I scarcely knew what school was; Bessie sometimes spoke of it as a place where young ladies sat in the stocks, wore backboards, and were expected to be exceedingly genteel and precise; John Reed hated his school, and abused his master: but John Reed’s tastes were no rule for mine, and if Bessie’s accounts of school-discipline (gathered from the young ladies of a family where she had lived before coming to Gateshead) were somewhat appalling, her details of certain accomplishments attained by these same ladies were, I thought, equally attractive. She boasted of beautiful paintings of landscapes and flowers by them executed; of songs they could sing and pieces they could play, of purses they could net, of French books they could translate; till my spirit was moved to emulation as I listened. Besides, school would be a complete change: it implied a long journey, an entire separation from Gateshead, an entrance into a new life.
“I should indeed like to go to school,” was the audible conclusion of my musings.
– Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre, Chapter 3. When apothecary Mr. Lloyd asks Jane if she would like to go to school, she embraces it as an opportunity to escape from the tyranny of Gateshead and begin a new life. She knows little about school, but while John Reed hates it and abuses his teacher, Jane refuses to be ruled by his bad tastes. Instead she learns her understanding of girls’ education from servant Bessie. Bessie’s account of the accomplishments attained by young ladies in school – in painting, singing and studying French books – inspires Jane. Jane sees education as her gateway to freedom from the oppression of the Reeds.