1. What scene is described in the poem? What has brought the speaker to Jenny's room, and what does he tell us about himself and his motives?
  2. Why might someone in his situation have been chosen as the poem's speaker? Are there advantages and disadvantages to this choice?
  3. Do you think this would have been an unusual setting for a Victorian poem? A controversial one?
  4. Why is the point made that Jenny falls asleep almost as soon as the two enter her room, and sleeps through much of the night resting on the speaker's knee?
  5. What effect is served by entitling the poem "Jenny" rather than, say, "A Young Man's Meditations," "A Social Problem," "The Fallen Woman," or some such?
  6. How is the effect different from that created by Augusta Webster's title "A Castaway"?
  7. Would Jenny be a character with whom Rossetti's audience would likely have identified?
  8. What is the poem's rhyme scheme and metrical pattern? How are the stanzas arranged?
  9. How do the poet's choices in these matters influence the poem's effect on the reader?
  10. What is the speaker's attitude toward Jenny? Does this shift? Is she treated with respect? Condescension? Pity?
  11. Why does he compare her to an open book? What do we learn about her alleged attitudes, values and opinions?
  12. According to the speaker, were other options open to Jenny than a life of prostitution?
  13. Why do you think the author chose to write a monologue in which Jenny herself does not speak?
  14. What reasons are given for Jenny's resort to prostitution? Might there have been other motives for poor women of the time?
  15. How does the speaker's account of Jenny's past life and present values contrast with that of Webster's "A Castaway"?
  16. What reason does the speaker give for why he cannot talk with her? What does he presume is the state of her mind? Do his assumptions reflect their different social status and educations?
  17. What is the sequence of the speaker's reflections on prostitution? Whom does he blame for the condition of women such as Jenny?
  18. What metaphors and patterns of imagery does the poet use to discuss her situation? What, for example, is made of the flower imagery? Allusions to mythology?
  19. Do such comparisons add to the poem's effectiveness? Alternately, are they sometimes distracting?
  20. What tone is created by the biblical allusions?
  21. What is the effect of describing lust as a toad? Does this level of abstraction avoid condemnation of individual decisions by individual men?
  22. What is the purpose of the speaker's descriptions of his cousin Nell?
  23. Why in his view is it impossible for a good woman to look into Jenny's heart? (ll. 250ff) What problems does this cause?
  24. How do you interpret his claim that Jenny's flowerlike beauty should make respectable women "love roses better for her sake"?
  25. Rossetti's sister Christina worked at a home for fallen women. Do you think Rossetti believed that "good" women could or should not learn the facts of prostitution? In other words, are the speaker's claims of a necessary gulf between women to be seen as descriptive or regretful?
  26. What happens at the end? What are some implications of the final image of Danae and Zeus?
  27. Why does the speaker describe himself as ashamed, and what is he mocking?
  28. Is it significant that the poem ends at dawn?
  29. What does the speaker seem to mean by "a dark path I can strive to clear?"
  30. How is Jenny's purse described? What is implied by the imagery of a netted purse clotted with flies?
  31. Is this ending a good final resolution for Jenny? For the speaker? For the poem?
  32. Some Victorian male reviewers found the poem's speaker to be hypocritical. Do you agree?
  33. Does the speaker manifest ambivalence toward Jenny and the causes of prostitution? If so, is this what might be expected in one of the more explicit representations of this topic thus far?
  34. What may have been Rossetti's intentions in writing his poem? What, if any, do you think are the ways the speaker or reader is expected to address the issue of Victorian prostitution?
  35. What are some contrasts between this poem and Webster's "A Castaway"? How does each seek to create a different effect in the mind of the reader?
  36. Is "Jenny" a good poem? How may its language and themes reflect the period in which it was written?