Form and Content (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre traces the personal development of a young woman who must struggle to maintain a separate identity and independence in the suffocating pressures of her culture. She grapples with the societal expectations of her gender, which frequently conflict with her intuitive sense of self. Each setting and situation that Jane encounters denotes a phase in her personal progress, teaching her and preparing her for the next experience.
The linear organization of Jane’s maturation process is attributable to the viewpoint of the narrator. The narrator is not the child, teenager, or young woman that Jane is during the course of the narrative, but the adult wife and mother who is recounting her story. With hindsight and from a mature perspective, Jane can recognize the pivotal, shaping events of her life. She takes account of her life, selecting events so that a pattern of personal development becomes apparent, what all people do in making sense of their past. The reader also senses Brontë’s voice. Although the novel is not an autobiography, it contains autobiographical elements—Brontë’s experience at the Clergy Daughter’s School is similar to Jane’s years at Lowood, for example. Certainly Brontë draws from her own experience as a maturing young woman in describing the life of Jane Eyre.
Each setting indicates a stage of growth for Jane. Under the cruel treatment of her aunt, Sarah Reed, at Gateshead Hall,...
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Places Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Places)
Gateshead Hall. Upper-middle class home of the Reed family. Gateshead Hall, identified only as located in “—shire,” England, is the home in which Jane spends the first ten years of her life with her aunt, Mrs. Reed, and her three cousins. It is here that Jane learns to take care of herself—training that prepares her for the hardships that are to follow during her years at an orphan asylum.
Two places in particular within Gateshead Hall play prominent roles in Jane’s life there. The window seat in which the reader first encounters Jane as she reads a book on the history of British birds is surrounded by thick red curtains and shelters her from both the cold, raw weather on the outside of the window and the cold, loveless environment of the Reed household on the other side of the curtain. Shortly after Jane leaves the womblike safety of the window seat, she is banished to the red room, her late uncle’s old bedroom, after being unjustly accused of fighting with her cousin John. It is from the unhappy atmosphere of Gateshead Hall that Jane acquires the strength of character to help her with the difficulties she must face in the future.
Lowton. Fictional town near which the Lowood Orphan Asylum is located, some fifty miles from Gateshead Hall. This school is believed to be based in part on the Cowan Bridge School that Charlotte Brontë and her sisters attended as girls....
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Context (Masterplots II: Women's Literature Series)
Published in 1847, Jane Eyre was a popular success. Although many women writers were read by the Victorian public, true literary respectability required a masculine name; hence Brontë used the pseudonym “Currer Bell.” The popularity of this intelligent novel should force one to reconsider the often belittled and maligned tastes of the largely female reading public of the period. One can imagine that the novel appealed to women then, and today, because it reflects the frustratingly limiting condition of women in the nineteenth century. Although the novel’s end suggests a happy, typically Victorian domestic solution to Jane’s problems—the reconciliation of Jane and Rochester—this conclusion does not assuage the more pervasive difficulties that Jane encounters in defining her identity as a woman within nineteenth century constraints. Modern readers appreciate Jane’s strength and independence and her admirable struggle to live with integrity within a culture stifling for women.
For example, Jane’s job as a governess exemplifies only one confusing female role in the 1800’s. Women had very few alternatives for survival. If not supported by a father or a husband, an educated, middle-class woman likely was forced to become a governess, a position of lifelong servitude and repression of personal desires. As a woman who possesses the education, tastes, and behaviors of upper-class decorum so that she can teach them to her charges, the...
(The entire section is 387 words.)
Bronte's England: The Social Context
Jane Eyre is set in the north of England sometime in the first half of the nineteenth century. During this period, British society was undergoing slow but significant change. Perhaps most apparent was the transition from a rural to an industrial economy. The Industrial Revolution had begun in Britain in the late 1700s, and by the time of Jane Eyre, it was running full steam. Although Charlotte Bronte wrote about some of the effects of the Industrial Revolution in her 1849 novel Shirley, she touches on three areas of social concern in Jane Eyre: education, women's employment, and marriage.
Victorian attitudes toward education differed considerably from those prevalent in modern America. For one thing, the level of one's schooling was determined by social class and also by gender. At all levels of society and in virtually all levels of the education system, boys and girls were taught separately. The children of poor or working-class families were taught in local schools, such as the one in...
(The entire section is 742 words.)
