'Jane Eyre' Questions for Study and Discussion

The Gothic romance with a feminist perspective

Portrait of English novelist Charlotte Bronte
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Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre is one of the foremost works of British literature. At its heart, it's a coming-of-age story, but Jane Eyre is much more than girl-meets-and-marries boy. It marked a new style of fiction writing, relying on the title character's internal monologue for much of the story's action. A woman's internal monologue, no less. Put simply, the story of Jane Eyre and Edmund Rochester is a romance, but on the woman's terms.

Originally Published Under Male Pseudonym

There's no small irony in the fact that the distinctly feminist Jane Eyre was originally published in 1847 under Bronte's male pseudonym, Currer Bell. With the creation of Jane and her world, Bronte introduced an entirely new kind of heroine: Jane is "plain" and orphaned, but intelligent and proud. Bronte depicts Jane's struggles with classism and sexism from a perspective that was almost unheard of in the 19th-century Gothic novel. There is a heavy dose of social critique in Jane Eyre, and distinctly sexual symbolism, also not common with female protagonists of the time period. It has even spawned a sub-genre of criticism, that of the madwoman in the attic. This, of course, is a reference to Rochester's first wife, a key character whose impact on the plot is significant, but whose voice is never heard in the novel.

Regularly on Top 100 Best Book Lists

Given its literary significance and its groundbreaking style and story, it's no wonder that Jane Eyre regularly lands on Top 100 best books lists, and is a favorite among English literature instructors and students of the genre.

Questions for Study and Discussion

What is important about the title; why does Bronte choose a name for her character that has so many homonyms (heir, air). Is this intentional?

What is significant about Jane's time at Lowood? How does this shape her character? 

Compare Bronte's descriptions of Thornfield with the descriptions of Rochester's appearance.

What is she trying to convey?

There are many symbols throughout Jane Eyre. What significance do they hold for the plot? 

How would you describe Jane as a person? Is she believable? Is she consistent?

How did your opinion of Rochester change when you learned what his secret was?

Does the story end the way you expected? 

Do you think Jane Eyre is a feminist novel? Why or why not?

How does Bronte's portray other female characters besides Jane? Who is the most significant woman in the novel other than its titular character?

How does Jane Eyre compare to other heroines of 19th century English literature? Of whom does she remind you? 

How essential is the setting for the story? Could the story have taken place anywhere else?

Do you think Jane and Rochester deserved a happy ending? Do you think they got one? 

This is just one part of our study guide on Jane Eyre. Please see the links below for additional helpful resources.

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Lombardi, Esther. "'Jane Eyre' Questions for Study and Discussion." ThoughtCo, Jan. 19, 2018, thoughtco.com/jane-eyre-questions-for-study-740240. Lombardi, Esther. (2018, January 19). 'Jane Eyre' Questions for Study and Discussion. Retrieved from https://www.thoughtco.com/jane-eyre-questions-for-study-740240 Lombardi, Esther. "'Jane Eyre' Questions for Study and Discussion." ThoughtCo. https://www.thoughtco.com/jane-eyre-questions-for-study-740240 (accessed January 19, 2018).