Reading Points for
What is the role of physical beauty in
Jane Eyre? What does the
author suggest about its importance to individual happiness?
Jane certainly deviates from some of the social standards of her time
about what roles women should play; we know, also, that Charlotte Brontė , like
her character, chafed against the restrictions she faced because she was a
woman. Is Jane Eyre, then, a "feminist" novel?
What is Brontė saying in this novel about the role of women in her
Colonialism, national pride and the British Empire surface very subtly
in this novel (more in the second half). Where do you see representations
of these? In the characters, the landscape/setting, the physical structures, the
insistence on proper and moral behavior?
Because Jane Eyre is such a long novel and we are working through it
in only 2 days, here are some points to focus your reading. For our first
day of discussion, read the Author's Preface and Chapters 1-17. We will
discuss general themes, but you should pick out a few quotes to interject into
Brontė populates the novel with many female characters roughly
the same age as JaneGeorgiana and Eliza Reed, Helen Burns,
Blanche Ingram, Mary and Diana Rivers, and Rosamund Oliver. How do comparisons
with these characters shape the reader's understanding of Jane's character?
Chapter Discussion Points
These questions may form the basis
for class discussion, homework, or quizzes. However, you should familiarize
yourself with these questions even if they are not assigned--they may help you
sort out difficulties with the text. You should try to answer the questions in a
figurative sense, not just in a literal sense. In other words, look for the
deeper meaning behind each question by asking yourself if there is any symbolism
- Analyze the quote "Conventionality is not
morality. Self-righteousness is not religion."
In light of what critics of the time had to say about Jane Eyre, what
is the thrust of Brontė's response?
- What purpose do the
descriptive passages from Berwick's History of British Birds serve at
this stage of the text?
- What are your impressions
of John Reed? What do you make of the abuse that Jane suffers? Is it
- In this chapter, note Jane's
thoughts of suicide.
- Jane Eyre was a watershed
novel at the time it was written because it blended two styles of novels:
the romantic novel and the gothic novel. Where do you see elements
of Romanticism and Gothicism in the novel so far?
- Jane's fears of the ghost
are consistent with her vivid imagination; yet the ghost never appears, and
Jane is returned to cruel reality.
- Most readers of today are
familiar with the signs of child abuse, emotional abuse, and neglect. While
these terms were arguably unknown to Brontė in the mid 19th century, how
does her treatment of Jane reflect what we know about them?
- What is
unexpected in Jane's answer to how she plans to avoid going to Hell?
- How does the anecdote of the "little psalm
angel" heighten our contempt for Brocklehurst?
- Why does Bessie begin to
treat Jane with kindness at this point in the text? What lesson does Jane
learn on how to deal with people she fears? How is this unusual when
compared with the depiction of the other children of this time period, such
as the "little psalm angel" and the "girls of the school?"
- In this chapter, notice
"Jane's" first direct address of the "reader."
- How does Miss Temple fit
in with your expectations of her from Brocklehurst's interview with Jane? In
fact, how does her character compare to most of the other adult characters
encountered in the text so far?
- In this chapter, Jane
receives another lesson in strength, this time from Helen Burns. What do you
think of Burns' diction and speech? What do you think of her philosophy?
- What do you think of Mr.
Brocklehurst's philosophy of education in this chapter?
- Discuss Brontė's feelings
on the "nature of man." Is she being serious or tongue-in-cheek?
- Compare Jane Eyre to other
mistreated heroines from children's stories (Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow
White). Knowing that Jane Eyre is the novel that broke many rules about how
a mistreated heroine should act, compare and contrast them to Jane.
- Pay attention to the lush
descriptions of Miss Temple in chapter 8 and spring at Lowood in chapter 9.
How would descriptions like these affect readers in the mid 19th century?
How do they affect readers of today?
- Notice the parallels
between life at Lowood in the spring and Jane's new lifestyle. How is this
"pathetic fallacy" a form of foreshadowing?
- Read the first paragraph
of chapter 10. If Brontė means that she has only related events that are
important, what are those important events and how are they important to
Jane's development as a character?
