The multi-layered presentation of gender and class as crucial factors affecting identity and status is a hallmark of Charlotte Brontë’s novel. Jane Eyre has become an enduring character in English literature because she embodies many contradictions of female positions of her day. Jane’s female identity and poverty conspire against the likelihood that she will succeed, and her ending up in a comfortable marriage in ways resembles a fairytale. However, Jane’s personal qualities also transcend gender boundaries, as her strong spirit and independence compel her to carve a path that is unlike that of other young women in her precarious financial position.
A paper that analyzes gender and class, therefore, should necessarily focus on Jane and explore those multiple contradictions. An appropriate counterpart would be to explore the paradoxes of Rochester as a male character. On the surface, his masterful, domineering personality seems stereotypically male, an impression enhanced by his brooding, uncommunicative habits. Looking beyond the surface traits and finding female-linked qualities in him—which become more pronounced after the fire—will be key to writing a nuanced analysis.
In terms of class, it could be useful to concentrate on additional characters who seem overly concerned with class. Jane herself is sensitive about her class position in part she grew up so poor, but also because her aunt, Mrs. Reed, obsessed about class status and tried to make Jane feel inferior. An interesting line of analysis would address how this excessive concern imprinted on Jane and affected her later relationships, including with Rochester.