Chapters 1-12

What functions are served by the opening paragraph?

Cany you describe the physical environment presented in our first view of Jane? What effect does it have on us that we first meet her in this way?
--trapped, oppressed--will be a novel of imprisoned childhood

What are several ways in which we come to know her character?

her intense response to the Red Room
elements of fairy tale in presentation
use of landscape, books, her own declarations

What are some features of Bronte's style and language?

What does the Reeds' behavior to her tell us about Jane's position in the world?

Do you think the Reeds are presented realistically? Who is the meanest of all to her?

stereotype of harsh older woman will reappear
flighty, wealthy, beautiful daughters, compare Blanche Ingram

How does Bessie treat her? What is the purpose of including Bessie at all? Are there other important servant figures in Victorian fiction?

What are some unusual features of Jane's character? Why do the Reeds' dislike her so thoroughly?

uniquely assertive child, sees the good and evil of her world
feels urgency to declare truth and defend herself

What are some unusual features of the setting and plot? What are some recurrent motifs and metaphors? (imagery of reflections, mirrors, dreams, the motif of the stepmother)

What are some recurrent features of landscapes? Interiors? Themes?

What is the supposed date for the setting of this novel, and how can you tell? (Marmion, 1808)

Is Lowood a better place for Jane than the Reed's house had been? Does Jane progress emotionally during her eight years there?

What does the presenentation of Mr. Brocklehurst seem to reveal abouot Charlotte Bronte's attitude toward religion? What kind of religion is she satirizing?

Are Mr. Brocklehurst's family interested in applying his teachings?

What effect does the presentation of Jane's relationship with Miss Temple and Helen Burns have on our perception of her character? What function does Miss Temple serve in Jane's life? What event takes her away from Lowood, and what effect does this have on Jane's future?

Is the character of Helen Burns' well presented? Do you think the reader is expected to sympathize with her? Are the novel's other women well presented?

How is Jane different from Helen in character? (72, 73 86, Helen modeled on one of her dead sisters, Maria). Does Helen accept a Calvinist view of the world? (60)

Does Jane express any religious views? What does she believe about heaven (86, doubts its existence) and what does Helen believe?

How do the biblical allusions reinforce or distract from the novel's themes and tone?

What are some psychological unifying devices of the book?

metaphor of Jane as bird
series of step-mother, mother, sister figures; she finally finds sisters and becomes a mother
theme of Jane as a lost child
artistic projections, signature on painting, motif of truth in art
repeated return to childhood, protagonist must start again
rupture of reality by passion/ dream/ nightmare/ art
rupture of dream by unpleasant reality, of unpleasant reality by dreams
tripartite structure of book, gains followed by losses, finds love and loses it
must wander and be tested, then return
sequence of melodramatic events rendered credible by detail
intense concentration on pursuit of love and family
motifs of guilt, secrecy, disguise and unveiling
inheritance plots

What are some hints of the future in the novel's opening sections?

some hints of Eyre relations from Bessie

Do you feel Mr. Rochester is realistically or consistently presented?

Chapters 13ff.

What seems to be the relationship between the physical environment and the emotions experienced by Jane at Thornfield?

What causes her to take a walk the day she meets Rochester? Why are there eleven chapters of pereparation before the hero enters the novel? (89) What is the effect of such a delay?

Is there anything in Jane's first encounter with Rochester which anticipates the future nature of their relationship?

What does the narrator emphasize in Jane's first presentation of Rochester? What does she like about his appearance? Why is so much attention devoted to his appearance? (128, unusual in a woman's novel to describe a man so fully)

Why is Rochester's alleged ugliness actually comforting to her? (121)

new fictional ideal, hero interesting rather than handsome
Jane can identify with an ordinary looking man

Throughout this section, what is the relation between the narrative voice and that of Jane?

What purpose do Miss Fairfax and Adele serve in the story?

Is Jane indirect in expressing her attraction to Mr. Rochester? (126, no)

How is dress used symbolically to express Jane's emotions toward herself and Rochester? (127, reluctant to seem interested, later very eager, still attached to plain dresses she can afford)

How is the conversation between the two of them indicative of their future relationship? What is the purport of their discussion of presents? (129) Of their later discussion of pleasure and his right to obtain it? (146, chapter 14)

What are his questions and observations of her background intended to show? (130 ff, immediate affinity, intelligent sparing and preachments, he analyzes her problem, her life has been that of a nun)

What are we intended to deduce from Rochester's statement that she is a fairy? (130, elfish, 135)

What do Jane's drawings reveal about her character? (135, seem to show psychological progress)

Does Jane receive any hints that something is unclear about Mr. Rochester's past? (137)

In chapter 14, what does Mr. Rochester's treatment of Adele reveal about his character? Are we expected to approve?

What are some things Rochester and Jane have in common?

