Jane Eyre Chapters 1-5

As you start this novel, you need to have an understanding of the literary movements of Romanticism and Victorianism.  This novel is written in 1847, so clearly Bronte is influenced by both of these traditions, and her novel is, in many ways, a negotiation between these two movements.  This novel can also be categorized as a bildungsroman.



Explain what you think Bronte means, when she writes in her preface, "Conventionality is not morality" (1).

What is Jane's attitude about nature at the very beginning of the novel?

What opinion do the adult women (Mrs. Reed, Miss Abbott and, at least to some extent, Bessie) at Gateshead have of Jane?

How does Jane, presumably a retrospective adult narrator use "othering" to establish her identity and her character?

What is significant about Jane's experience in the red room?

What is Jane's attitude toward religion? Think about those people who she associates with religion: her father, Mr. Brocklehurst, Mrs. Reed?

Why does Jane finally stand up to Mrs. Reed? What is Mrs. Reed's reaction? Why is this incident significant in the novel?


Suggestions for Possible Ways to Read Jane Eyre

The novel can be read as a tradition bildungsroman: the story of Jane's education.

The novel can be read as a model of female empowerment: Jane rises in status from lowly orphan to the wealthy wife of a landed-aristocrat through her hard work, her morality, and her inner strength.

Jane, at heart a Romantic figure, must learn to control and utilize her unique talents to be successful in the Victorian world.

The novel is a standard lower-class/upper-class love story.


Or maybe you prefer a more controversial approach:

Jane, the parentless orphan, must go through the mirror stage later in life (note the occurrences of her actually looking in the mirror in the novel), and therefore the novel can be read from a psychoanalytic perspective.

Jane, in creating her own identity (subject position, ego), primarily "others" those around her (with a few important exceptions) as she comes to know who she is.

Charlotte Bronte and Jane both understand the importance of gaining power through the appropriation of male discourse.