Helen Burns - Lowood School

Helen Burns lies dying
Helen lies dying from consumption

Helen Burns is Jane's only friend at Lowood School. Helen is honest, pious, loyal and compassionate. Helen is continuously victimised by her teachers and regularly takes the punishment without voicing her opinions. This confuses Jane, as she wishes Helen would stand up for herself. However, Helen does not see it like that - she accepts her perceived failings and apologises for them, waiting for the punishment patiently. This attitude is down to Helen's pious nature, as she continuously 'turns the other cheek' and tries to see the world through others' eyes. She loves and cares for Jane.

How is Helen like this?Evidence from the textAnalysis
AcceptingHelen is accepting and patient when receiving punishments from her teachers. She believes in their authority and wants to improve herself."It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected to you; and besides, the Bible bids us return good for evil."In this quotation, Helen behaves in a mature manner and she summarises the Bible's message of 'turning the other cheek'. Helen refers to the Bible's teachings and how it impacts on her behaviour and daily life.
AngelicHelen tragically dies of tuberculosis at a very young age and Jane stays with her until the last moment."I am very happy, Jane; and when you hear that I am dead, you must be sure and not grieve: there is nothing to grieve about."Helen is accepting her death and is content at the prospect of going to heaven. Her maturity shows in this quotation, as she is instructing Jane not to grieve, as she will be in heavan, a better place. Brontë describes Helen as angelic in her death to demonstrate her pious nature.
Question

Helen Burns is Jane's first friend. In your opinion, what did Jane learn from Helen Burns?

Jane learnt:

  • how to love through her friendship with Helen
  • forgiveness through Helen
  • how to see things from another's perspective
  • how to be more caring
  • the value of 'turning the other cheek'
  • how to grieve and endure pain, as she lost her only friend