The stage empty, Edward Fairfax Rochester’s voice can be heard, calling out for his lost love, Jane Eyre.
Jane enters to tell her story. She recalls her painful childhood after being left an orphan (“The Orphan”). Young Jane is sent to Gateshead Hall, to live with her unfeeling aunt, Mrs. Reed, and her children. Mrs. Reed dislikes her niece, viewing her as a useless burden, and abuses her physically and emotionally, even encouraging her children to be cruel to their cousin. Jane is especially tormented by her sadistic cousin, John. In spite of the abuse, her spirit stays resilient.
Jane is sent away to Lowood Institution, a stern and cold charity boarding school for girls. It is headed by the severe Mr. Brocklehurst. Before leaving Jane behind for good, Mrs. Reed warns Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane is “prone to deceit,” and Mr. Brocklehurst resolves to exact whatever harsh measures to correct this false condemnation of Jane’s character (“Children of God”).
Life at the boarding
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