Reading Pointers for Sharper Insights

  1. Genre: The classic Victorian novel.

  2. Themes: Brontë includes numerous themes throughout the novel.

    • the importance of maintaining autonomy and not accepting the restrictions that Victorian society placed on women

      From early childhood, Jane knows she is different from those around her; however, she understands that her role must be one of a submissive Victorian woman, and she follows that pattern for many years. Only when the societal norms threaten to compromise her integrity does Jane risk voicing her opinions.

    • the discovery and acceptance of one's own spirituality, regardless of any organized religious philosophy

      Throughout the book, some aspect of religion surrounds Jane. She does not outwardly refuse this influence, but instead, she takes and digests what she has learned to find her own religion through love, nature, and morals.

      Three main religious figures—Mr. Brocklehurst, Helen Burns, and St. John Rivers—provide three different models of religion: Evangelical hypocrisy, complete acceptance of the Scriptures, and ambition combined with salvation

      While Jane eventually rejects all three aspects of religion, she does not abandon morality and spirituality. She does use prayer in times of need and uncertainty, and she bases her decisions on her own understanding of what morality is.

    • the desire for psychological and emotional wholeness

      Jane's quest for love and spiritual balance is ultimately a search for wholeness. Many critics view Bertha Mason as a manifestation of Jane's subconscious—especially of her inner rage against oppression. Bertha's role in the disruption of Jane's life actually mirrors Jane's own developing sense of self.

  3. Motifs

    • Class Conflict

      As a child, Jane lives with distant family members, who view her as a poor orphan and see themselves as better than she because of their wealth and social standing. Even her situation as an adult exposes her to ridicule and condescension because of her poverty.

    • Journey

      As the story begins, so does Jane's journey, which continues even after the final chapter. Jane's journey is not only physical, traveling from Gateshead, to Lowood, to Thornfield, and finally to Marsh End, but it is also psychological. As Jane moves, she grows, matures, and learns who she is and what she believes in.

    • Equality

      Because of the obvious class distinction that sets Jane apart from others she encounters throughout her life, Jane struggles with her individuality and self-confidence.

  4. Symbols

    • Red

      The color red is a very important symbol throughout Jane Eyre. Red is usually a color that represents fire, or destruction, which is evident in this book, through two specific, literal scenes. However, these scenes also have a deeper interpretation, which the fire also represents: passion. Passion is often symbolized through the color red. Jane and Rochester, two very passionate individuals are often associated with the color red. In addition, red is also a symbol of strength and vigor, which is another characteristic that Jane encompasses.

    • Books

      Jane's childhood is full of hardship and negativity. As she grows and learns to read, Jane begins to replace her reality with those of which she has read. Through the books, Jane is able to find an escape from her current situation. Her imagination expands, and as she grows, she continues to associate reality with some form of fiction. This seems to be Jane's mechanism for dealing with the harsh realities of her life.

  5. Literary Oppositions

    • fire/ice

    • autonomy/submission

    • imagination/reality

    • solitude/companionship

    • poverty/wealth

    • acceptance/resistance

    • trust/betrayal