Over the past few weeks, I have been working with a group of Year 6 children on a reading comprehension from Jane Eyre. In the extract we looked at, taken from the beginning of the book, Jane has been punished for defending herself against her loathsome cousin, who has thrown a book at her after telling her she wasn’t allowed to read the books in the house.
The servants, Bessie and Miss Abbot, feel sorry for Jane in a way, but make matters worse too by saying that Jane has a lower position than even a servant in the house because she does nothing for her keep. Poor, spirited Jane is hurt and furious at the end of the extract and I wanted the children to put themselves in her shoes and write a diary entry.
The girls wrote some excellent words! Each response was different – sad and longing for the future, furious at her unfair treatment, and blaming the servants for condoning the family’s abuse. We treated this exercise as an opportunity to write without worry – I told them to write as if they were Jane Eyre in a fury. In this instance, she would not be thinking of spelling, punctuation and grammar. She would be wanting to commit her thoughts to paper as quickly and passionately as possible.
Below are the results. I was incredibly impressed and I hope you are too!
December 20th – Dear Diary,
Today was horrible, everyone treats me as if I am a rat. My cousin, who is apparently my master, is so spoiled! Telling me to get this and that for him. I am no slave. I slapped him, this is what he deserved. I had been in trouble, but I do not care! No one treats me like a slave or worse! This is what he gets. Miss Abbot told me I will be punished, and someone will come down the chimney to come and get me. Bessie told me I could go to the poorhouse, she has no idea what I have been through. Soon I will run and they shall never see me.
I am utterly disgusted by Miss Abbot and Bessie’s behaviour. I am not being treated the way I should be and not the way I want to be. If I had a wish it would be to leave Gateshead Hall. My life would be so much more peaceful without them. Ever since I’ve lived with them I felt as if I’ve been living under a rock.
Do things always stay the same? Right now I feel like I’m trapped in an underground cave with no one letting me out! Miss Abbot is going way off hook right now. Yesterday she was trying to tie me to a chair (like I didn’t do anything wrong!). Some days I just don’t get adults or my cousins! Miss Reed is now being too mean when I did nothing wrong. Some days I wish my family was … well a normal family a family that lets me read in peace, someone who doesn’t lock me in a room or cousins that don’t abuse me for who I am, but some things never change.