Jane Eyre Questions
Bring on the tough stuff - there’s not just one right answer.
- How would this novel be different if it was titled The Governess? If it was titled Redemption? If it was titled (to steal from Gilbert and Gubar) The Madwoman in the Attic? (See "Brain Snacks" for a discussion of Gilbert and Gubar.)
- What would happen to the story if Jane were beautiful instead of plain? Would it matter?
- If Jane and Rochester are "akin," then what is their "kind"? What do they actually share, and what made them similar in the first place?
- Jane Eyre is divided into three books and also takes place in three (OK, maybe four) main settings: Gateshead and Lowood (childhood), Thornfield (young love), Moor House/Morton (temporary banishment). But the books don’t match up exactly with the three main sections of the plot. Why does the novel break after Book I, Chapter 15 (Jane saves Rochester from burning to death in his bed) and again after Book II, Chapter 11 (Jane discovers Rochester’s attempt at bigamy)? What might the events of these two chapters have in common?
- Is there anything supernatural in Jane Eyre that doesn’t get explained away? If so, what?
- Does the reader feel sorry for Bertha Mason? Does Rochester treat her fairly? Does she seem as bad as he suggests?
- Is Jane’s ethical sense innate? Is she born knowing right from wrong, or does she learn the difference?
- Do you always agree with Jane’s decision to stand on principle, or are there ways that the novel makes us wish she were a little more flexible? (Hint: think about the characters who argue with Jane about ethics, especially Helen Burns, St. John Rivers, and Mr. Rochester.)
- Why does Rochester like to describe Jane as some kind of supernatural creature – an elf, a fairy, a sprite, etc.? Does she have an "elfin" feel to the reader, or is he just making fun of her?
- How does Jane Eyre set up the relationship between England and different foreign places – the West Indies, including Jamaica; France and the European Continent; and an orientalized version of Asia? What influences seem to come from each of these places, and how do they get stereotyped? How should the contemporary reader respond to these stereotypes?