Jane Eyre / Edition 1 available in Paperback
About the Author
Charlotte Bronte lived from 1816 to 1855. In 1824 she was sent away to school with her four sisters and they were treated so badly that their father brought them home to Haworth in Yorkshire. The elder two sisters died within a few days and Charlotte and her sisters Emily and Anne were brought up in the isolated village. They were often lonely and loved to walk on the moors. They were all great readers and soon began to write small pieces of verse and stories.
Once Charlotte’s informal education was over she began to work as a governess and teacher in Yorkshire and Belgium so that she could add to the low family income and help to pay for her brother Branwell’s art education. Charlotte was a rather nervous young woman and didn’t like to be away from home for too long. The sisters began to write more seriously and published poetry in 1846 under male pen names – there was a lot of prejudice against women writers. The book was not a success and the sisters all moved on to write novels. Charlotte’s best-known book, Jane Eyre, appeared in 1847 and was soon seen as a work of genius. Charlotte really knew how to make characters and situations come alive.
Charlotte’s life was full of tragedy, never more so than when her brother Branwell and sisters Emily and Anne died within a few months in 1848/49. She married her father’s curate in 1854 but died in 1855, before her fortieth birthday.
Date of Birth:April 21, 1816
Date of Death:March 31, 1855
Place of Birth:Thornton, Yorkshire, England
Place of Death:Haworth, West Yorkshire, England
Education:Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire; Miss Wooler's School at Roe Head
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Table of Contents
*New to this editionPART ONE: THE COMPLETE TEXT IN CULTURAL CONTEXTIntroduction: Biographical and Historical Contexts The Complete Text of Jane Eyre *Cultural Documents and Illustrations PART TWO: A CASE STUDY IN CONTEMPORARY CRITICISMA Critical History of Jane Eyre Marxist Criticism and Jane Eyre *Terry Eagleton, "Jane Eyre" Feminist Criticism and Jane Eyre Sandra M. Gilbert "Plain Jane’s ProgressCombining Marxist and Feminist Criticism Susan Fraiman, "Jane Eyre’s Fall from Grace," Combining Feminist Criticism with Disability Studies *Elizabeth J. Donaldson, "The Corpus of the Madwoman: Toward a Feminist Disability Studies Theory of Embodiment in Mental Illness Postcolonial Criticism and Jane Eyre *Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, from "Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism" *Erin O’Connor, from "Preface for a Postcolonial Criticism" *Deidre David,, "She Who Must Be Obeyed: A Response to Erin O’Connor" Glossary of Critical and Theoretical Terms
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Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Jane Slayre by Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Raised by vampyre relatives, young Jane Slayre is forced to adhere to a nocturnal schedule, never enjoying a sunny afternoon or the sight of a singing bird. But things change for Jane when the ghost of her uncle visits her, imparts her parents’ vampyre slayer history, and charges her with the responsibility or striking out on her own to find others of her kind and learn the slayer ways. She begins at Lowood, a charity school run by a severe, stingy headmaster, who Jane quickly discovers is reanimating dying students to be trained for domestic service. With the help of head teacher Miss Temple, Jane frees the souls of her friends and ends their zombified misery. Eventually, she decides to venture out once more, this time as a governess to the ward of wealthy Mr. Rochester, whose dark good looks hide an even darker secret. Deeply in love, she agrees to trust him against her better instincts, until a surprise revelation at the altar brings her dreams of marriage to an end. Determined not to become his mistress—for Rochester is already married to a mad werewolf, who he keeps locked in his attic—Jane secretly departs. Alone, penniless, and starving, she is rescued from the brink of death by local clergyman St. John, who shelters her with his sisters. Jane recovers and thrills to discover that St. John is a slayer, like her. Together they work to develop new weaponry and train the local children to kill vampyres, but when St. John proposes that Jane marry and accompany him on missionary work to hunt vampyres in India, she must decide once and for all where her future lies.
Questions for Discussion
1. What seems to be more repugnant to the Reeds—that Jane is a dependent of common blood, or that she’s human? Do you think Mrs. Reed is more irritated that her niece has a continuous flow of warm blood on tap and she doesn’t, or that Jane won’t share? What finally induces her to beg that Jane help release her soul?
