Jane can be seen as a Cinderella--the orphan child abused by her foster family. After she is banished to the nursery, she is used by Bessie to do housework and sits by the dying fire, just like Cinderella. Does Mrs. Reed resemble the wicked step-mother? As you read the novel, watch to see whether anyone fills the role of fairy godmother or the role of prince.

Chapter 1 (Pages 6-11)

How does the opening establish Jane's position as outsider in the Reed household and her unhappiness? How is she treated by John Reed and the servants?

It is November and the shrubbery has no leaves. Why are these details appropriate to Jane's emotional state and situation?

The first of the fire images appears. The Reed family is gathered together around the fire; Jane is excluded. Is fire being used to symbolize feeling/emotional warmth ? (This is a common symbolic use of fire.) Or does it have some other meaning here?

Jane is sitting in the curtained-off window seat reading. What does this situation reveal about her relationship to the Reeds? Her pleasure in reading introduces her delight in the imagination. She describes the pictures which impress her in the books she reads. What do these pictures suggest about her feelings and situation--e.g., happiness, warmth, integration into the family, unhappiness, coldness, isolation, fear? Does her description of the windows ("protecting but not separating me," p. 7) apply to her situation?

After John knocks her down with the book, she rebels at his abuse for the first time and attacks him. Why? She hears the words, "the picture of passion" applied to her. Bronte uses the word "passion" in its broader sense of intense emotions, not in its narrower meaning of sexual feelings. The unrestrained expression of passion, here anger and pain, has serious consequences. This is one of the lessons Jane has to learn. The immediate consequence of her rebellious outburst is that Jane is locked in the Red Room. There will also be long term consequences.

Chapter 2 (Pages 11-17)

Jane sees a distorted reflection of the room ("colder and darker") and herself ("strange little figure") in the mirror (p. 13). Psychologically why do the room and her own reflection look different after her outburst? A reflection is often used to symbolize either the inner self or the unconscious; is Bronte using it in such a way here?

Jane's passions are riotous ("my brain was in tumult, and all my heart in resurrection!") so that her "reason," which should be controlling passion, is swept away by it and says, "Unjust!--unjust!" (p. 14). The dangers of unrestrained passion are shown in the plans she makes; if she can't run away, she will commit suicide by not drinking and eating.

Look at the last paragraph on p. 14 and the first paragraph on p. 15. Is Jane speaking as a child, feeling and thinking only what she did then, or is she speaking as an adult looking back, filtering the child's rage and anguish through the calm reason and understanding of an adult?

She says, "I was a discord in Gateshead Hall; I was like nobody there." What qualities make her the outsider, the Other? What is her attitude as an adult toward the way she was treated as a child in the Reed household?

She uses a metaphor--"embers of my decaying ire"--to describe the cooling of her rage. In the next chapter, Jane's first sight as she regains consciousness is the glare of the nursery fire. References to literal and figurative fire like these run through the novel.

In the Red Room, her imagination, uncontrolled by reason and driven by fear, turns to superstition and terror. She imagines a light is the ghost of her uncle and, terrified at the thought, loses consciousness.

Chapter 3 (Pages 17-25)

What other consequences, short-term and long-term, does she experience as a result of the Red Room experience?

Has Jane the adult forgiven Mrs. Reed for the sufferings of Jane the child? She says, "But I ought to forgive you, for you knew not what you did; while rending my heartstrings, you thought you were only uprooting my bad propensities" (p. 19).

In the conversation with Mr. Lloyd, what attitude toward poverty and what class biases does Jane reveal (p. 24)? "Caste," as Jane calls social position here, will be a concern to the adult Jane.

What is Abbot's attitude toward Jane? Does Bessie's differ?

Chapter 4 (Pages 26-40)

Having once rebelled, Jane continues to respond physically to John's abuse. What is the attitude of the narrator toward this response, "...I instantly turned against him, roused by the same sentiment of deep ire and desperate revolt which had stirred my corruption before" (p. 26). Why "corruption"?

What are the consequences of her outburst that the Reed children are not fit to associate with her (p. 27)? How does Jane feel after this outburst?

What kind of person is Mr. Brockelhurst? Is he kind, priggish, hypocritical, spiritual, charitable, cruel, inconsiderate, rigid, self-satisfied, humble?

Jane looks forward to school as a place to acquire desirable accomplishments and to begin a better life. Mrs. Reed's crushes those hopes by charging her with deceitfulness; this causes Jane to be consumed by passion ("Shaking from head to foot, thrilled with ungovernable excitement," p. 36). She denounces Mrs. Reed and drives her from the room. What are her immediate feelings and what does she feel next (pp. 37-8)? Is she right that a child can't challenge adults as she has? Is her victory an ambiguous one, or is it a total triumph?

Why is she more outgoing and open with Bessie after her victory over Mrs. Reed? How does Bessie respond? What do Bessie's advice and conversation tell us about Jane? Why doesn't she tell Bessie about her encounter with Mrs. Reed?

How are Eliza, Georgiana, and John characterized as children? Like Jane, they develop into the kinds of adults that could be predicted from their childhood behavior.

Chapters 5-7 (Pages 40-68)

Why is bad weather appropriate for Jane's leaving? Why is January with its winter blight appropriate for Lowood? Does Jane immediately find acceptance and friends at Lowood or does she remain isolated? Why? Is she unhappy?

Miss Temple and Helen Burns serve as mentors for Jane. Helen has the more profound and lasting effect. What does the name "temple" suggest?

Helen's reading is serious, i.e., appeals to reason rather than to the imagination, like Jane's reading. Is this appropriate to her role as Jane's mentor? Helen is repeatedly punished for inattentiveness and sloppiness; how does Jane respond to her punishment? Ironically, of course, Jane will have to bear the even more humiliating punishment imposed by Mr. Brockelhurst. What qualities does Helen recommend and represent (pp. 55-6, p. 58)?

Helen has a profound faith in God and is a model Christian. She lives the virtues of humility and obedience; as a result, she is passive and submissive to authority. When Jane asserts she could not bear to be punished and humiliated, Helen replies, "Yet it would be your duty to bear it, if you could not avoid it" (p. 56). Helen's doctrine of endurance amazes Jane; though she doesn't understand it, she is affected by it, "I felt that Helen Burns considered things by a light invisible to my eyes. I suspected she might be right and I wrong" (p. 56). From the beginning of their friendship, Helen exercises an influence over Jane.

Bronte Syllabus

Day 1
Bronte, Online overview
Jane Eyre, pp. 6-68
**Supplemental Reading**
      The Novel
Jane Eyre, pp. 68-130
Day 3
Jane Eyre, pp. 130-184
Day 3
Jane Eyre, pp. 184-244
Day 5
Jane Eyre, pp. 244-302
Day 6
Jane Eyre, pp. 302-355
Day 7
Jane Eyre, pp. 355-417
Day 8
Jane Eyre, pp. 417-461
**Supplemental Reading**
      Jane Eyre as the Other

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