Set in early nineteenth-century England, Jane Eyre moves through various locations, all informed by autobiographical detail from Bronte's life. As a child living in Mrs. Reed's house, Gateshead Hall, Jane experiences overt class subordination. After her altercation with Mrs. Reed's bully son, John, Jane is forcibly removed to an isolated room where she senses a presence, "a rushing of wings"; this ephemeral visitation recurs throughout the novel, each time signalling a major change in Jane's life.
At Lowood school, more than six dozen girls ranging in age from nine to twenty years are constantly reminded that they are beholden to the charitable donors who pay partial costs for their schooling. The building is bleak, sparely furnished, and underheated, and the stern and spartan conditions severely test Jane's resolve. Jane remains at Lowood as a teacher after completing her studies, but following the urging of a disembodied voice, she soon advertises for a governess position and is solicited by Mrs. Fairfax of Thornfield. At Thornfield Manor, a gothic three-story mansion, Jane serves as governess to Adele Varens, a ward of Edward Rochester, owner of the estate.
After a year at Thornfield, Jane is summoned to Gateshead to attend to the dying Mrs. Reed, and it is against this backdrop that the tempestuous scene of Rochester's marriage proposal and Jane's acceptance is played.
Her wedding ceremony dramatically interrupted by a...
(The entire section is 370 words.)
Chapters 1-3 Questions and Answers
1. Where does Jane live, and with whom?
2. What is her status, and how is she treated?
3. Why is Jane off reading alone?
4. Where is she sitting?
5. What happens between Jane and John?
6. What is Jane’s reaction to being hit with the book?
7. How do we know that Mrs. Reed is an unkind woman?
8. How does Jane behave in the Red Room?
9. Why does Jane imagine a ghost or spirit?
10. How do we learn about Jane’s appearance?
1. Jane lives at Gateshead hall with her aunt through marriage, Mrs. Reed, and her three cousins, John, Eliza, and Georgiana.
2. Jane is an orphan. She is treated very cruelly by Mrs. Reed and her children.
3. Mrs. Reed will not let Jane sit with the family.
4. Jane is sitting on a window seat in the breakfast room.
5. John throws a book at Jane, causing her head to bleed.
6. Jane hits John back and screams that he is “a wicked and cruel boy.”
7. Mrs. Reed ejects Jane from the family circle, banishes her to the Red Room, and refuses to let her out when she sobs.
8. Jane reacts by working herself into a fit.
9. The Red Room is the room where Jane’s uncle, Mr. Reed, has died. Jane also sees a light on the ceiling.
10. Both Bessie and Miss Abbot discuss...
(The entire section is 234 words.)
Chapters 4-6 Questions and Answers
1. How does Jane spend her last few months at Gateshead Hall?
2. What is Mr. Brocklehurst’s attitude toward Jane?
3. What does Mrs. Reed tell Mr. Brocklehurst about Jane?
4. Why does Jane become upset at Mrs. Reed’s statement?
5. What are the conditions at the Lowood School?
6. How would you characterize Miss Scatcherd?
7. Why does Jane think Helen Burns is approachable?
8. What shocks Jane about Helen?
9. How does Brontë use Helen as a symbol of Christian love?
10. How does Jane react to Helen’s pious beliefs?
1. Jane continues to be excluded from the family’s activities even during the Christmas holiday season.
2. Mr. Brocklehurst admonishes Jane for being naughty and reminds her that the wicked go to hell.
3. Mrs. Reed tells Mr. Brocklehurst that Jane has a tendency to deceit.
4. Jane becomes very upset because she knows herself to be an utterly truthful person.
5. At Lowood, the rooms were dark and cold, the meals were not nutritious, and basically inedible, and the treatment by most of the teachers was cruel.
6. Miss Scatcherd is a mean woman who consistently picks on Helen Burns and then beats her.
7. Jane realizes that she and Helen have a love of reading in common.
8. Jane is...
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Chapters 7-10 Questions and Answers
1. What are the conditions at Lowood during the winter months?
2. How does Mr. Brocklehurst humiliate Jane?
3. Upon whom does Jane rely on for love and affection?
4. What happens at Lowood that changes the whole atmosphere?
5. How does Jane react after Miss Temple proves she is not a liar?
6. How does Helen view her impending death?
7. What happens to Jane during her last eight years at Lowood?
8. Why does Jane decide to leave Lowood?
9. How does she find other employment?
10. What news does Bessie bring her?
1. The children are half starved and sent out in the cold without warm clothing, and they must walk two miles to and from church on Sundays.