How do we know he's quite interested in Jane?

asks if she thinks he is handsome! 140
self-consciousness and defensivenss of his narration, 141
keeps hinting that she suits him, 142
disserts on her character, 145, and his, 146

What do you think of his bossiness and claim to superiority? (142) Does she resist this, and to what extent?

In Rochester and Jane's first encounter, do they debate over anything which suggests significant aspects of their later relationship?

debate on who will lead; she claims character will determine--foreshadowing
debate on importance of pleasure, 146-49

What are the implications of his claim that he desires a purer life? (146, 148)

Does the novel make any overt comments on the position of women?

restless, need occupation, 117

What are some aspects of Jane's changing dreams and fantasies during this period? (163)

Do you find it plausible that all this information and debate never attaches itself to concrete reality? What explains their evasiveness?

What hints are gradually given that something is strange about Thornfield and Mr. Rochester's past? That the two are connected? (e. g. laughter of Grace Poole)

What seems undecided or unexplained about the night-burning scene? Do you think Jane is wise to be so little suspicious? Can you interpret this scene symbolically?

What function is served by the gypsy fortune teller-disguise scene, both in the plot and in the symbolic realm?

only Jane and Rochester recognize each other
subconscious reality emerges through Jane in opposition to social appearances
critique of upper-class social life

How is Jane humiliated by this episode? Do you find Mr. Rochester's later explanation of his behavior convincing? What do you think of the pattern in which Jane is humiliated before guests but later receives an apology? The novel functions well as a psychological fantasy of the reversal of humiliation, not as a guide to a propitious courtship.

How is Jane contrasted with Blanche Ingram? (two contrasting drawings, 172)

What troubles Jane in the Blanche Ingram episode? How does she respond to the presence of handsome, well-connected women of higher social station?

What is important about the scene with Mr. Mason? Its suggestions?

What purpose is served by Jane's return to the Reeds?

contrast with sisters
usefulness of new plot strand
Rochester's mode of farewell
she misses him and draws picture of him in his absence

What aspects, if any, seem ominous about their courtship before the proposed mariage? What seem to be the chief bases of attraction, and how do you know? Will this scene be contrated with later settings in the book?

What are some significant features of Jane and Rochester's courtship before marriage?

scene in arbor, some of its elements, including the suggestions of “outrage,” i. e. rape
his reproach before proposing
her refusal to wear elaborate clothes

What are some unusual features of her response? What do you think of his mode of conduct after proposing? What does his response reveal about the quality of his love?

What disturbing elements of the situation does Jane simply accept? Why do you think she accepts them?

What seem to be her expectations of marriage?

What seems inexplicable about the night-burning scenes? What do they seem to have in common? Can you interpret them symbolically? What is their sequence/

threatens Rochester
threatens her brother
Jane's wedding veil
(the departed) Jane--if Jane had stayed she'd have been burned
finally herself and Rochester

What does Rochester's approach to his wedding reveal about his attitude toward the marriage?

What indications directly before the marriage seem to foretell the day's outcome?

What do you think of Bronte's presentation of Rochester's first wife and of the dramatic scene of the house burning? What motives are given for Bertha Rochester's behavior? (Gilbert and Gubar, Jean Rhys) What assumptions are revealed about foreign marriages, Caribbean women, and hereditary mental illness?

What are significant features of Mr. Rochester's tale? How do you evaluate his portrayal of his wife and his account of his past? Does the novel's point of view seem to validate them? (331; description 317, chapter 26) He never quite explains his wife's allegedly evil propensities. Do you think there may be racism latent in the portrayal of Bertha?

What are the most painful temptations for Jane after the broken ceremony? On what basis does she resist?

Could the novel have been altered at this point to presesnt their happy marriage? If not, why not? What if anything still seems lacking?

Jane is not able to give as well as receive
their physical passion not tested by time
lovers are still unequal in social status
honesty necessary in an ideal love

What perceptions finally prompt her resolve to leave Thornfield? (344, cares for herself)

As she flees Thornfield, what emotions preserve her from despair? (chap. 28, 350)

Do you find the tale of her sufferings realistic?

Why do you think Bronte included the third portion of the book?

itself a fairy tale of the orphan who establishes herself and learns of her origins
finds her own home, independent occupation and future
establishes her ability to support herself, her generosity, and her good family connections
able to reject a (handsome) suitor
includes a contrating portrait of an alternative but inadequate form of marriage
reiterates the presentation of false and true religion begun with the episode of Lowood and Helen
distracts from the intensity of the Rochester episode before their reunion

How is St. John Rivers used to develop the themes of the novel? What indications are given that he is not a suitable husband for Jane? (427, says so directly)

doesn't like nature
eschews human emotions
coldly perfet of form
sexually attracted to perfection of form
doesnt' like domestic warmth
hostile rather than eager to reconcile, heedless of her regrets
like Rochester demanding, but without love
offers an insulting proposal, 438; doesn't desire love, 440

Why does Jane respond to St. John Rivers at all?

