1. How does the stormy weather in the opening scene reflect
Jane's state of mind? What do we learn about Jane's position in the
household? Why is the scene of her punishment in the red room so
emotional (Chapter II)? How does the narration secure the reader's
sympathy for Jane?
2. At the Lowood School, Jane's most beloved friend is Helen
Burns, who with great dignity endures frequent punishment and
humiliation by Miss Scatcherd. Jane admires Helen, but realizes
that she cannot emulate her (Chapters VII-IX). Why not? What aspect
of Jane's character doesn't allow her to be as saintly as
3. When Jane takes in the view from the roof of Rochester's
house, she dreams of freedom and travel. Is it significant that
this is the place where she first hears a strange and frightening
laughter? Many readers and critics have sought to understand the
connection between Jane and Bertha Mason. Are they similar in their
anger toward their perceived and actual imprisonments. Are they
similar in other ways?
4. In three famous paragraphs beginning "Anybody may blame me
who likes . . ." Jane Eyre contains a passionate argument
for women's need for learning, satisfying work, and more freedom
than the domestic sphere allowed during the Victorian time period.
Read and discuss this passage as it relates to Jane's character and
her life story. Would you consider Jane Eyre a satisfying
story from a feminist perspective?
5. Jane is taking a walk when she meets Mr. Rochester. What is
noteworthy about this first meeting? What is the atmosphere? What
is the power dynamic? How does he treat her when they meet back at
the house? What is Rochester attracted to in Jane? What is she
attracted to in him?
6. Why does Rochester deceive Jane by openly courting Blanche
Ingram? What motivates him to masquerade as a fortune-teller? Is he
too manipulative and self-indulgent to deserve the honest Jane Eyre
as his wife?
7. At a critical moment in the novel, Jane proclaims herself
Rochester's equal: "It is my spirit that addresses your spirit;
just as if both of us had passed through the grave, and we stood at
God's feet, equal-as we are!" Rochester responds, "As we are!" Why
is Jane so passionately outspoken? Is her self-valuation
exceptional and true? Is she more noble and impressive here than
Rochester is? Why is this long scene (Chapter XXIII) so important
for the novel as a whole?
8. Reread Rochester's tale of his marriage to Bertha Mason in
Jamaica, noting particularly the terms he uses. How does he
characterize his wife? Does his description of his ill luck in
marrying Bertha-"a nature the most gross, impure, depraved I ever
saw, was associated with mine, and called by the law and by society
a part of me" -provoke sympathy? Who is responsible for the
monstrous person Bertha has become-heredity, her own vice and
depravity, fate, or perhaps Rochester himself?
9. Jane refuses to go live with Rochester in the south of France
as his mistress, choosing instead to lose him forever. Do her
reasons have to do with her Christian morality, or with the lack of
equality and respect she foresees in such an arrangement? He is
older than she, and a member of the landed aristocracy-while she is
young, penniless, and has no friends or family in the world.
Discuss the complicated chapter in which he tries to explain
himself for attempting to lure her into a bigamous marriage, and
the scene in which she takes leave of him (Chapter XXVII).
10. After Jane lives for some time at Moor House, St. John
Rivers discovers her real name and that she is his cousin. She is,
in fact, the missing heir of their uncle, who in leaving his
fortune to Jane Eyre, has disinherited St. John, Mary, and Diana.
At one stroke, Jane becomes a wealthy woman and acquires three
beloved cousins (with whom she shares her fortune). How do you
respond to such a bold departure in tone from the beginning of the
11. St. John Rivers is a stern, ambitious man. He is also
extremely handsome-far more handsome than Mr. Rochester. How does
Jane feel about St. John? Do you think that as readers, we are
meant to like him, to admire him, or to distrust him? Why does he
deny himself a marriage to Rosamond Oliver?
12. Is the theme of Christian salvation in Jane Eyre at
odds with Jane's desire for emancipation and self-realization? Is
she submissive or rebellious? How do Jane's efforts toward
self-fulfillment relate to her desire to be good? Why does she end
her narrative with St. John Rivers's prayer, instead of with the
conclusion of her own tale?
13. Jane is about to yield to St. John's urging that she marry
him and go to India, when she hears a disembodied cry. How does
Jane react to this strange phenomenon, and how is it later
explained? What do you think of Brontë's decision use this plot
14. Jane's life takes the form of a quest or journey, and with
each phase of her life she finds herself in a new place. What would
you say the ultimate goal of her quest is? When she ends her story,
married to Mr. Rochester and the mother of a young son, is she
finally at rest in her true home?
15. How do you interpret the tone of Jane's famous statement,
"Reader, I married him"? Some readers have long been troubled by
what happens to Rochester after Jane leaves Thornfield, and even
more so by the fact that his maiming and blinding-his severe
diminishment of power and virility and pride-seem to be the harsh
conditions necessary for their reunion and marriage. What sort of
ending does Brontë offer: a logically and romantically satisfying
one, or an obscurely disturbing and punitive one?
16. Comparing the Novel and the
• Had you read the novel before seeing the film? If so, how did
knowing the story beforehand affect your experience of the
• The eBook of Jane Eyre includes Moira Buffini's
screenplay forthe new film. After reading the original novel and
the screenplay(or having seen the film), can you see why Buffini
made thechoices she did? How did she adjust the plot to suit a film
adaptation? What changesdid you find most effective?
• How do the physical settings (houses, landscapes, etc.) in the
film compare with what you had imagined in reading the novel? How
would you describe the visual atmosphere that the film brings to
• Have you seen other filmed adaptations of Jane Eyre?
What is different in director Cary Fukunaga's version? Fukunaga has
said he loved the 1944 Jane Eyre directed by Robert
Stevenson, but "the Orson Welles-Joan Fontaine version was of an
era. You wouldn't make a film like that anymore. I'm a stickler for
raw authenticity, so I've spent a lot of time rereading the book
and trying to feel out what Charlotte Brontë was feeling when she
was writing it. That sort of spookiness that plagues the entire
story . . . there's been something like twenty-four adaptations,
and it's very rare that you see those sorts of darker sides." If
you've seen the Stevenson's Jane Eyre, discuss the ways
Fukunaga has been influenced by it, and the ways he has created a
totally new vision of the novel as well. [To read the entire
interview with Fukunaga by Kyle Buckman, please go to
movieline.com: "Director Cary Fukunaga on the 'Darker Sides' of His
Upcoming Jane Eyre" (March 10, 2010).]
• Compare the character of Rochester in the novel and the film. How
does the film present Rochester?
• What did you think of the actors' performances in the film? How
did they reshape your impressions of the characters they
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