2. Mr. Brocklehurst tells the whole school that Jane is a liar, and instructs the students to shun her.
3. Helen Burns and Miss Temple give Jane some of the love she needs.
4. Most of the girls become sick with typhus, and Mr. Brockle-hurst is dismissed.
5. Jane excels at her studies, and takes up French and drawing.
6. Helen accepts her death and looks forward to being in God’s care.
7. Jane settles into the routine and eventually becomes a teacher.
8. After Miss Temple marries, Jane realizes she is ready for a change.
9. Jane puts an...
(The entire section is 256 words.)
Chapters 11-15 Questions and Answers
1. How did Jane first meet Mr. Rochester?
2. Describe Mrs. Fairfax’s personality.
3. Explain Jane’s identification with Adele.
4. What is Jane’s mood when Mr. Rochester comes home?
5. What intrigues Mr. Rochester about Jane?
6. What do Jane and Mr. Rochester think about each other’s appearance?
7. Why does Jane think Grace Poole odd?
8. Explain the circumstances that ended the relationship between Celine Varens and Mr. Rochester.
9. Why is Jane’s knowledge of French important to her now?
10. How does Jane react to having her hand held by Mr. Rochester?
1. Jane meets Mr. Rochester on the road when his horse slips on the ice.
2. Mrs. Fairfax is a warm and friendly person. She is very happy to have Jane join the staff at Thornfield.
3. Jane likes Adele immediately, but cares even more for her when she finds out that she is an orphan like herself.
4. Jane is feeling rather bored and restless.
5. Mr. Rochester is fascinated by her strength and honesty.
6. Jane does not think Rochester handsome, and he thinks Jane to be plain.
7. She believes her to be the person with the strange laugh and the one who started the fire.
8. Celine brought another man to her bedroom, and Mr. Rochester overheard...
(The entire section is 235 words.)
Chapters 16-19 Questions and Answers
1. What effect has Mr. Rochester had on Jane?
2. Why does she want to suppress her feelings?
3. How does Jane react to Mr. Mason?
4. Why is she so curious about Grace Poole?
5. What does she observe about Blanche?
6. How does Rochester try to keep Jane involved in the festivities?
7. What does he observe about her feelings?
8. How do we know Jane is more clever than the other guests?
9. What reaction does Rochester have when he learns that Richard Mason has arrived?
10. What is the significance of Jane being able to physically support Rochester, again?
1. Jane admits to loving Rochester.
2. She believes she cannot compete with Blanche Ingram, who is described as being beautiful, and socially prominent.
3. Jane takes an immediate dislike to him.
4. Believing Grace to be the person who caused the fire, and who mysteriously laughs, Jane does not understand why Grace is allowed to get away with her behavior.
5. After observing Blanche interact with the other guests, Jane concludes that she is a phony, and that Mr. Rochester could not possibly love her. She assumes it is a political arrangement.
6. Rochester insists on her attendance at the events, and asks where she is going when she attempts to leave.
7. He tells...
(The entire section is 256 words.)
Chapters 20-22 Questions and Answers
1. What is the added mystery in this chapter?
2. How is Rochester’s behavior contradictory?
3. What has happened to John Reed?
4. What important information does Mrs. Reed tell Jane?
5. Who is with Mrs. Reed when she dies?
6. How is the attacker described by Richard Mason?
7. What becomes of Georgiana and Eliza Reed?
8. How does Jane feel when she is approaching Thornfield Hall?
9. What does she blurt out to Rochester?
10. How does Jane describe him?
1. Richard Mason is attacked by someone in the attic.
2. Rochester intimates his love for Jane, but proceeds with his plans to marry Blanche.
3. John Reed apparently drank himself into debt, eventually using up his mother’s money as well. The rumor is that he killed himself.
4. Mrs. Reed tells Jane of her uncle, John Eyre, who three years earlier sought to make Jane his heir. Mrs. Reed told him that Jane had died of typhus at Lowood.
5. Nobody is with Mrs. Reed, she dies alone.
6. Richard Mason describes his attacker as an animal who bit him and sucked his blood.
7. Georgiana goes on to make a prestigious match, and Eliza enters the convent.
8. She is extremely excited about seeing Rochester again; she talks about how she had never felt like this,...
(The entire section is 230 words.)
