of Work and Year of Publication . .......Jane
Eyre: An Autobiography
is a romance novel with elements of the Gothic novel and the bildungsroman
(coming-of-age novel). Smith, Elder and Company published it in 1847 under
Charlotte Brontë's pseudonym, Currer
Gothic novel focuses on dark, mysterious, terrifying
events. The story unfolds at one or more spooky sites, such as a dimly
lit castle, an old mansion on a hilltop, a misty cemetery, a forlorn countryside,
or the laboratory of a scientist conducting frightful experiments. In some
Gothic novels, characters imagine that they see ghosts and monsters. In
others, the ghosts and monsters are real. The weather in a Gothic novel
is often dreary or foul: There may be high winds that rattle windowpanes,
electrical storms with lightning strikes, and gray skies that brood over
landscapes. The Gothic novel derives its name from the Gothic architectural
style popular in Europe between the Twelfth and Sixteenth centuries. Gothic
structuressuch as cathedralsfeatured cavernous interiors with deep shadows,
stone walls that echoed the footsteps of worshippers, gargoyles looming
on exterior ledges, and soaring spires suggestive of a supernatural presence. .......A
bildungsroman is a novel that centers on the period in which a young person
grows up. This type of novel was pioneered by Johann
Wolfgang von Goethe (1749-1832) in his novel Wilhelm Meisters Lehrjahre
(Wilhelm Meister's Apprenticeship). Bildungsroman
is a German word meaning novel (roman) of
educational development (bildungs). It is also referred to as an
action takes place in the rural areas of central England in the first half
of the nineteenth century.
Jane Eyre: Strong-willed,
plain-looking daughter of a poor clergyman. Both of her parents die while
she is still an infant. A cruel aunt rears her to age ten as an unwanted
and inferior member of the family, then sends her to a charity school,
Lowood Orphan Asylum. Jane spends six years there as a student and two
years as a teacher before accepting a position, at age eighteen, as the
governess of the ward of Edward Rochester at his estate, Thornfield Hall.
Jane is intelligent, well educated (thanks in part to her love of books),
industrious, loyal, compassionate, and morally upright, with an independent
Edward Fairfax Rochester:
Gruff, sometimes moody employer of Jane Eyre. He falls in love with Jane,
who is about half his age, and gains her assent to marry him even though
he already has a wifean insane woman whom he keeps in the attic of Thornfield
Mrs. Sarah Reed:
Cruel aunt who rears Jane Eyre. Her husband made her promise to do so before
John Reed: Late husband
of Sarah Reed and brother of Jane's mother. He is entombed in the chancel
of Gateshead Church.
Young John Reed:
Son of John and Sarah Reed. He constantly bedevils Jane, reminding her
that she is a lowly orphan who does not deserve to live in the Reed home.
He is a cruel and mischievous boy, Jane says, who "twisted the necks of
the pigeons, killed the little pea-chicks, set the dogs at the sheep, stripped
the hothouse vines of their fruit, and broke the buds off the choicest
plants in the conservatory."
Eliza, Georgiana Reed:
Daughters of John and Sarah Reed. Like their brother, they make like miserable
for Jane, who says, "Eliza and Georgiana, evidently acting according to
orders, spoke to me as little as possible."
Edward Rochester's brother.
Old Mr. Rochester:
Edward Rochester's father.
Mr. Miles: Headmaster
at the school young John Reed attends. When Mrs. Reed keeps John out of
school for several weeks because of his "delicate health," Mr. Miles says
John's problem is that he receives too many cakes and sweetmeats from home.
Bessie: Nurse in
the employ of Mrs. Reed. She treats Jane humanely.
Abbot: Maid in the
employ of Mrs. Reed. She sides with Mrs. Reed against Jane.
Robert Leaven: Coachman
whom Bessie marries.
Bobby and Jane Leaven:
Children of Robert Leaven and Bessie.
Mr. Lloyd: Apothecary
who attends Jane at Gateshead Hall after she blacks out.
Mr. Carter: Surgeon
who treats Rochester after the latter falls from a horse and suffers a
sprain. He also treats the wounds Richard Mason suffered when his insane
sister attacked him.
Minister and headmaster at Lowood Orphan Asylum who embezzles money from
Wife of Mr. Brocklehurst.
Sixteen- and seventeen-year-old daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Brocklehurst.
Helen Burns, Mary Wilson:
Good friends of Jane at Lowood.
Julia Severn: Student
scolded by Brocklehurst for daring to wear her hair in curls. (She has
naturally curly hair.)
