Last Updated on September 1, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 540
So you’re going to teach Jane Eyre. Whether it’s your first or hundredth time, this classic text has been a mainstay of English classrooms for generations. While it has its problematic spots and difficulties, teaching Jane Eyre to your class will be a worthwhile and rewarding enterprise for both you and your students. It will give them unique insight into valuable rhetorical, literary concepts, such as point-of-view and narration, along with character analysis and development. Students can also engage with worthwhile themes such as gender dynamics and social class dynamics. This guide highlights the text’s most salient aspects to keep in mind before you begin teaching.
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Facts at a Glance
- Published: 1847
- Recommended Grade Level: 9 and up
- Approximate Word Count: 198, 700
- Author: Charlotte Brontë
- Country of Origin: England
- Genre: Romance, Gothic, Bildungsroman
- Literary Period: Victorian
- Conflict: Person vs. Society, Person vs. Self
- Narration: First-Person
- Setting: Northern England, early 1800s
- Structure: Prose Novel
- Tone: Dramatic, Personal
Texts that Go Well with Jane Eyre
Bleak House by Charles Dickens. This famous Victorian novel is another great example of first-person narration from a speaker very similar to Jane. Its heroine, Esther Summerson, is also an orphan of low status and little means who finds domestic happiness in the end. Also like Jane, Esther is a woman who on the outside presents herself as an example of the Victorian “Angel in the House,” yet at subtle points in the narrative imparts an underlying nature of tenacious will.
Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen. Like Jane Eyre, this iconic 18th-century British novel takes up the subject of what an ideal marriage should be, and both novels contain side stock characters of the extremes of what “love” shouldn’t be. Having students make comparative character maps of both novels on a spectrum from extreme duty to extreme passion is an effective and comprehensive way to teach character analysis with respect to thematic development across multiple texts. Austen’s Sense and Sensibility also works well.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys. A contemporary novel that reimagines the story and character of the “madwoman in the attic” in Jane Eyre. Told from the perspective of Bertha Mason, the novel is a response to injustices evident in Jane Eyre’s representation of a Creole woman as a monstrous “Other.” As both Jane Eyre and Wide Sargasso Sea are written in first person, this is a great opportunity to teach the rhetoric of first person point-of-view as both intimate and subjective.
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë. This text has many similarities with Jane Eyre since it is not only written by Charlotte Brontë’s younger sister but is also another key example of Victorian Gothic fiction showcasing a Byronic hero as the male lead.
“The Yellow Wallpaper” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. This classic late 19th-century American short story is told from the perspective of another famous “madwoman in the attic,” giving a more intimate look on the experience of being locked away by one’s husband. Looking at the narratives of Brontë’s madwoman and of Gilman’s madwoman comparatively is an effective way to teach the rhetorical dynamics of first-person vs. third-person points of view.
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