1. At the beginning of the novel, how old is Jane? Explain who the Reeds are and why Jane is living with them at Gateshead Hall.
2. Describe the events leading up to Jane’s being locked in the red-room. What causes her to become frightened in that room? Explain how Mrs. Reed responds when Jane screams to be let out.
3. Who is Mr. Brocklehurst? Where does he say Jane would go were she to die? What does Mrs. Reed tell him is Jane’s worst fault?
4. Describe the “battle” that Jane has with Mrs. Reed after Mr. Brocklehurst leaves Gateshead. What accusations does Jane level at Mrs. Reed? How does the woman react? What two conflicting emotions does Jane feel immediately afterwards?
5. According to Bessie, how should Jane act when she is “put upon” by others?
6. Summarize the daily routine at Lowood that Jane witnesses on her first day there. According to the girl that Jane meets in the garden, what kind of institution is Lowood?
7. Explain who Miss Temple is and what action she takes after the girls’ porridge is burnt.
8. Compare Jane to the Reed children. In what ways do her appearance and personality differ from those of her cousins? What other factors set her apart from them?
9. What reasons does Mrs. Reed have for resenting Jane’s presence in her home? In your opinion, are any of these reasons justified? Support your answer.
10. What evidence can you find in Jane’s encounter with Mr. Brocklehurst to prove that he is an insensitive hypocrite?
11. After she learns that she will be leaving for Lowood, Jane engages Mrs. Reed in a “battle.” Explain the nature of this external conflict: What motivates each character to struggle against the other? Why do you suppose Jane for the first time is able to win a victory over Mrs. Reed?
12. Novelists often use details of setting to create atmosphere and establish particular moods. What is the dominant atmosphere or mood at Gateshead? At Lowood? Cite details from the novel to support your answers.
13. Jane admires both Miss Temple and the girl she meets in the garden. Explain what Jane sees in their personalities that she considers lacking in herself.
Chapters 6 – 12
1. Explain how Miss Scatcherd treats Helen Burns during the history lesson. How does Helen respond? Afterwards, what does she answer Jane when Jane says that Miss Scatcherd acted cruelly?
2. Summarize Mr. Brocklehurst’s complaints in Chapter 7 regarding the girls’ clothing, food, and hair. What reasons does he give to justify his opinions?
3. Explain how Mr. Brocklehurst humiliates Jane in Chapter 7. How does Helen help Jane endure her punishment? In Chapter 8, what do Helen and Miss Temple say and do to comfort Jane and ultimately undo Mr. Brocklehurst’s injury to Jane?
4. When spring arrives at Lowood, what hardships are lessened and what activity does Jane get to enjoy? In contrast, what disaster befalls Lowood? Describe what ultimately happens to Helen Burns.
5. Describe the changes instituted at Lowood that make it become “in time a truly useful and noble institution.” Summarize Jane’s career at Lowood after these changes are made.
6. What makes Jane decide to leave Lowood? What position is she offered at Thornfield? Summarize the news that Jane learns from Bessie when she comes to visit Jane.
7. Who is Mrs. Fairfax? Summarize what she tells Jane about Mr. Rochester.
8. Briefly describe Thornfield, both its exterior and interior. What is Jane’s initial attitude toward the place? Tell what Jane hears in Chapter 11 as she is descending from the attic with Mrs. Fairfax.
9. According to Chapter 12, what makes Jane grow restless with her life at Thornfield? What kind of life would she prefer to have?
10. Describe Jane’s encounter with the strange horseman: At what time of day do they meet? What does Jane imagine will appear when she first hears the horse’s hoof beats? What alleviates her fears? In what way does she help the horseman? How does she learn the horseman’s identity?
11. Compare the religious creed that Helen expresses to Jane in Chapters 6 and 8 to the creed that Mr. Brocklehurst espouses to Miss Temple in Chapter 7. With which creed do you think Bronte wants her readers to sympathize? Cite details from the novel to support your opinion.
12. Explain the effect that Helen Burns and Miss Temple have on Jane’s character. By the time Jane leaves Lowood, which of her new character traits seem to be the exact opposite of those she displayed at Gateshead and at first arriving at Lowood?