How respectful does the narrator seem to be of Rivers' religion? Do you think the ending of the book gives Bronte's true evaluation of his dedication?

There seems an inconsistency of tone. The narrative/Jane professes to admire his higher calling, but on the other hand shows the neurotic and fanatic origins of his drive, and its loveless coldness (434).

What are symbolic overtones of the burning of Thornfield?

Is the character of St. John Rivers well presented? Is Jane's behavior under his tutelage psycholgoically consistent with the rest of the novel? How does his view of marriage differ from that of Mr. Rochester?

What function do Diana and Mary Rivers serve in the plot?

How might a Victorian audience have responded to the possibility of the heroine's life in India? What might Bronte herself have thought of this option?

What precipitates Jane's return to Thornfield? Do you find the calling voice too supernatural for the plot, or does the voice seem appropriate?

may have been an inner voice--Bronte presents both magical and realistic interpretations, 457, 459

How have matters changed for Jane since she had fled Thornfield? What have been some of the purposes of the Rivers family subplot?

St. John contrasted to Rochester; Rochester's flaws at least seem those of a real person, not an obsessive
enables Jane to choose her future, with alternative possibilities
has learned her family's origins
acquires an inheritance and thus respectability
acquires family (compare a similar strand in Bronte's Shirley)
is able to weigh the claims of repression and dedication to an external goal vs. passion and friendship
Rochester has increased need of her

How is Thorndean different from Thornfield? What are the contrasting connotations of their names?


On what basis would you defend or attack the novel's conclusion? Is the blinding of Mr. Rochester excessive and sadistic, or does it represent a symbolic attempt to present a compromise between passion and reality? (compare Tennyson's Princess, in which the Prince is wounded and Elizabeth Barrett Browning's Aurora Leigh, in which Romney is blinded).

What are contrasts between the first and second wedding preparations?

Do you find the ending an appropriate closure for Jane and Rochester's relationship? Why or why not?

What elements has Bronte built into their future? What social features seeem to be omitted?

outer world, social connections, friends
considerations of health at Ferndean

Are Jane Eyre and Rochester rendered more equal in status at the end of the book? How is this brought about?

Is its ex machina ending inappropriate? Is it pychologically satisfying? What will be the nature of Jane and Rochester's happiness? What are its limitations?

What is the symbolism of Rochester's blindness? Of the couple's retreat to Ferndean?

Some general questions:

What may have been some reasons for this novel's popularity since its publication in 1847?

Which elements of this novel seem most conventionally Romantic? Victorian?

preoccupied with creating a broad definition of religion
critiquing the school system and social injustices
presents orderliness as a virtue

What do you think are the novel's best and worst features?

Do you find it a unified book? What are some of the devices which bind it together and give it unity?

Would you describe this novel as sentimental? As gothic? As realistic? (blending of elements of the gothic, grotesque, romantic and realistic) Do these blendings improve the novel? (elements of wish fantasy combined with stern realism and verisimilitude; intensely accurate detail confirms the authenticity of the emotions presented)

Bronte was pressured to sentimentalize its characters and plot--which elements of character and plot do you think might have been considered too “rough” or blunt?

How is the novel's narrative sequence structured to create suspense?

Does Bronte use different styles throughout the novel? What are some of these and how are they used?

What are some elements of myth in this novel? (Cinderella; Frog/Prince; Adam and Eve in garden; love lost and found; wanderer finds home and adulthood; vision of mother in moon)

Can you comment on the extent to which this novel is autobiographical in detail and tone?

Lowood school reflected Bronte's own education at the school where two of her sisters died
Bronte's dislike for caring for children appears in the portrait of Adele
her dislike for governess' social situation is shown in Jane's plight
Jane's alternation between submision and rebellion may reflect traits of her creator
Jane's caring for the blinded Rochester reflects Bronte's own care for her blind father
Bronte's love of drawing appears in Jane's artistry, 507

What are some similarities between Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights? Some significant contrasts?

Do features of this novel suggest other works of Victorian literature? What had been some earlier autobiographical novels? (Frankenstein, David Copperfield) Novels about an orphan? (Oliver Twist)

Parallels between Gaskell's The Life of Bronte and Jane Eyre

Mr. Bronte used a mask in questioning his children, 94.

The Bronte children were fed only potatoes.

They were neglected by their parents (Maria in ill-health, Patrick Bronte neglilent and displeased by their presence).

Cowan School and the Rev. Wilson are basis of the novel's portrayal of Lowood, including details of diet and of teacher's treatment of Helen Burns.

Bessie is modelled on a family serant, 110.

Bronte gives her own physical traits to Jane, including tiny hands and feet, 124, neatness, 507.

Bronte presents domestic details from her experience.

A source for the bigamy portion of the plot was Branwell's experience, 159-60.