Chapters 23-25 Questions and Answers
1. Where and at what time of the year and day does Rochester’s proposal take place?
2. What prompts him to propose?
3. How does Jane react at first?
4. Why are they forced to run into the house after the proposal?
5. How does Jane respond to Rochester’s offer of jewels and fancy clothes?
6. What warning does Mrs. Fairfax give Jane?
7. How do Jane’s fears show up in her dreams?
8. Who wakes Jane from her fitful sleep?
9. What happens to the chestnut tree?
10. Where does Jane sleep on the eve of her wedding?
1. It is mid-summer when Rochester proposes. They are in the orchard at night.
2. Jane passionately reveals her true feelings, calling them “equals.”
3. Jane is shocked; she thinks he is just playing a joke on her.
4. A violent thunderstorm breaks out, so they run into the house.
5. She tells him it would not become her, she would not be “Jane Eyre.”
6. Mrs. Fairfax warns Jane that “all is not gold that glitters.”
7. She dreams once more of an infant and sees Thornfield Hall in ruins.
8. The mad, mystery woman enters Jane’s room.
9. The tree is split in two by a lightning bolt.
10. Jane spends the night with Adele, and is unable to sleep.
(The entire section is 208 words.)
Chapters 26-27 Questions and Answers
1. How is the wedding ceremony interrupted?
2. What is the relationship between Richard Mason and Bertha Rochester?
3. Where is the Mason family from?
4. How did Rochester come to marry Bertha?
5. How many years ago were they married?
6. What secret was kept from Rochester about the Mason family?
7. How does John Eyre figure in this chapter?
8. What is the solution Rochester offers to Jane?
9. What hastens Jane’s retreat from Thornfield Hall?
10. How do we know this has been a devastating experience for Jane?
1. A lawyer, Mr. Briggs, reads a letter stating that Rochester had already been married.
2. They are sister and brother.
3. The Mason family is from the West Indies.
4. The marriage was arranged by his father.
5. They were married fifteen years ago.
6. There was a secret history of madness and insanity in the family.
7. It was a letter from John Eyre to Richard Mason that prompted Richard’s appearance at the wedding.
8. Rochester first suggests she be his mistress, and then suggests they marry and move to the south of France.
9. Jane has a dream where she hears her mother telling her to flee.
10. Jane’s description of her tremendous struggle with her decision, and...
(The entire section is 216 words.)
Chapters 28-29 Questions and Answers
1. What is the name of the house where the Rivers family lives?
2. What happened to Jane when she first came to town?
3. How did Hannah react to Jane?
4. Was Moor House similar to Thornfield Hall?
5. How did the Rivers family decide to let Jane stay?
6. What did they surmise about Jane’s background?
7. Why does Jane choose an alias?
8. What are the occupations of St. John Rivers, and his sisters, Diana and Mary?
9. How does St. John Rivers describe Jane?
10. What are Jane’s observations of St. John Rivers?
1. The Rivers family lives at Marsh End, or Moor House.
2. She begs for food and money, but is not offered any help.
3. Hannah leaves her outside in the rain.
4. No, Moor House is a modest house, with small rooms, and homey but simple furnishings.
5. After observing her, they retreat to another room to discuss her in private, then return and bring her to bed.
6. They think she dresses well, and is educated because of the way she speaks.
7. She doesn’t want to explain about her experience at Thorn-field Hall.
8. St. John is a minister, and Diana and Mary are governesses.
9. He refers to her as a “half-frozen bird,” and “not at all handsome.”
10. She describes...
(The entire section is 216 words.)
Chapters 30-31 Questions and Answers
1. What do the Rivers sisters have in common with Jane?
2. Why does Jane admire Diana?
3. What is Jane’s observation of St. John?
4. What, and where, is Jane’s new home?
5. Who are her pupils?
6. Who dies and leaves the Rivers family a small inheritance?
7. How does Jane describe Miss Oliver?
8. What is Miss Oliver’s connection to the school?
9. Who is Mr. Oliver?
10. How does St. John react to Miss Oliver?
1. They all love reading, and are well educated.
2. She admires her strength and leadership qualities.
3. She thinks him cold, and lacking in passion.
4. Jane’s new home is a cottage on the grounds of the school.
5. Jane’s pupils are mostly poor, uneducated children of farmers.
6. Their “Uncle John” leaves the Rivers family a small inherit-ance upon his death.
7. Jane describes Miss Oliver as a “perfect beauty.”
8. Miss Oliver is the benefactress of the school.
9. Mr. Oliver is Miss Oliver’s father; the sole rich man in the town of Morton.
10. Jane observes him blushing in Miss Oliver’s presence, and realizes that he is in love with Miss Oliver.
(The entire section is 185 words.)
