Reading Questions: Jane Eyre, volume I

Study Questions for Jane Eyre

Questions especially for volume I

Jane Eyre was an immediate hit upon publication in 1847, when it was published under the pseudonym “Currer Bell.”  One thing to consider as you read the novel is what effect, if any, the layering of pseudonyms—Brontë, Bell, Eyre, Elliott, etc.—has on your reading of the novel.

In the first section of the novel, I’d like you to focus especially on power relations: where is the power in the Reed household? How is Jane positioned in relation to power? What are her modes of resistance to power?

What is the structural relationship—that is, as characters in relation to Jane—of Helen Burns and Miss Temple? What possibilities do they suggest? What roles do they play?

What can you tell about the educational system at Lowood School? What are its values, its methods, its goals?

Matthew Arnold said of Charlotte Brontë that her mind contained “nothing but hunger, rebellion, and rage.” What evidence do you see of his claim in the first part of the novel? How are these qualities expressed, and what do they signify?

How would you characterize Jane’s relationship to Rochester, especially early in her time at Thornfield? Look especially at passages which deal with knowledge and experience in considering who has mastery in their relationship, and how it is expressed.

Consider Jane’s self-representation in relation to Mill’s and/or Wordsworth’s. What are the issues that impinge on her identity? What rights does she assert for herself?