Maria Temple: Kindly
superintendent and teacher at Lowood Orphan Asylum. She becomes a good
friend of Jane.
Miss Scatcherd: History
and grammar teacher at Lowood. She treats the students cruelly. She is
especially hard on Helen Burns, whom she whips.
Miss Smith: Lowood
teacher who helps students make their clothes.
Madame Pierrot: Lowood's
French teacher from Lisle, France.
Miss Miller: An under-teacher
at Lowood who greets Jane after she arrives there from Gateshead Hall.
Miss Gryce: Welsh
teacher who shares a room with Jane after the latter becomes a teacher
Mr. Bates: Surgeon
who treats Helen Burns when she becomes ill.
Nurse: Woman who
assists Bates and informs Jane that Helen Burns is about to die.
Mrs. Alice Fairfax:
Kindly elderly woman who manages Thornfield Hall and keeps house there.
Rochester's mother was a second cousin of Mrs. Fairfax's late husband.
French girl of about ten who has been at Thornfield Hall for six months
before Jane arrives to become her governess. She is the ward of Rochester.
Although the story focuses little attention on her character development,
she is a pivotal presence in the novel in that her education and care are
the reasons that Jane Eyre goes to Thornfield Hall.
Adèle's mother and a French opera dancer. Rochester had an affair
with her after his wife went insane.
Woman with whom Adèle Varens lives for a short time before being
adopted by Rochester and taken to Thornfield Hall.
Mr. Wood: Clergyman
who is to marry Jane and Rochester.
Bertha Antoinetta Mason:
Rochester's Jamaican Creole wife, who is confined to the attic at Thornfield
Hall after going insane.
Richard Mason: Brother
of Bertha Mason. He reveals that Rochester is already married.
Jonas Mason: Jamaican
merchant and father of Bertha and Richard Mason.
Grace Poole: Servant
who watches over Bertha Mason.
Briggs: Richard Mason's
John: Servant at
Thornfield Hall and later at Ferndean Manor.
Mary: John's wife,
who is Rochester's cook.
Leah: Housemaid at
Blanche Ingram: Beautiful
young woman who is a guest at Thornfield Hall. Jane mistakenly believes
Rochester plans to marry her.
Mary Ingram: Sister
of Blanche and a guest at Thornfield Hall.
Dowager Lady Ingram:
Mother of Blanche and Mary. She is a guest at Thornfield Hall.
Mr. Eshton: Magistrate,
friend of Rochester, and a guest at Thornfield Hall.
Mrs. Eshton: Wife
of Mr. Eshton and a guest at Thornfield Hall.
Amy and Louisa Eshton:
Daughters of Mr. and Mrs. Eshton and guests at Thornfield Hall..
Sir George Lynn:
Millcote politician and a guest at Thornfield Hall.
Lady Lynn: Wife of
Sir George and a guest at Thornfield Hall.
Henry and Frederick Lynn:
Children of Sir George and guests at Thornfield Hall.
Colonel and Mrs. Dent:
Guests at Thornfield Hall.
Sam: Footman who
brings coal for the guests at Thornfield Hall and informs them of the presence
of a fortunetelling gipsy (Rochester in disguise).
woman with whom Rochester had an affair while traveling in Europe.
Clara: German woman
with whom Rochester had an affair while traveling in Europe.
Farmer: Man who gives
Jane bread on her journey through the moors.
who sells bread cakes in a village Jane comes upon during her journey through
the moors. She answers questions Jane asks about employment.
Woman at a Village House:
Woman who answers questions Jane asks about employment in a village. Jane
comes upon during her journey through the moors.
Woman at a Parsonage:
Woman who answers Jane's questions at a parsonage at which Jane seeks a
clergyman to help her find employment.
Girl at Cottage:
Girl who gives Jane porridge after the latter spends the night in woods.
Mother of Girl: Mother
of the girl at the cottage.
St. John (pronounced
Minister who, with his sisters, takes Jane in after she wanders on the
Diana and Mary Rivers:
Sisters of St. John who become good friends of Jane.
Hannah: Servant in
the Rivers household.
Alice Wood: Jane's
assistant at the school founded by St. John Rivers.
John Eyre: Uncle
of Jane, St. John Rivers, and his two sisters. He bequeaths twenty thousand
pounds to Jane, which she shares with the Rivers family.
Young woman in love with St. John Rivers.
Mr. Oliver: Father
of Rosamond and wealthy owner of a needle factory.