2. Bessie suggests to Jane that much of the Reed children’s nasty disposition can be attributed to their vampyre nature. Do you agree? Could there be another explanation? Do you think they would be such immortal brats if they’d been allowed to finish puberty before Mrs. Reed turned them into vampyres? Discuss the effects of being stuck in a child’s body forever.
3. John Reed constantly threatens Jane, who believes his habit of taking small bites of her flesh indicates that he sees her as little more than food. But more astute critics have noted the complexity of John’s personality: left without a male role model, this sad, misunderstood boy in a house full of women may simply be “pulling pigtails” to get Jane’s affection. What effect does his expression of unrequited love have on Jane’s adult interactions with men?
4. The Reeds are famous for hosting extravagant parties featuring buffets of noble-blooded guests. Why do you suppose people keep coming to Gateshead? Is it possible no one cares that so many rich folk have gone missing? How are vampyre-related disappearances explained throughout the novel?
5. Jane’s charge to kill vampyres and release their souls is a Godly mission, yet she feels far less angelic than her friend, Helen Burns. If Helen is such a paragon of goodness and devotion, why doesn’t Jane want to be more like her? Does Helen inspire or annoy the crap out of you? Were you surprised that Jane didn’t cut off her head sooner? What would you have done?
6. The zombies in this novel appear in two major roles: as poor charity-case students and as domestic servants, both groups for whom life is defined by obedience. To kill a zombie, one must take off its head. Do you think the author is making a statement here, or are the zombies just another excuse for the gore so common to nineteenth-century novels, which have been deemed vulgar by today’s more genteel standards. If the former, what do you think the author might be saying?
7. Once she leaves Gateshead, where she’s been exposed to vampyres, zombies, and stories of so much more, Jane develops a tendency to suspect nearly everyone of being unnatural. Is she simply obsessed with killing monsters as surrogates for the Reeds (especially John Reed), or does this reflect a more innate narrowness of thought crucial to her slayer destiny? Or perhaps, do you agree with critics that she’s a Victorian feminist expressing her sexual frustration? Do you think it’s a coincidence that she zeroes in most on people who make her uncomfortable, like Grace Poole or Lady Ingram? Is it possible that her instinct is correct—all people are really just monsters in disguise?
8. At Thornfield, Jane spends a good deal of time ignorant of and then denying her feelings for Mr. Rochester. He seems to drop a lot of hints that she simply doesn’t catch. Do you think her inability to see what’s right in front of her (aside from unnatural creatures) is a product of a childhood absent of love, or is it a necessary feature for a vampyre slayer, as natural to Jane’s character as her killing instinct? Do you believe she can ever really love anyone? Why or why not?
9. On page 269, Mr. Rochester exclaims that in revealing the truth about his wife, others may judge “whether or not I had a right to break the compact.” Do you think he’s justified, or is he just another Englishman looking to unload his stroppy cow of a wife? Is it significant that Bertha becomes increasingly difficult at the full moon? Do you think Rochester is compassionate to care for Bertha, albeit secretly, or is her confinement crueler than simply killing her, as Jane would have done?
10. In this novel, killing is a kindness more often than it’s a sin. What makes it so in Jane’s mind? Do you think she’s right in her assessment that she should have killed Bertha Mason and released her from her cursed life? Imagine if Bertha was merely been mad and not a werewolf—would your opinion be different? Do you think Rochester would really have minded if Jane had killed his wife, or doth he protest too much?
11. Jane’s discovery that St. John, Mary, and Diana are her cousins fills her with joy, but what does it say about the sisters that they choose to distract themselves with such unimportant activities as education when there are monsters to be rid of? Jane often remarks on her desire to be useful; do you think the other women in this novel (except, perhaps, Miss Temple) endeavor to be useless? Why or why not?
12. Ultimately, Jane’s union with her cousin St. John seems a fulfillment of her Uncle’s charge to go forth and find other slayers to learn from. St. John’s offer to take her to India gives her the opportunity to destroy perhaps hundreds of vampyres in a place where they menace unchecked. Why then, does she shun her destiny as a slayer in favor of shacking up with Rochester? Do you think she’s made the right decision, or will it come back to haunt her eventually?
