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Free Barron's Booknotes-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Online Book Notes
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1. Here are four different views of Jane Eyre. Choose one and defend your view:
(a) Jane Eyre is basically a religious novel, about the need for God and His influence on our behavior;
(b) Jane Eyre is basically a feminist novel, about the emotional equality of men and women; (c) Jane Eyre is basically a romantic novel, outlining a young girl's fantasy of a masterful lover;
(d) Jane Eyre is basically an "apprenticeship" novel, about the universal experiences of growing up.

2. How do Jane's dreams function in the novel? How do they generate suspense and foreshadow the future? How do they advance the story?

3. Compare the opinions about Jane expressed by Bessie Lee and Miss Abbot.

4. Why does Mrs. Reed dislike Jane so much? Is Jane partly at fault? Do you find Mrs. Reed's treatment of Jane believable?

5. Many readers have commented that the color red is used in the novel to signify passion. Discuss. Or limit your discussion to the imagery of fire, or of blood.

6. In what sense is Thornfield a haunted house?

7. Why does Rochester often accuse Jane of bewitching him? Do his reasons for saying this change over time?

8. Is Rochester a "flesh-and-blood" hero or is he, as Virginia Woolf suggested, "a portrait drawn in the dark"? Defend your view.

9. In what ways is Rochester a Byronic hero? In what ways is he not? Base your discussion on a biography of Byron and/or a discussion of Byronic qualities, such as the one found in Moglen's Charlotte Bronte: The Self Conceived (see Further Reading).

10. Compare Rochester to the character of Heathcliff in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

11. In Chapters 27 and 37, Rochester is compared to Samson. Why? You'll find the Biblical story of Samson in Judges 13-16; also look at Samson Agonistes by John Milton.

12. Jean Rhys' The Wide Sargasso Sea tells the story of the first Mrs. Rochester from her own perspective. Choose one character in Jane Eyre-such as Bertha, Rochester, Blanche Ingram, or Mrs. Reed-and write a story from his or her point of view.

13. What is Charlotte Bronte's attitude toward marrying for money? Is she against it under all circumstances? Why does Jane Eyre inherit money before her reconciliation with Rochester?

14. Many nineteenth-century novelists were preoccupied with the subject of the "marriage market." Compare Bronte's attitude toward the connection between love and money with the views in one of the following: Vanity Fair by Thackeray; Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen, Dombey and Son by Dickens.

15. How does Bronte use the character of Grace Poole to generate suspense? What does Jane learn about Grace from Mrs. Fairfax? From Rochester? From her own observation? In what sense does Grace turn out to be a dangerous person after all?

16. Analyze the role of coincidence in the plot. How do coincidences advance the story? How do they make possible Jane's spiritual and moral development? Are some coincidences so unbelievable that they interfere with your enjoyment of the story? Why or why not?

17. Discuss the description of Rosamond Oliver in Chapter

18. Does the language suggest that there's something trite or insipid about Rosamond's type of beauty? If so, does this contradict the admiration explicitly expressed by Jane? Do you think the author intended a contradiction, or does this section show that Bronte's style was uncontrolled?

19. How are the moors described in Chapter 28? What does their wild beauty mean to Jane? Some readers think this chapter was inspired by a poem by William Wordsworth called "Guilt and Sorrow"; you might choose to base your analysis on this comparison. Or contrast Charlotte's description with Emily's description of the moor in Wuthering Heights.

20. Rochester often compares Jane to a little bird; later, in Chapter 37, he is compared to a "caged eagle." What's the meaning of this bird imagery? Can you find other places where it occurs?

21. What's the significance of the chestnut tree struck by lightning?

22. In what ways is Jane Eyre a Cinderella story?

23. In what ways is Jane Eyre a feminist version of Sleeping Beauty?

24. Identify and discuss one or more selections in the novel where Jane tells us something about herself that makes us more likely to trust her judgment about other people and about events.

25. What do you think of St. John Rivers? Can you make a case defending his character? Is it possible that Jane was wrong about his coldness, or prejudiced against him because she was still in love with Rochester? Or was he as bad, or worse, than Jane says?

26. If you can find a copy of Winifred Gerin's biography of Charlotte Bronte (See Further Reading), read the description of Cowan Bridge school and the Reverend Carus Wilson. Discuss how Bronte turned them into Lowood and Mr. Brocklehurst. Was she writing an accurate description, as she claimed? Or was her picture of the school colored by the emotions of childhood?

27. Some readers think Charlotte Bronte has no sense of humor. Others think that when humor does occur in Jane Eyre it is clumsy and heavy-handed. Some find the conversations between Jane and Rochester witty and amusing. Choose one view and defend it with specific examples.

28. How did Charlotte Bronte go about dividing the story into chapters? Do you notice a certain pattern? How does she use suspense to make you want to move on from one chapter to the next?

29. When it comes to the supernatural, Jane Eyre sometimes seems to be trying to "have it both ways." The mood depends on our being frightened and/or impressed by supernatural happenings, yet the author never tries to make them truly convincing or believable in a literal sense. (See Jane's comments on Rochester's crying out to her in Chapter 37). Do you ever think this is unfair? Or do you think it makes the novel more effective?

30. Many light romantic novels have been written that copy the story and mood of Jane Eyre to one degree or another. The best known of these is Rebecca by Daphne Du Maurier. You might be interested to see how the two books are alike, and how they differ. Which heroine do you think is more interesting?

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