Mr. Granby: Well-connected
man whom Rosamond Oliver marries.
Sir Frederic Granby:
Father of Mr. Granby.
Host of Rochester Arms:
Keeper of the inn at which Jane stays when she returns to Thornfield Hall
and finds it in ruins after the fire. He informs her of what happened to
Damer de Rochester:
Ancestor entombed in the church where Jane and Rochester go to be married
before Richard Mason reveals that Rochester is already married. Damer de
Rochester was killed in the Battle of Marston Moor (July 2, 1644) during
the English Civil War.
Elizabeth: Wife of
Damer de Rochester.
Coachmen Animals: Pilot, Rochester's
dog; Mesrour, Rochester's black horse; Carlo, Rosamond Oliver's dog.
Eyre tells her story in first-person point of view as she looks back on
her life after her marriage to Edward Rochester. She begins the narrative
when she is a ten-year-old orphan being reared by a cruel aunt.
Charlotte Brontë structures
the thirty-eight chapter novel according to stages in Jane Eyre's life.
These stages center on Jane as a
Maltreated child in the home
of Mrs. Sarah Reed.
Child and adolescent student
at Lowood Orphan Asylum.
Teenage governess and teacher
at Thornfield Hall, where she falls in love with her employer, Edward Rochester.
Wanderer through the moors after
leaving Thornfield Hall. Tired, lacking food, she becomes deathly ill.
Sojourner at the home of St.
John, Diana, and Mary Rivers, where Jane recovers.
Fulfilled young woman at Ferndean
Manor after reuniting with and marrying Rochester.
climax of a novel or another literary work can be defined as (1) a major
turning point in the story or as (2) the final and most exciting event
in a series of events. The climax of Jane Eyre occurs, according
to the first definition, when Richard Mason and his solicitor reveal at
the wedding ceremony that Edward Rochester is already married. According
to the second definition, the climax occurs when Rochester, temporarily
blinded by the fire, realizes that Jane Eyre has returned to him. Here
is the dialogue:
God!what delusion has come over me?
What sweet madness has seized me?"
delusionno madness: your mind, sir, is too
strong for delusion, your health too sound for frenzy."
where is the speaker? Is it only a voice? Oh! I cannot see, but I must
feel, or my heart will stop and my brain burst. Whateverwhoever
you arebe perceptible to the touch or I cannot
groped; I arrested his wandering hand, and prisoned it in both mine.
very fingers!" he cried; "her small, slight fingers! If so there
must be more of her."
Theme: Struggling Against Adversity
the novel, Jane Eyre struggles against forces that use her cruelly. After
fate robs her of her mother and father, it places her in the home of an
abusive aunt whose children bully Jane and remind her that she ranks as
a lowly orphan without entitlement to the privileges they enjoy. At Lowood
school, she struggles against ridicule, cold, loneliness, and the maltreatment
of fellow students by school authorities. She recalls in Chapter 7 that
My first quarter
at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden age either; it comprised an
irksome struggle with difficulties in habituating myself to new rules and
unwonted tasks. The fear of failure in these points harassed me worse than
the physical hardships of my lot. . . Our clothing was insufficient to
protect us from the severe cold: we had no boots, the snow got into our
shoes and melted there: our ungloved hands became numbed and covered with
chilblains. . . .Then the scanty supply of food was distressing: with the
keen appetites of growing children, we had scarcely sufficient to keep
alive a delicate invalid. From this deficiency of nourishment resulted
an abuse, which pressed hardly on the younger pupils: whenever the famished
great girls had an opportunity, they would coax or menace the little ones
out of their portion. Many a time I have shared between two claimants the
precious morsel of brown bread distributed at tea-time; and after relinquishing
to a third half the contents of my mug of coffee, I have swallowed the
remainder with an accompaniment of secret tears, forced from me by the
exigency of hunger.
Thornfield Hall, Jane struggles to fathom eerie and mysterious happenings
and to win the love of the man at the center of them, Edward Rochester.
As to the latter struggle, Jane herself sometimes becomes the enemy. In
a kind of soliloquy in Chapter 26, she berates herself for daring to think
that Rochester would marry her:
You," I said, "a
favourite with Mr. Rochester? You, gifted with the power of pleasing him?
You, of importance to him in any way? Go! your folly sickens me.
