Throughout Jane Eyre, as Jane herself moves from one physical location to
another, the settings in which she finds herself vary considerably. Bronte makes the most
of this necessity by carefully arranging those settings to match the differing
circumstances Jane finds herself in at each. As Jane grows older and her hopes and
dreams change, the settings she finds herself in are perfectly attuned to her state of mind,
but her circumstances are always defined by the walls, real and figurative, around her.
As a young girl, she is essentially trapped in Gateshead. This sprawling house is
almost her whole world. Jane has been here for most of her ten years. Her life as a child
is sharply defined by the walls of the house. She is not made to feel wanted within them
and continues throughout the novel to associate Gateshead with the emotional trauma of
growing up under its 'hostile roof with a desperate and embittered heart.'
first setting is a very nice house, though not much of a home. As she is constantly
reminded by John Reed, Jane is merely a dependent here.
When she finally leaves for Lowood, as she remembers later, it is with a 'sense of
outlawry and almost of reprobation.' Lowood is after all an institution where the orphan
inmates or students go to learn. Whereas at Gateshead her physical needs were more than
adequately met, while her emotional needs were ignored. Here Jane finds people who
will love her and treat her with respect. Miss Temple and Helen Burns are quite probably
the first people to make Jane feel important since Mr. Reed died. Except for Sunday
services, the girls of Lowood never leave the confines of those walls. At Lowood, Jane
learns that knowledge is the key to power.