13. Like so many young women dating older men, Jane suffers when her seemingly perfect romance with Rochester is ruined by his beastly ex’s refusal to move out, disappear, or just die (and his refusal to simply kill her). Do you think she’s really horrified to find him blind and infected with his wife’s disease when they are reunited, or is there a bit of her that feels he’s gotten his just desserts? How difficult do you think it really is for her to bury him six feet deep after all he’s put her through? Would his ordeal be enough to satisfy you, to allow your lover to emerge from the grave with a clean slate?
Enhance Your Bookclub
1. Armed with Jane’s description of vampyres, zombies, and werewolves, visit a crowded public place such as the mall or a party at night and see if you can spot the unnatural walking among us. (Note: it is unadvisable for untrained citizens to attempt the work of a slayer. Don’t try to stake or behead anyone.)
2. An abridged version of the novel is available under the title Jane Eyre. It’s been hailed by some as a truer representation of Victorian England than the original, but others believe its deletion of all vampyres, zombies, werewolves and the like has made it much duller. Read a few chapters and compare the two versions, sharing your opinion with your book club.
3. Coauthor Sherri Browning Erwin has established a website where you can go to learn more about her and find out about her other books on vampyres and romance. You’ll also find links to her blog and social media pages, where you can share with her your encounters with the undead and unnatural. Visit her at www.sherribrowningerwin.com.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Whenever I reread this book, I still have the same feelings I had when I first read it. I feel so sorry for Jane when she is at the school. I love Helen, and I tear up everytime she leaves Jane's life. I am always uncomfortable when Rochester shows up, and I always start to skim Jane's time with her cousins. I love this book. It reminds me of all of the good things about reading.
Jane's parents died when she was a baby, leaving her in the care of an aunt who believes her little more than a burden and sends her off to a distant school. At eighteen, comfortable with who she is but discontent where she is, Jane becomes the governess to the ward of a gentleman named Mr. Rochester. As fate would have it, she is to find her first true happiness in his love until a dreadful secret is revealed and changes their lives.Okay, to be fair and honest, I went into this book dubiously. A lot of the people I know who like this book also really seem to enjoy Jane Austen. I don't know if you remember or know of my thoughts on Austen, but they're not all that positive. In fact, I rather dislike her writing. No--that's not fair. Her writing is fine. The style is inoffensive if obnoxious. Her characters, however, in the two books I have read are about as shallow as a damp napkin, though, and that was offensive.I'm a bad English Major. Sorry, teachers.But at least I enjoyed a classic, right?Yes. I thoroughly enjoyed Jane Eyre. Thoroughly. [Does that help my case?]Since I am so far out of Lit Crit, I'm stuck rampantly ROCing my case in support for this novel. Despite it being a narrative essentially about a teenager, a single female finding her way in this life and working through her first love, it is not horribly childish as I would fully anticipate a modern novel matching those criteria. To make it worse for my particular peculiarities, Jane is narrating the story herself from the future--that is to say, this is a first person narration. She is recounting it personably, as though over dinner or in a letter and lingers in the surroundings, in descriptions and actions that keeps the reader from hearing "I" about seventeen thousand times a page. A fair few of her internal monologues are not delivered as such, either. She she's talking to herself, she's talking to herself, as though holding a [largely] one-sided conversation.As a character, I found Jane immensely interesting. She's emotional but controlled [I suppose it's a British thing--that doesn't seem remarkably common this side of the pond], passionate but deliberate. She is polite, but unafraid to speak her mind when the need arises. And yet, despite her willingness to speak up, she does very little outside the realm of her desired appearance. The depth of her character seems realistic, most of the time, and her interactions with peers and those outside her class are respectful and speak well of her attitudes.[Sadly, to be honest, this has been languishing in the draft stage long enough, so we're just going to go ahead and throw this up.]
i'm exactly halfway through for the first time in probably 20 years. This is my most re-read book, and although I think I know the story, two things keep me trudging along -- little scenes that I do not remember and the deliciousness of the prose. the only writer that is anywhere as delicious today is john irving, and side by side with dickens and the brontes, he would barely pass. Now finished, and it still is wonderful! I know we all have opinions and we are all different, but how can any English speaking person NOT LIKE this, simply for the deliciousness of the prose?
I liked Jane for 3/4 of this book and then she took a turn on me; look, I'm just as enamoured with Mr. Rochester but seriously, Mrs. Jane Rochester? What have you become Jane? After all that time? What did you learn?