Chapter 32-33 Questions and Answers
1. How has Jane’s status changed?
2. What does she observe about St. John Rivers and Rosamond Oliver?
3. What does Mr. Oliver tell Jane?
4. How are Jane’s dreams different from her days?
5. Why does Miss Oliver like Jane?
6. How does Jane shock St. John?
7. What language is Jane studying?
8. How does St. John feel about Rosamond Oliver?
9. What does St. John do with Jane’s paper?
10. What is Jane’s reaction to St. John’s attention to her paper?
1. She is now regarded with respect by the towns-people.
2. St. John and Miss Oliver are attracted to each other.
3. Mr. Oliver tells Jane that he would not oppose a match between his daughter and St. John.
4. Her days are quiet and orderly, and her dreams are excited and passionate.
5. Miss Oliver respects Jane’s mind and talent.
6. Jane shocks St. John by telling him, “you tremble and become flushed when ever Miss Oliver enters the schoolroom.”
7. Jane is studying German.
8. He loves her, but does not think she is suited to missionary life.
9. He tears off a piece of a paper she is leaning on while painting.
10. She dismisses it as unimportant.
(The entire section is 194 words.)
Chapter 34-35 Questions and Answers
1. What time of year is it?
2. How did Jane prepare Moor House for Diana’s and Mary’s return?
3. Why does St. John want to marry Jane?
4. Why does she refuse him?
5. What did Diana think of this idea?
6. How does Jane constantly describe St. John?
7. What happened to Rosamond Oliver?
8. What does Jane say when St. John asks her if she will look for Mr. Rochester?
9. What stops Jane from giving in to St. John’s request?
10. What does Jane say when she hears Rochester calling her name?
1. It is Christmas time.
2. Jane cleaned and redecorated the house.
3. He thinks Jane would make a good missionary wife.
4. She knows he doesn’t love her, and she doesn’t love him.
5. Diana agreed with Jane, that missionary life would not be for her, but she says that St. John is a good man.
6. St. John is described as extremely cold and unfeeling.
7. Miss Oliver married someone else.
8. Jane tells St. John she must find out what happened to Rochester.
9. She hears Rochester call her name.
10. “I am coming, wait for me! Oh, I will come.”
(The entire section is 188 words.)
Chapters 36-38 Questions and Answers
1. Why does Jane go to look for Rochester?
2. What stops her, at the last minute, from giving in to St. John?
3. How does Diana react to knowing that Jane turned down St. John’s proposal?
4. How does Jane find Thornfield Hall?
5. Where does she stay?
6. What does The Host tell Jane?
7. What is Rochester’s reaction to having Jane come back to him?
8. What mystical occurrence does Rochester describe?
9. How has Rochester’s philosophy changed?
10. What becomes of Diana, Mary, and St. John Rivers?
1. She can’t stop thinking or dreaming about him.
2. She hears Rochester’s voice calling her name.
3. Diana supports Jane, recognizing St. John’s faults, but calling him a “good man.”
4. Thornfield Hall is burned to the ground.
5. Jane stays at the Rochester Arms Inn, where The Host informs her of Rochester’s fate.
6. Rochester is blind and maimed; Bertha has died in the fire she started.
7. He cannot be more passionate about his feelings. He reacts jealousy to St. John and is worried that Jane will not love his deformed body.
8. He called out for Jane in the middle of the night, and he heard “a voice” answer him.
9. Rochester has a new faith in God, and openly prays....
(The entire section is 234 words.)
Jane Eyre is written in the first person, and told from the viewpoint of its main character, Jane Eyre. As part of her first-person narrative, Bronte uses one of the oldest conventions in English fiction: this novel is allegedly a memoir written by a real woman named Jane Eyre and edited by Currer Bell (Charlotte Bronte's pseudonym). (Indeed, the full title of the book is Jane Eyre: An Autobiography. As part of this convention, the narrator occasionally addresses the reader directly with the word "reader.") Modern readers know, of course, that this is simply a convention, and accept it as such.
