreak of disease in impoverished communities.Victorian class hierarchies also presumed a related spiritual and psychological faintness in the lower classes. Mr. Brocklehurst, who is on the top of the social ladder, judged Jane for being poor. He also thought that Jane was always supposed to be misbehaving because she is not as quality as those in his class. He told everyone that Jane was a liar and that the girls should not be friends with her, he magnified all the bad qualities Jane had, most of which were not true, and attributed Jane a naughty girl image. The presence of the vile clergyman is meant to give Jane a portrait of the newcomer as a "careless" girl (ibid., 55), a sycophant of Satan, no less, "a little castaway", "an interloper", and "an alien",8 "worse than a pagan", and "a liar" (ibid., 56, passim) , someone therefore whom peers and teachers alike should beware of because she wills herself as an independent being, the odd one out, totally lacking in gratitude.
Mr. Brocklehurst represents another male character Jane stands up to. She describes him as “a black pillar … a sable clad shape standing erect on the rug: the grim face at the top was like a carved mask, placed above the shaft by way of capital” (Brontë 25). Mr. Brocklehurst is the “Victorian super-ego”, he is also described as a giant phallus symbol (Gilbert et al 343-44).
Beside the fact that Lowood is just like another prison under the control of Mr. Brocklehurst, here Jane meets some people of her sort: Helen Burns and Miss Temple share in some of her strangeness. Helen Burns represents the opposite of Jane’s character. She is the embodiment of a quite pathetic character, who is unable to stand up for herself, considering that one of her duties is to endure injustices in her life and believing that she will see justice in heaven, however she becomes a good friend to Jane. As her friend Jane accepts the idea of the doctrine of Christian endurance which Helen follows, which is totally lacking in the case of Jane as she believes in fighting against injustice, saying: “And if I were in your place I should dislike her; I should resist her. If she struck me with that rod, I should get it from her hand; I should break it under her nose” (Brontë 46). Being a wild and rebellious spirit, Jane’s rage wants out, when she encounters such injustices. Helen is portrayed as an-angel-in-house, a Christ figure. She embraces, feeds and counsels Jane, creating a figure of a mother, but she would never be a role figure for Jane , because of her longing for death and heaven and way of self-surrendering. After six months of Jane’s arrival, Helen dies of consumption (tuberculosis), her death could symbolize the death of the angel.
“A woman writer must examine, assimilate and transcend the extreme images of “angel” and “monster” which male authors have generated for them” and the author must kill both since they kill the female creativity (Gilbert et al 17). It could symbolize also Jane’s unconscious wish to free herself from surrendering to the identity of the angel-in-the-house. However, her death arose the the maturity in the character of Jane from a short-tempered girl who never endures to a girl who endures what not towards the climax and still stays composed and calm.
At Lowood, Jane finds a substitute mother in Miss Temple, as she describes her: "Miss Temple is full of goodness; it pains her to be severe to any one, even the worst in the school: she sees my errors, and tells me of them gently; and, if I do anything worthy of praise, she gives me my meed liberally. One strong proof of my wretchedly defective nature is, that even her expostulations, so mild, so rational, have not influence to cure me of my faults; and even her praise, though I value it most highly, cannot stimulate me to continued care and foresight.” She teaches Jane that there is justice in the world and she should fight for it. After Brocklehurst’s accusations, Miss Temple suggests Jane that: “when a criminal is accused, he is always allowed to speak in his defense. You have been charged with falsehood; defend yourself to me as well as you can. Say whatever your memory suggests as true; but add nothing and exaggerate nothing” (Brontë 60). This person is the fist female positive role that Jane meets. Miss Temple encourages Jane to act as she feels, explaining her that teachers and students will think of Jane as what she proves herself to be. Jane is also encouraged to do well in class and to excel in her studies. Miss Temple’s guidance has tempered Jane’s impulsivity and fire so that her thoughts have become “harmonious”, her feelings “regulated”, and her appearance “disciplined and subdued”. Spending eight years from her life at Lowood institution, six years as a student and two as a teacher, Jane became a mature and intelligent person. She learnt fluent French, geography, history, and English grammar. She also learned to play the piano reasonably well and had great skill at drawing.
She has acquired awareness of her aspirations and that she is trying to act to fulfill them, acknowledging the existence of a wide, real and beautiful world awaiting her on the other side of the panes. Jane emphasizes this intention through her words: My world had for some years been at Lowood: my experience had been its rules and systems; now I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils (Bronte, 73). Soon, she will advertise for a position as governess and this represents the turning-point in Jane’s life.