13. Describe the atmosphere or mood that Bronte creates for Thornfield. Cite details from the novel to support your answer.
14. As the novel progresses, Mr. Rochester will emerge as a complex character. Considering what you know about Mr. Rochester thus far, explain how Bronte succeeds in making him appear both quite ordinary and larger-than-life.
15. Critics have noted many elements in Jane Eyre that Bronte borrowed from Gothic novels. These novels, popular in the late eighteenth and early nineteenth century, are characterized by medieval settings, supernatural events, mysterious characters, and an atmosphere of impending danger. Considering these four elements, cite details from the first twelve chapters that can be considered Gothic.
Chapters 13 – 24 (I, 13 – II, 9)
1. Describe Mr. Rochester’s mood in chapter 13 when he and Jane have their first conversation in the drawing-room. What does he think of Jane’s piano-playing? Of her watercolors? According to Mrs. Fairfax, what causes Mr. Rochester to have “painful thoughts”?
2. In Chapter 14, Jane and Mr. Rochester have a second after-dinner conversation. How does Jane respond when Mr. Rochester asks if she thinks him handsome? Describe how he reacts to her answer.
3. Explain who Adele and Celine Varens are and the circumstances leading up to Adele’s residing at Thornfield. What is Jane’s attitude toward Adele after she learns about her pupil’s background?
4. Explain what Jane discovers in Chapter 15 after she hears “a demoniac laugh” in the night. What does Jane do to become Mr. Rochester’s “cherished preserver.”
5. Explain why Jane decides to paint a realistic self-portrait as well as an idealized miniature of Blanche Ingram.
6. Jane closely observes Blanche Ingram. Briefly describe Blanche’s appearance and personality. According to Jane, what makes her feel “ever-torturing pain” when she sees Mr. Rochester and Blanche together?
7. What does the Gypsy woman say Jane must do to achieve happiness? Which of Jane’s character traits, according to the woman, may become an obstacle to happiness?
8. As far as Jane knows, who is Richard Mason and where has he come from? Explain how Mr. Rochester reacts when he learns of Mason’s arrival at Thornfield.
9. Briefly summarize what happens to Mason when he goes to the third story. Explain what Mr. Rochester and Jane do to help Mason.
10. After Mason is sent off in the carriage, Jane and Mr. Rochester sit in the orchard garden. Summarize the story that Mr. Rochester tells about the “wild boy” who committed a “capital error.” With what question does he conclude the tale? How does Jane answer it?
11. In Chapter 21 (II, 6), Jane returns to Gateshead. According to Mrs. Reed, what two wrongs did she commit against Jane? What new information does Jane learn from Mrs. Reed regarding her uncle, John Eyre? Briefly describe Eliza and Georgiana and their attitude toward their mother’s death.
12. In Chapter 23 (II, 8), what does Mr. Rochester say to Jane that makes her cry? Briefly summarize what Jane tells Mr. Rochester just before he embraces and kisses her. What finally convinces Jane that Mr. Rochester is serious about wanting to marry her?
13. What gifts does Mr. Rochester try to lavish upon Jane in Chapter 24? (II, 9) What reasons does Jane have for resenting his generosity? In what way does she resolve to behave toward Mr. Rochester during the period of their engagement?
14. In Chapter 14, Jane does not understand Mr. Rochester when he says, “I have received the pilgrim – a disguised deity . . . Already it has done me good: my heart was a sort of charnel; it will now be a shrine.” Explain what you think Mr. Rochester means by this statement.
15. At the end of Chapter 15, Jane uses sea imagery to describe her feelings: “I was tossed on a buoyant but unquiet sea, where billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy. I thought sometimes I saw beyond its wild waters a shore, sweet as the hills of Beulah, and now and then a freshening gale, wakened by hope, bore my spirit triumphantly towards the bourne: but I could not reach it, even in fancy, a counteracting breeze blew off land, and continually drove me back. Sense would resist delirium; judgment would warn passion.” Considering the events immediately preceding this passage, explain the nature of the inner conflict that Jane is experiencing.