And you have derived pleasure from occasional tokens of preferenceequivocal
tokens shown by a gentleman of family and a man of the world to a dependent
and a novice. How dared you? Poor stupid dupe!Could not even self-interest
make you wiser? You repeated to yourself this morning the brief scene of
last night?Cover your face and be ashamed! He said something in
praise of your eyes, did he? Blind puppy! Open their bleared lids
and look on your own accursed senselessness!
after Rochester does ask her to marry him, a perverse turn of events prevents
the marriage, desolating Jane. After leaving Thornfield Hall, she struggles
for her very survival while wandering aimlessly in the countryside, then
struggles to regain her health in the home of a kindly family that takes
her in. After she marries Rochester, her struggle continues when she helps
him cope with the blindness inflicted upon him by the fire at Thornfield
Hall. Fortunately, it is a happy struggle: "Never did I weary of reading
to him; never did I weary of conducting him where he wished to go: of doing
for him what he wished to be done." When sight returns to one of his eyes,
Jane embarks upon a new experience in her life, normalcy.
Jane Eyre focuses
on several kinds of love: romantic (Jane and Rochester's love for each
other), sisterly (Jane's love for Helen Burns and other students at Lowood,
for Maria Temple, and for the Rivers family), compassionate (the love of
Jane, Maria Temple, and others for the downtrodden), and familial (the
love of Diane, Mary, and St. John Rivers for one another).
Lack of Love and False
Lack of love causes Jane's
miserable childhood at Gateshead Hall, as well as the ridicule and deprivation
she and other children suffer at Lowood Orphan Asylum. False love is in
part responsible for Edward Rochester's disastrous marriage to Bertha Mason.
What he thought was love for her was instead infatuation. St. John Rivers
loves Rosamond Oliver but instead proposes to Jane Eyre, whom he does not
truly love, because he believes she would make a good partner for him in
the missionary field.
Jane Eyre's tormentors at
Gateshead Hall label her a liar when she is in fact truthful. After Mrs.
Reed tells Mr. Brocklehurst to monitor Jane for deceit, he forces her to
stand on a stool in front of her classmates as punishment for lying ways.
The kindly superintendent of the school, Maria Temple, later exonerates
Jane; it was Mrs. Reed and others who were deceitful. Mr. Brocklehurst
deceives the benefactors of the school about the use of their moneyhe
keeps a portion of it for himself. The family of Rochester's first wife,
as well as his own father and brother, deceive him about her backgroundin
particular, her family's history of insanitybefore he marries her. Rochester
himself deceives Jane about the strange occurrences at Thornfield Hallin
particular, the unearthly laughter she hears and the role of Grace Poole.
In addition, he allows Jane to believe that he is single and eligible for
marriage when in fact he is already married. Jane deceives the Rivers family
about her identity, claiming her surname is "Elliott."
Jane Eyre speaks up for herself
not only as a human being deserving just treatment but also as a woman
deserving the same. In this regard, an important moment in the novel occurs
in Chapter 12 when Jane observes that
Women are supposed
to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise
for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers
do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation,
precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged
fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making
puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering
bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek
to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their
In asserting herself, however,
Jane never attempts to exceed the boundaries of moral propriety. For example,
after it becomes known that Edward Rochester's first wife is alive, she
refuses to accept his invitation to live with him in an adulterous arrangement.
Mr. Brocklehurst, the headmaster
at Lowood Orphan Asylum, pockets part of the money provided by benefactors
of the school for proper food and clothing for the students. Rochester's
father and brother promote his marriage to Bertha Mason because of her
family's offered dowry of thirty thousand pounds.
Jane ably fends for herself
against the cruelty and injustice inflicted upon her. As an avid reader,
she also educates herself. Moreover, upon graduating from Lowood Orphan
Asylum, she takes control of her destiny, choosing to teach at Lowood and
then to strike out on her own as a teacher and governess. When Rochester
asks her to live with him after acknowledging that he is married to an
insane woman, Jane's sense of dignity and propriety makes her refuse to
do so even though she loves him. When St. John Rivers proposes to her,
she refuses to marry him. She then returns to Rochester after his first
wife dies and freely marries him, well knowing that a sightless man will
test her mettle.
