1. In Jane Eyre, nothing can better show a man''s moral worth
than the way in which he treats the women in his life. How is
Rochester''s character reflected in the way he treats Jane, Adele,
Bertha Mason, and Miss Ingram, and in his reported treatment of
Celine Varens? How is St. John''s character reflected in the way he
treats Jane, Miss Oliver, and Diana and Mary? Why does this serve
as such a good gauge of a man''s morality and worth? What other
relationships serve similar functions in the novel?
2. Throughout the novel, questions of identity are raised. From
her identity as an orphan and stranger in the hostile environment
of Gateshead Hall to that of a ward of the church at Lowood; from
her being a possible wife of Rochester, then of St. John, to being
the cousin of Diana and Mary, Jane is constantly in transition.
Trace these changes in identity and how they affect Jane''s view of
herself and the world around her. Describe the final discovery of
her identity that becomes apparent in the last chapter of the novel
and the events that made that discovery possible.
3. Throughout the novel, Charlotte Brontë uses biblical quotes
and religious references. From the church-supported school she
attended that was run by Mr. Brocklehurst to the offer of marriage
she receives from St. John, she is surrounded by aspects of
Christianity. How does this influence her throughout her
development? How do her views of God and Christianity change from
her days as a young girl to the end of the novel? How is religion
depicted in the novel, positively or negatively?
4. Many readers of Jane Eyre feel that the story is composed of
two distinct parts, different in tone and purpose. The first part
(chapters 1-11) concerns her childhood at Gateshead and her life at
Lowood; the second part is the remainder of the story. Is creating
such a division justified? Is there a genuine difference of tone
and purpose between the two sections as they have been described?
Some critics and readers have suggested that the first part of Jane
Eyre is more arresting because it is more directly
autobiographical. Do you find this to be true?
5. Upon publication, great speculation arose concerning the
identity of the author of Jane Eyre, known only by the pen name
Currer Bell. Questions as to the sex of the author were raised, and
many critics said that they believed it to be the work of a man.
One critic of her time said, "A book more unfeminine, both in its
excellence and defects, it would be hard to find in the annals of
female authorship. Throughout there is masculine power, breadth and
shrewdness, combined with masculine hardness, coarseness, and
freedom of expression." Another critic of the day, Elizabeth Rigby,
said that if it was the product of a female pen, then it was the
writing of a woman "unsexed." Why was there such importance placed
on the sex of the author and why was it questioned so readily? What
does it mean that people believed it to be the product of a man
rather than of a woman?
6. Scenes of madness and insanity are among the most important
plot devices in Jane Eyre. From the vision Jane sees when locked in
the bedroom at Gateshead to her hearing the "goblin laughter" she
attributes to Grace Poole, to the insanity and wretchedness of
Bertha Mason, madness is of central importance to the plot and
direction of the story. Give examples of madness in the text, and
show how they affect the reader''s understanding of the character
experiencing the madness and how these examples affect the
reader''s understanding of the characters witnessing it.
7. There is probably no single line in the whole of Jane Eyre
that has, in itself, attracted as much critical attention as the
first line of the last chapter: "Reader, I married him." Why is the
phrasing of this line so important? How would the sense be
different-for the sentence and for the novel as a whole-if the line
read, "Reader, we were married"?