I could not see how poor people had the means of being kind; and then to learn to speak like them, to adopt their manners, to be uneducated, to grow up like one of the poor women I saw sometimes nursing their children or washing their clothes at the cottage doors of the village of Gateshead: no, I was not heroic enough to purchase liberty at the price of caste.
– Charlotte Bronte
Jane Eyre, Chapter 3. The wealthy Reed family she is living with may be abusive and neglectful. But Jane believes that to be poor would be be even worse than staying with them. To Jane poverty is “synonymous with degradation.” She doesn’t want to grow up to be one of those poor women nursing children and washing clothes at the cottage doors. So when asked if she would like to live with relations who are kind but poor, she turns that down. To be poor, she has learned, means to be uneducated and without the means of being kind. She has also learned that her mother was disowned for marrying a poor clergyman.