Do you have skeletons in your attic?
You can't get much more romantic than Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre: poor, unloved, and unattractive orphan uses her awesome personality to win over a wealthy sort-of-aristocrat and live happily ever after. Oh, and by "awesome personality" we mean "blunt-and-somewhat-annoyingly-obsessed-with-duty personality." And let's not forget to mention that the sort-of-aristocrat is (1) mean, (2) ugly, and (3)...well, we don't want to spoil anything, but needless to say, he's no Ryan Gosling.
What we are saying is that Jane Eyre isn't exactly the harlequin romance novel that a DVD cover like this might suggest. But don't worry: it's still a crowdpleaser. Madness, disability, missionaries, and a tasty sprinkle of the Gothic make Jane Eyre a pretty compelling read for a book that was published in the wayback days of 1847.
The activities and readings in this course will help you
- understand what made Jane Eyre so shocking when it was published and what makes it still so popular today.
- see Jane as an unconventional heroine who's also the model for generations of subsequent heroines.
- define Bildungsroman (gesundheit) and discuss Jane Eyre as an example of the genre.
- point to elements of the Gothic and sublime in Jane Eyre.
- develop arguments about major issues such as colonialism, gender, education, and spiritual equality.
Unit 1. Jane Eyre
This 15-lesson unit will give you all the Gothic goodness you could ever want. That, along with a mean and ugly romantic lead? Yeah, this should be an adventure.
Sample Lesson - Introduction
Lesson 5: School's In Forever
Zombies aside, Jane Eyre is a novel of development—and you can't develop if you never leave home. (Cue not-so-subtle critique of the way women were supposed to stay at home all their lives.)
Jane stays at Lowood for eight years. Let's look at why she leaves:
And now I felt that it was not enough; I tired of the routine of eight years in one afternoon. I desired liberty; for liberty I gasped; for liberty I uttered a prayer; it seemed scattered on the wind then faintly blowing. I abandoned it and framed a humbler supplication; for change, stimulus: that petition, too, seemed swept off into vague space: "Then," I cried, half desperate, "grant me at least a new servitude!"
"A new servitude! There is something in that," I soliloquised (mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud), "I know there is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere waste of time to listen to them. But Servitude! That must be matter of fact. Any one may serve: I have served here eight years; now all I want is to serve elsewhere. Can I not get so much of my own will?"
Servitude is right. Being a governess might sound kind of sexy in the 21st century—all Downton Abbey and BBC adaptations—but it was a miserable life for most women.
Not so for Jane. Thornfield isn't exactly Windsor Castle (and it does have a super creepy servant), but her pupil is docile, the housekeeper is friendly, and the master is never home...until they meet cute (or meet kind-of-freaky-and-supernatural) one night on the moor.
The funny thing is, Jane can't seem to decide what independence means to her. She claims that she wants a "new servitude," she says that she's not afraid to touch a horse when she's "told to do it," and she often refers to her "subordinate" position in the household. At the same time, she's not about to let him boss her around just because he's paying her salary. She even tells him that she thinks he's ugly—even though she's falling for him.
Dependent servant, rich autocratic master? If you ask us, the wrong kind of sparks are flying.
Sample Lesson - Reading
Reading 1.5: The Plot Thickens
Life is about to get a lot more interesting for Jane. Thornfield may be a gloomy, Gothic old mansion—but who cares about that when Mr. Rochester is around? For this reading, you'll be tackling Chapters 1.11 through 1.15.
Our summaries are here if you need a little help.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Activity 1.5a: The Sea of Calm
As she starts off to Thornfield, Jane says that "restlessness was in" her nature, that it's "vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility" (1.12). What she really means is that it's vain to say that women should be satisfied with tranquility:
they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. 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 sex.
Radical talk, Jane!
Let's take a closer look at this passage.
Sample Lesson - Activity
Quiz 1.5b: The Thornfield Years
- Course Length: 3 weeks
- Grade Levels: 9, 10, 11, 12
- Course Type: Short Course
Just what the heck is a Shmoop Online Course?
Common Core Standards
The following Common Core Standards are covered in this course:CCSS.ELA-Literacy.L.9-10.1