From time to time in the
novel, Jane Eyre sees or hears what she thinks could be manifestations
from the beyond or encounters situations that suggest the presence of a
ghost. For example, when Mrs. Reed confines her to the red room at Gateshead
Hall (Chapter 2), Jane begins to remember "what I had heard of dead men,
troubled in their graves by the violation of their last wishes, revisiting
the earth to punish the perjured and avenge the oppressed; and I thought
Mr. Reed's spirit, harassed by the wrongs of his sister's child, might
quit its abodewhether in the church vault or in the unknown world of the
departedand rise before me in this chamber." After she sees a strange
light she thinks that the "swift darting beam was a herald of some coming
vision from another world. My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound
filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near
me; I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I rushed to the
door and shook the lock in desperate effort." Years later at Thornfield
Hall, Jane asks Mrs. Fairfax whether servants sleep in certain rooms on
the third floor (Chapter 11). Mrs. Fairfax tells her, "No; they occupy
a range of smaller apartments to the back; no one ever sleeps here: one
would almost say that, if there were a ghost at Thornfield Hall, this would
be its haunt." Jane also hears unearthly laughter at Thornfield Hall.
fire in Edward Rochester's room (Chapter 15) foreshadows the fire that
burns down Thornfield Hall and kills Rochester's insane wife, Bertha. After
extinguishing the fire in Rochester's chamber, Jane tells her master that
she saw a candle on the floor upon entering the room and concludes that
Grace Poole set the fire. However, when Jane sees Grace Poole the next
day (Chapter 16), the latter betrays no sign of guilt as she talks with
Jane. Also, Rochester keeps Grace on rather than firing her. .......Thus,
the reader has reason to suspect that another presence in the house was
the cause of the fire. Whatever the case, the fire alerts the reader that
danger lurks in the house. This danger could manifest itself againand
does. After Thornfield Hall burns to the ground, the host at the Rochester
Arms tells her that Rochester's insane wife, Bertha, set the fire:
She had a woman
to take care of her called Mrs.Poolean able woman in her line, and very
trustworthy, but for one faulta fault common to a deal of them nurses
and matronsshe kept a private bottle of gin by her, and now and then took
a drop over-much. It is excusable, for she had a hard life of it: but still
it was dangerous; for when Mrs. Poole was fast asleep after the gin and
water, the mad lady, who was as cunning as a witch, would take the keys
out of her pocket, let herself out of her chamber, and go roaming about
the house, doing any wild mischief that came into her head. They say she
had nearly burnt her husband in his bed once: but I don't know about that.
However, on this night, she set fire first to the hangings of the room
next her own, and then she got down to a lower storey, and made her way
to the chamber that had been the governess's . . . and she kindled the
bed there. . . .
writes descriptions with syntactical grace and striking imagery, as in
the following passage:
A splendid Midsummer
shone over England: skies so pure, suns so radiant as were then seen in
long succession, seldom favour even singly, our wave-girt land. It was
as if a band of Italian days had come from the South, like a flock of glorious
passenger birds, and lighted to rest them on the cliffs of Albion. The
hay was all got in; the fields round Thornfield were green and shorn; the
roads white and baked; the trees were in their dark prime; hedge and wood,
full-leaved and deeply tinted, contrasted well with the sunny hue of the
cleared meadows between.
first sentence of this passage rings with alliteration: splendid,
The second sentence presents a simile in which Italian days become birds.
The first clause of the third sentence departs from the airy lyricism of
the first two sentences: "The hay was all got ina welcome relief." The
passage finishes with a description of hues and shades and other characteristics
of the scene Jane Eyre sees. .......Here
is another example of a descriptive passage, in which Jane tells of the
Rivers sisters and their home:
I liked to read
what they liked to read: what they enjoyed, delighted me; what they approved,
I reverenced. They loved their sequestered home. I, too, in the grey, small,
antique structure, with its low roof, its latticed casements, its mouldering
walls, its avenue of aged firsall grown aslant under the stress of mountain
winds; its garden, dark with yew and hollyand where no flowers but of
the hardiest species would bloomfound a charm both potent and permanent.
They clung to the purple moors behind and around their dwellingto the
hollow vale into which the pebbly bridle-path leading from their gate descended,
and which wound between fern-banks first, and then amongst a few of the
wildest little pasture-fields that ever bordered a wilderness of heath,
or gave sustenance to a flock of grey moorland sheep, with their little
mossy-faced lambs:they clung to this scene, I say, with a perfect enthusiasm
maintain intimacy with the reader, the narrator sometimes addresses him
or her directly, as in this sentence: Why have I alluded to this man?