16. What evidence does Jane have to suspect that Grace Poole is responsible for the fire and the attack on Richard Mason? What hints does Bronte provide to suggest that Jane may be mistaken?
17. In your opinion, what reasons did Mr. Rochester have for disguising himself as a Gypsy? Do you agree with Jane that his behavior was disgraceful? Explain your answer.
18. A foil is a character whose traits are contrasted with those of another character. Considering Blanche’s appearance and personality, explain why she is a foil for Jane. In what ways are Eliza and Georgiana Reed foils for Jane in Chapters 21 – 22? (II, 6-7)
19. Compare the scene in Chapter 20 (II, 5) in which Jane is locked in the third-story room with Mason to the scene in Chapter 2 in which she is locked in the red-room. In what ways are the two situations similar? Tell in each case how Jane reacts to her mounting fear. Considering her reactions, explain the changes that have occurred in Jane’s personality between the two incidents.
20. Bronte modeled the character of Edward Rochester after the type of hero that Lord Byron portrayed in his poems which were immensely popular in the early nineteenth century. In Chapter 17, Blanche alludes to Byron’s main pirate character in The Corsair as mysterious in his appearance, his personality, and his background. In what ways are Mr. Rochester’s appearance, background, and personality similar to a Byronic hero?
21. Mr. Rochester proposes to Jane in the “Eden-like” garden on Midsummer-eve, June 23, on which night, according to folklore, evil or mischievous nature spirits renewed their powers and tried to use them on humans who were foolish enough to be outdoors. In light of this folk belief, explain why the natural setting in which the proposal occurs is especially significant. What, for example, do you think the “giant horse-chestnut, circled at the base by a seat” symbolizes? What do you suppose the lightning that splits half of it away signifies? Why do you suppose Bronte calls the garden “Eden-like”?
Chapters 25 – 28 (II,10 – III, 2)
1. Summarize the two dreams that Jane has two nights before her wedding. Describe the weather that night and what happens to frighten Jane when she wakes from her dreams. What explanation does Mr. Rochester give to try to put Jane’s mind at ease?
2. Identify the two men who arrive at the church on Jane’s wedding day. What claims do they make to halt the ceremony?
3. List five or more words or phrases that Bronte uses in Chapter 26 (II,11) to describe Bertha Mason’s appearance. Then list five or more words or phrases used in Chapter 27 (III, 1) to describe her personality.
4. Summarize Mr. Rochester’s courtship and early years of marriage to Bertha. Why did his father want him to marry her? Why did he not discover her true nature until after the marriage? What course of action did he take after she became completely insane?
5. Describe the life that Mr. Rochester proposes he and Jane should lead now that she knows of Bertha. Identify two reasons Jane has for refusing his proposal. Despite these reasons, what feelings does Jane admit to having that make her resolve to leave Thornfield?
6. Briefly explain why Jane must resort to begging for food after she leaves Thornfield. Who ultimately gives her food and shelter? When they ask Jane about her name and background what does she reply?
7. Explain the symbolism of the weather and of Jane’s dreams in Chapter 25 (II, 10). What do they reveal about her state of mind?
8. Describe how Jane reacts to the revelation of Bertha’s existence. To what extent do you think Jane knew, at least on some level, that Mr. Rochester already had a wife? Cite details from the novel to support your answer.
9. The central conflict of Jane Eyre pits reason against passion. Considering Chapter 27 (III, 1), explain how Bronte reveals this conflict both internally (within individual characters) and externally (between characters).
10. Just before they part Nr. Rochester calls Jane a spirit who could come to him “with soft flight and nestle against my heart.” Explain how Bronte uses such supernatural imagery to contrast Jane to Bertha. What purpose do you suppose Bronte had in using this imagery to characterize Jane?
11. Do you suppose Bronte wants her readers to sympathize with Bertha’s plight? Cite details from the novel to support your answer.
12. Some critics have described Jane’s transition from Thornfield to the hone of St. John and his sisters as a symbolic death and resurrection. Assuming this observation is valid, explain what part of Jane “dies” in Chapter 28 (III, 2).