Although the first-person viewpoint means that the narrative scope is somewhat restricted, at times the narrator of Jane Eyre seems more omniscient (aware and insightful) than a typical first-person narrator. Much of the action seems to unfold naturally. In part, this may be because the story is told in retrospect. That is, in Bronte's narrative technique, the action is not happening as it is being told, but has already happened. As in many traditional first-person narratives, the narrator in Jane Eyre describes other characters astutely, both their external appearance and their inner personalities. There are also passages in which the narrator offers particular observations and opinions about life—observations and opinions that sometimes seem as if they are coming from the author. Yet the novel's...
(The entire section is 2444 words.)
Critics agree that Jane Eyre offers a fine example of the author-as-narrator; narrative credibility follows from an intimate knowledge of the speaker. The novel is also an excellent fusion of the pious moral tone of Victorian literature and the Gothic elements of earlier romanticism. Thornfield and its bizarre third-floor inhabitant combine with Jane's telepathic messages from the beyond and with awesome happenings in nature to produce scintillating ghostly touches.
Bronte uses foreshadowing and symbolic character- or place-naming to leave hints for the reader about plot development. At Lowood, Miss Scatcherd is as hard and abrasive as her name, and Maria Temple acts as the sanctified refuge for Jane that her surname signifies. Overall, the plot is rich with memorable characters acting within a predictable range of psychological and social motivations. Their actions and dialogue are well documented, and the settings are described adequately enough to provide appropriate context.
(The entire section is 148 words.)
Jane Eyre explores the predicaments of those bound by law, conventions, and social status to lives not of their own choosing. Like Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre resents being controlled by inferiors but uses this resentment to generate energy necessary for her survival and rise to independence. The power of religion to enlighten or to corrupt finds expression in Jane's reliance on heartfelt prayer and in the diametrically opposed vocations of Brocklehurst and St. John Rivers. In each case the social value of religion is depicted as part of the individual's motives.
Perhaps the most socially sensitive issue in this novel is its implicit argument for women's rights. In a parallel to Charlotte Bronte's own life, Jane struggles for minimal recognition even though her artistic, social, and professional skills exceed those of most of her antagonists. It may be difficult for contemporary readers to understand the unjust predicament of women in the nineteenth century.
(The entire section is 153 words.)
Compare and Contrast
- 1840s: Like other creative and intellectual pursuits, novel writing is considered a male preserve. Women such as the Bronte sisters George Eliot (Mary Ann Evans), and in France George Sand (Amandine-Aurore Lucille Dupin), write under male pseudonyms in order to have their work taken seriously.
Today: Many of the leading novelists in Britain are women, and they are regarded as the equals of their male counterparts. Major British women novelists include A. S. (Antonia) Byatt, P. D. (Phyllis) James, Iris Murdoch, and Muriel Spark.
- 1840s: Many well-to-do families employed women as governesses to educate their children at home and to supervise children's activities. By 1851, some twenty-five thousand women worked as governesses in Britain. Although being a governess was regarded as respectable, opportunites for governesses to move into other positions were limited.
Today: Some young women take temporary jobs abroad as "au pairs," supervising a family's children in return for room, board, and wages. Although these jobs are low-paying, they allow young women to travel and gain life experience before going into another profession or continuing their education.
- 1840s: A typical English governess or school teacher might make from fifteen to...
(The entire section is 340 words.)
Topics for Discussion
1. Examine the behavior of Georgiana Reed, Blanche Ingram, and Rosamond Oliver to determine their ultimate goals. What are they? Do you think these goals are worthwhile?
2. Contrast Georgiana Reed, Blanche Ingram, and Rosamond Oliver with Maria Temple, Helen Burns, Bessie Lee, and the Rivers sisters. What qualities distinguish the latter women?
3. In what ways are Edward Rochester and John Reed different as sons? As men of the world? How do the causes of their erratic lives differ?
4. Compare Gateshead, Thornfield, and Moor House. What factors make these places either warm and welcoming or cold and foreboding? Is one more neutral than the others?
5. In what ways does Bronte's characterization of St. John Rivers restore dignity to ministry after her portrayal of Mr. Brocklehurst? In what ways is Rivers flawed in his religious vocation, particularly as it concerns Jane?
6. Summarize Jane Eyre's philosophy of life and standard of values. How would she fit in today's society?
7. Choose any three characters in Jane Eyre and examine them as "victims." Are their victimizations real or imagined? Can they change them? What must others do to help?
