On acting like adults.


I went to see the incredible National Theatre Touring production of Jane Eyre yesterday.

It was everything I hoped it to be and more from a theatrical perspective.

So many messages were explored and communicated about being female, being male, being human; about morality, religion and sanity.

But also about Attachment, Adverse Childhood Experiences and about the crucial importance of Nurture in childhood.

Although of course Charlotte Bronte would never have heard of these new fashionable, capitalised terms.

We see in Jane a little girl who has had the most traumatic start in life through the death of her parents.

This is then exacerbated when she is sent to live in kinship care with an aunt and her cousins who reject and abuse her.

There are so many times in the story where we see how things might have been different for the looked after Jane and her emotional development. Perhaps the most poignant for me in this performance was the point in the play where Jane returns to see her dying aunt, Mrs Reed. The aunt is trying to defend her dislike of Jane as a child and to justify it by invoking sympathy in light of the fact that Jane would often fly into violent rages and attack others.

In the play, Jane's response was to answer "but I was a child."

In the book we read this:

"My disposition is not so bad as you think. I am passionate but not vindictive. Many a time, as a little child, I should have been glad to love you if you would have let me."

(Jane Eyre, Penguin Classics, 2006).

The attempt by Mrs Reed to turn herself into victim and blame Jane for a natural response to the distress she has suffered is sharply exposed.

But how much have we adults moved on since Mrs Reed?

How many times must we remind parents that love is a far more powerful tool in influencing a child's behaviour than punishment? That meeting the needs of a child is not spoiling but rather supporting the child into an emotionally secure future?

Mrs Reed may have argued that she had Jane forced upon her but the reality is that she had a choice, as an adult. Jane as a child did not.

How many times must we remind ourselves as teachers that no child is bad and that we are the adults in the relationship whose paid job it is to support and care for all the children we encounter? If we don't want to have that responsibility, we have the choice to find a different job where we don't. The children in our schools don't.

Jane is a success story, a poster girl for the looked after child who survived and thrived in spite of it all.

But 170 years on from when Charlotte Bronte so brilliantly launched her into the world, why aren't we doing better?

How many of those labelled criminals, terrorists, or delinquents might have spoken Jane's words?

Author Profile

Lena Carter

Lena Carter

Dep Head Pupil Support in Scotland.

109 stories


Christine Couser Christine Couser @cacouser 6 months ago
So true, but we need to balance this with preparing young people for a world in which they will need to take responsibility for their behaviour. If someone has the solution, please share
Mal Krishnasamy Mal Krishnasamy @malcpd 6 months ago
Absolutely brilliant post, Lena. It's my favourite book for so many of the reasons you have highlighted above. Thank you. x
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