- What do you think of
Jane's prayers for a "new servitude"?
- What can you make of
Bessie's character in her differing reactions to Jane's looks and her
abilities? What is the effect that Brontė is trying to convey to the reader?
- Pay attention to the
appearance of a mysterious Mr. Eyre.
- What do you make of the
first two paragraphs in chapter 11? Analyze this passage with regard to
literary theory and the nature of the narrator.
- What affect does Mrs.
Fairfax's description of Rochester have on the reader? How does Brontė
achieve this affect?
is the way Jane and Rochester meet appropriate?
- How has Thornfield changed
with the arrival of Mr. Rochester? What is the significance of this?
- Brontė makes liberal use of French in her
dialogue. What does this say about her audience? How do you compare to that
- Rochester studies Jane's
paintings. What do you make of the paintings? What does
this incident add to the story?
- Comment on the character
and appearance of Rochester. How does he measure up to other romantic
- When Rochester says he is
"paving hell with energy" and that he is "laying down good intentions," he
is alluding to an old saying: "The road to Hell is paved with good
intentions." This quote has been attributed to Karl Marx, but it really
reflects Blake's Marriage of Heaven and Hell and its "Proverbs of
Hell": "the road to excess leads to the palace of wisdom."
- This chapter gives more
insight on the nature of Rochester through his battle of wits with Jane.
What is revealed about Rochester here? What is the outcome of their
- Why does Jane become more
affectionate and tolerant of Adčle, both literally and figuratively?
- We see that something odd
is going on at Thornfield with Rochester's demand that he "like it if he
can," the strange laughter, and the attempt on his life.
- Note at the end of the
chapter the change in the relationship between Jane and Rochester.
- The discussion of Miss
Blanche Ingram between Jane and Mrs. Fairfax should recall Rochester's
opinions of love and jealousy in his romance with Adčle1s mother, Céline
- What do you make of Jane
creating a harsh piece of artwork for herself and a lovely piece of artwork
depicting Miss Ingram?
- Beginning with the serving
of coffee, Brontė shifts her narrative into the present tense.
Why does she do this, and what is the effect on the reader?
- How does Brontė transmit
the characters of the Ingram ladies successfully to the reader?
- Sometimes Jane's naļveté
offers Brontė a chance to satirize the attitudes and actions of aristocracy.
How does Brontė satirize love as
seen by the upper class?
- Comment on the sudden
appearance of both Mr. Mason and the old gypsy woman.
- This chapter shows another
change in the relationship between Rochester and Jane. Analyze this new
- In this chapter, Brontė again
changes into the present tense. Why?
- At this point in the
novel, it is very clear that Rochester is deeply involved with some mystery
surrounding Grace Poole. At the end of the chapter, who does he initially
hint may help him find happiness? When Jane can not respond to Rochester1s
hinting, his tone and attitude change immediately. What does this say about
Rochester as a character?
- In this chapter, we are
treated to an example of what the Reed sisters have become. How does Jane
respond to their personalities. How does Jane compare and contrast to them?
- Describe the resolution of
the relationship between Jane and Mrs. Reed. Is it different from what you
expected? Would it have been different from what Brontė's audience would
- Chapter 22 is short and
ostensibly deals with Jane's return to Thornwood. What function might this
chapter serve in terms of the entire text?
- Note again the switch in
tense on page 231.
- In Jane's impassioned
speech in this chapter, you should be able to
find pieces of both Bessie and Helen Burns. How do the philosophies of these
two influential characters color Jane's words?
- This chapter is pure Jane
Eyre. How is Jane different than most brides of romance stories? What would
Brontė's audience have thought of her behavior?
- When Jane regards her
wedding gown on page 261, what mood does Brontė establish?
- Why does Brontė narrate with such a heavy
hand when she writes "Stay till he comes, reader; and when I disclose my
secret to him, you shall share the confidence"?
- What is the irony in Jane wearing "the
plain square of blond" veil for her wedding?
- What do you think of the
fact that Jane's uncle and Mr. Mason were business associates?