(The entire section is 183 words.)
Ideas for Reports and Papers
1. How are Jane, Edward, and Bertha all imprisoned in different ways by different circumstances? What liberates them? How do these different processes indicate individual responsibilities in pursuing freedom?
2. Make a comparative survey of the idea of beauty in William Makepeace Thackeray's Becky Sharp, Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice, and Jane Eyre. How important was beauty then? Now? What has changed, if anything, about the value of beauty versus brains?
3. How have ideas about child behavior changed from Jane's time to the present day? Do children have the same status today as then? If there is "extended childhood" today, what factors have brought it about? What effects does the phenomenon of "extended childhood" have on society? The economy? Character?
4. Compare the views of God as presented in this book by Jane, Helen Burns, St. John Rivers, and Rochester.
5. Describe at least three inversions, or turnarounds, of plot, character, or setting in which apparent good turns bad or vice versa. What do these inversions contribute to the story?
(The entire section is 166 words.)
Topics for Further Study
- In her preface to the second edition of Jane Eyre Charlotte Bronte wrote: "Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. . . . Appearance should not be mistaken for truth." What are some examples of these precepts in Jane Eyre?
- Research the treatment of mental illness around the time of Jane Eyre. What ideas did doctors of Charlotte Bronte's time have about the causes of mental illness? How did society in general regard people with this kind of disease? How might someone like Bertha Mason be treated today?
- As a younger son, Rochester would not have inherited his father's estate; the estate would first have gone to Rochester's older brother. Under English law at the time of Jane Eyre, property passed only to the oldest son; therefore, younger sons were usually left little money and had to make their own livings. What professions did younger sons in such a family usually follow? Also, how did this custom affect the daughters in a family?
- The early twentieth-century English novelist Virginia Woolf once said that "in order for a woman to write, she must have money and a room of her own." Do you think that this maxim applies to Charlotte Bronte as an author? Also, consider the ways in which money and a "room of her own" (that is, a home) are important to...
(The entire section is 225 words.)
Bronte's novel The Professor recalls her experiences at the Pensionnat Heger and explores the effects of ambition and authoritarianism on family relationships. Shirley: A Tale involves a much broader spectrum of society than does Jane Eyre. The book depicts the plight of Yorkshire people coping with industrialization and attendant problems. Romantic relationships and tortuous plot twists underlie the major social themes. In the somewhat autobiographical Villette, Bronte focuses on one character named Lucy Snowe.
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- Jane Eyre has been the subject of numerous adaptations for other media. During the silent film era, there were at least three silent movie versions. The first talking picture adaptation was released in 1934. Written by Adele Comandini (based on Charlotte Bronte's book) and directed by Christy Cabanne, it starred Virginia Brace, Colin Clive, Beryl Mercer, Aileen Pringle, Jameson Thomas, David Torrence, and Lionel Belmore. Produced by Monogram Studios.
- The most famous film version of Jane Eyre was adapted by John Houseman Aldous Huxley and Robert Stevenson and released in 1944. Directed by Stevenson, it starred Joan Fontaine, Orson Welles, Margaret O'Brien, Sara Allgood, Agnes Moorehead, and Elizabeth Taylor.
- Franco Zeffirelli and Hugh Whitemore wrote the script for the 1996 film version of Jane Eyre, directed by Zeffirelli. This version starred Charlotte Gainsbourg, William Hurt, Anna Paquin, Joan Plowright, Billie Whitelaw, Elle Macpherson, Geraldine Chaplin, and John Wood.
- The first adaptation of Jane Eyre for television was broadcast in 1939 on the NBC network. Produced and directed by Edward Sobol, this version starred Flora Campbell, Dennis Hoey, Effie Shannon, Daisy Belmore, and Ruth Mattheson.
- While there have been other adaptations of Jane Eyre for television since 1939, critics have noted that the...
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What Do I Read Next?
- Anne Bronte is the least well known of the three Bronte sister novelists. Written at the same time as Jane Eyre, her first novel, Agnes Grey (1847), is the story of an unhappy governess. Her second novel, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall (1848), is considered a more ambitious and passionate work. Charlotte Bronte was disturbed by Anne's depiction of the heroine's alcoholic husband, who was based on Branwell Bronte.