I have alluded to him, Reader, because I think I see in him an intellect
profounder and more unique than his contemporaries have yet
recognised. She also sometimes addresses herself, a technique that enables
her to reveal an objective, unbiased voice within her that lends credibility
to her self-evaluations: Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence: to-morrow,
place the glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully,
without softening one defect; omit no harsh line, smooth away no displeasing
irregularity; write under it, 'Portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor,
and plain.' " .......To
help maintain suspense or provide transition, the narrator frequently introduces
unexplained occurrences, such as the strange light on the wall in Gateshead
Hall, the unearthly laughter at Thornfield Hall, and the voices that
guide her. . Allusions
Charlotte Brontë includes
many allusions in her narration. Following
Chapter 8: "We feasted
that evening as on nectar and ambrosia;
and not the least delight of the entertainment was the smile of gratification
with which our hostess regarded us, as we satisfied our famished appetites
on the delicate fare she liberally supplied." In Greek mythology, nectar
was the drink of the gods, and ambrosia their food. Both conferred immortality
on the consumer. Nectar and ambrosia became synonyms for
any delicious drink (nectar) and any delicious food (ambrosia).
Chapter 8: "That
night, on going to bed, I forgot to prepare in imagination the Barmecide
supper of hot roast potatoes, or white bread
and new milk, with which
I was wont to amuse my inward cravings." A Barmecide is an imaginary
or pretended banquet. Barmecide was the name of a prince in The Arabian
Nights who served a beggar a "feast" consisting of empty dishes.
Chapter 16: "Reason
having come forward and told, in her own quiet way a plain,
unvarnished tale, showing how I had rejected the real, and rabidly
devoured the ideal . . . ." Plain, unvarnished tale recalls a line
written by Shakespeare in Othello: "I will a round unvarnishd tale
deliver" (1. 3. 104). Othello is defending himself against accusations
that he abducted Desdmona, the daughter of a Venetian senator, saying he
will tell the whole truth (round unvarnishd tale).
Chapter 19: "The
library looked tranquil enough as I entered it, and the Sibylif
Sibyl she werewas seated snugly enough in an easy-chair at the chimney-corner."
In ancient Greek literature and mythology, a sibyl was a very old woman
who prophesied or told fortunes; sibyl was a title, not a name. In the
sentence above from Jane Eyre, the narrator is referring to Rochester
disguised as a gipsy fortuneteller.
Chapter 25: "I thought
sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah;
and now and then a freshening gale,
wakened by hope, bore my
spirit triumphantly towards the bourne." Beulah is a reference to
a land of peace and contentment in Pilgrim's Progress, by John Bunyan
Chapter 27: "In the
servants' hall two coachmen and three gentlemen's gentlemen stood or sat
round the fire; the abigails, I suppose,
were upstairs with their mistresses; the new servants, that had been hired
from Millcote, were bustling about everywhere. Abigail is the name of a
maid in The Scornful Lady, a play by Francis Beaumont (1585-1616)
and John Fletcher (1579-1625). The word abigail (with a lower-case
was later used as a synonym for maid.
Questions and Essay Topics
1. Like the fictional Jane
Eyre, Charlotte Brontë went away to school, returned to the same school
to teach, served for a time as a governess, received a proposal of marriage
from a minister (in fact, two ministers), learned to speak French, and
eventually married the man of her choice. Write an informative essay comparing
and contrasting the fictional Jane with the real-life Charlotte. Include
in your essay a discussion of the background similarities already mentioned,
as well as others that your research reveals. In addition, present information
on the dissimilarities between Jane and Charlotte. Finally, compare and
contrast their personalities, beliefs, and attitudes.
2. Although Jane Eyre
is a romance novel, Charlotte Brontë brings to the book as much realism
as idealism. For example, rather than presenting pretty cardboard cutouts
as her main characters, Brontë gives us imperfect specimens of humanity:
plain-looking Jane Eyre, a lowly orphan, and coarse-featured Edward Rochester,
a gruff landowner. What are other examples of realism in the novel? What
are examples of idealism?
3. What is Jane Eyre's most
4. While preaching biblical
principles, Mr. Brocklehurst embezzles funds intended for the children
of Lowood Ophan Asylum. Are there many Brocklehursts in the world today?
Document your answer.
5. Do you believe St. John
Rivers should have married Rosamond Oliver? Explain your answer.
6. In what ways does Edward
Rochester "see" more clearly after losing one eye and temporarily losing
the sight in another?
7. In what ways does Rochester
resemble the classical tragic hero of ancient Greek plays?
8. Explain the following
passage which appears in Chapter 26, after Richard Mason reveals that Rochester
is already married: "A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December
storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed
the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud: lanes
which last night blushed full of flowers, to-day were pathless with untrodden
snow; and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and flagrant
as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests
in wintry Norway."