Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so to children: they have not much idea of industrious, working, respectable poverty; they think of the world only as connected with ragged clothes, scanty food, fireless grates, rude manners, and debasing vices: poverty for me was synonymous with degradation.
– Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre, Chapter 3. Jane is telling local apothecary Mr. Lloyd why she would refuse to live with caring relatives who are poor. Mrs. Reed has told Jane – falsely – that her Eyre relatives are poor and lower class. She has taught Jane that poverty is associated with unpleasantness and wickedness. It is ironic that Jane rejects the idea of going to live with relatives that she would have discovered are kind, educated and middle-class. She would have saved herself a lot of pain and misery at Lowood institution had she seen past Mrs. Reed’s lie. There is also irony in the fact that Jane is herself poor, even though she is allowed to live with her wealthy aunt.