- The Life of Charlotte Bronte, by Elizabeth Gaskell, was comissioned by Reverend Patrick Bronte just after Charlotte's death and was originally published in 1857. Gaskell, one of the best-known English novelists of her time, had met Charlotte in 1850, and the two became close friends. Gaskell's frank biography caused some controversy and passages were cut from it in subsequent editions. However, the first edition of the work remains in print and is today considered a classic of English literary biography.
- The poetry of Charlotte Bronte is represented in a modern Everyman edition of the Brontes' Selected Poems, along with poems by Emily, Anne, and Branwell Bronte. Published in 1985, this edition was edited by Juliet Barker, curator and librarian of the Bronte Parsonage Museum in Haworth. Barker is also the author of a family biography,...
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For Further Reference
Alexander, Christina. The Early Writing of Charlotte Bronte. Buffalo, NY: Prometheus Books, 1983. Analysis of Bronte's childhood writing and, according to Alexander, the "first attempt at a scholarly survey of the early manuscripts in their entirety."
Crompton, Margaret. Passionate Search: A Life of Charlotte Bronte. 1955. Reprint. Philadelphia: Century Bookbindery, 1982. An analysis of Bronte's relationships with her brother, sisters, friends, and suitors, including Arthur Bell Nicholls.
Gaskell, Elizabeth. The Life of Charlotte Bronte. 1857. Reprint. New York: Penguin, 1975. Written by a nineteenthcentury popular novelist, this was the first biography completed after Bronte's death. Gaskell had the cooperation of both Patrick Bronte and Arthur Bell Nicholls.
Gerin, Winifred. Charlotte Bronte: The Evolution of Genius. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1967. A comprehensive study of the "growth of Charlotte Bronte's moral and artistic stature," emphasizing the influence of her environment.
Kirkpatrick, D. L., ed. Twentieth Century Children's Writers. 2d ed. New York: St. Martin's Press, 1983. Contains a bibliography of Kyle's works and brief critical comments.
Knies, Earl A. The Art of Charlotte Bronte. Athens: Ohio University Press, 1969. An analysis of Bronte's novels that emphasizes her artistry and contains an extensive bibliography.
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Bibliography and Further Reading
Bentley, Phyllis. The Brontës. London: Thames and Hudson Ltd., 1969.
Blom, Margaret Howard. Charlotte Brontë. Boston: C.K. Hall & Co., 1977.
Brontë, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: E. M. Hale & Company, 2nd edition.
Cecil, David. Early Victorian Novelists. New York: The Bobbs-Merrill Company, 1935.
Evans, Barbara and Gareth Lloyd. The Scribner Companion to The Brontës. New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1982.
Fraser, Rebecca. The Brontes: Charlotte Bronte and Her Family. Crown Publishers, 1988.
Gaskell, Elizabeth Cleghorn. The Life of Charlotte Brontë. London: J. M. Dent, 1960. First published 1857.
Gilbert, Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. Yale University Press, 1979.
Himmelfarb, Gertrude. Victorian Minds. New York: Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. 1968.
Lane, Margaret. Introduction to Jane Eyre. Dent/Dutton, 1969.
Laver, James. Victorian Vista. Boston: Houghton Mifflin Company, 1955.
Martin, Robert Bernard. The Accents of Persuasion: Charlotte Brontë’s Novels. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., 1966.
Moglen, Helen. Charlotte...
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Bibliography (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Blom, Margaret Howard. Charlotte Brontë. Boston: Twayne, 1977. This introductory work asserts that Jane Eyre reflects Brontë’s own contradictory struggle to be both independent and controlled by a man. Using biographical information as a springboard for analysis, the work examines Brontë’s novels in separate chapters, including notes, an index, and a bibliography.
Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven, Conn.: Yale University Press, 1979. This feminist work examines recurrent themes in the works of major nineteenth century female writers. Interprets Jane Eyre as a progress novel tracing Jane’s maturation, emphasizing the complex meaning of Bertha. Although 700 pages long, the book’s extensive index and chapters divided by writer and work make it convenient for research.
Imlay, Elizabeth. Charlotte Brontë and the Mysteries of Love: Myth and Allegory in “Jane Eyre.” New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1989. Discusses the relationships in the novel, focusing particularly on that between Jane and Rochester. Looks at uses of myth and symbol in Brontë’s depiction of relationships.
Kadish, Doris Y. The Literature of Images: The Narrative Landscape from “Julie” to “Jane...
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