- Re-read Jane's
recollections of the events leading up to the introduction of Bertha Mason. Why does Brontė "play" the scene this way?
- "Reader, I forgave him at
the moment on the spot." What is your reaction to this?
- When Rochester explains
the circumstances of marriage to Bertha Mason, how do you respond as a
reader? Does Brontė succeed or fail to produce sympathy for this character?
- Compare the symbolism of "(a) wind fresh
from Europe" and the "fiery West Indian night."
What do these symbols represent? Are they ironic in any sense?
- Jane explains
her rationale for not complying with Rochester. Is this in character with
the Jane we have come to know? How?
- The suffering that Jane
endures is compounded by her belief that she has "no claim to ask" for help. How is this philosophy in keeping with her character?
- As the author of the text,
Brontė is the artist who chooses what events happen in the plot (much the
same way a painter can choose the composition of a painting, or a sculptor
can choose where and how to carve the elements of a sculpture). Why did she
choose to create a section where her main character goes through so much
pain? Is it appropriate?
- Do a little research.
Where do the names Mary, Diana, St. John, and Hannah come from, and what is
the significance attached to those names? Compare the meanings of the names
to their respective characters in the previous chapter and this one?
- Compare the Rivers family
to the Reed family. In what way are they similar? In what way are they
foils? Do the names signify anything?
- Jane's feelings toward her
backwoods students and the "germs of native excellence, refinement,
intelligence (and) kind-feeling" that "are as likely to exist in their
hearts as in those of the best-born" are likely to have caused a stir
among non-Romantics of the period. Why?
- Why does Jane begin this
chapter in the present tense?
- Jane Eyre is running from
an unattainable love. Who else is running as well, and what are the details?
- A good minister is an
example to his congregation; followers will learn "truth" by simply
observing the daily actions of their pastor. Does St. James Rivers impart
any "truths" to Jane?
- In this chapter, the final
pieces of the puzzle slip into place. Is this resolution too coincidental or
is it satisfactory?
- Characterize the
similarities and differences between St. John's offer of marriage and
Rochester's. Why does Jane refuse St. John when she is willing to accept a
life with him in India? Couldn1t she grow to love him? How does her response
fit in with what we know about Jane as a character?
- Hot climates seem to have
a special symbolic meaning in the text (note Rochester's discussion of the
West Indies). What do you make of it?
- Jane's conversation with
Diana, although acceptable and unexceptional to us, would have
bordered on the scandalous in Brontė's day. What is it about Jane's
viewpoint that would have drawn so much anger?
- Does Jane's near surrender
to St. John Rivers, stopped only by "the voice of Edward Fairfax Rochester"
speaks to her "in pain and woe" diminish her strength of character?
Why would Brontė have slipped again into the realm of the supernatural if
Jane had enough strength in her own convictions?
- In this chapter we learn
the fate of Rochester, Bertha Mason, and Thornfield Hall. How do these
revelations sit with you, the reader? Did Brontė do a good job of tying up
- Notice that Brontė makes a
direct jump from the inn at Millcote to Rochester's house at Ferndean. Why
does she do this? What effect might she wish to achieve?
- Jane has her
own ideas of how to shake Rochester from his gloom. What are they?
- "To make a love story
work you gotta have heart. More important: The audience must believe it's
real." This quote by Pat H. Broeske in his article "Save Yourself From
Trouble" from the January 1995 issue of Writer's Digest was his
thesis for why some Hollywood love stories work and some don't. Does Jane
Eyre work as a love story? Do Jane and Rochester have "heart"? Are we glad
to see them back together? What makes their relationship ring true for the
- Brontė ends the novel on a
religious note. In fact, she has been building the religious closure since
Rochester's admission of prayer in chapter 37. What effect does this have on
you as a reader? What effect would it have had on Brontė's audience?
- If St. John Rivers was
such a frigid (and in some ways unpleasant character), why would Brontė
chose to end the novel with a reference to him?
- Note the parallel
structure: The novel begins with the antics of John Reed and closes with the
antics of St. John Rivers.