full title Jane Eyre
author Charlotte Brontë (originally published under the male pseudonym Currer Bell)
type of work Novel
genre A hybrid of three genres: the Gothic novel (utilizes the mysterious, the supernatural, the horrific, the romantic); the romance novel (emphasizes love and passion, represents the notion of lovers destined for each other); and the Bildungsroman (narrates the story of a character’s internal development as he or she undergoes a succession of encounters with the external world)
time and place written 1847, London
date of first publication 1847
publisher Smith, Elder, and Co., Cornhill
narrator Jane Eyre
climax The novel’s climax comes after Jane receives her second marriage proposal of the novel—this time from St. John Rivers, who asks Jane to accompany him to India as his wife and fellow missionary. Jane considers the proposal, even though she knows that marrying St. John would mean the death of her emotional life. She is on the verge of accepting when she hears Rochester’s voice supernaturally calling her name from across the heath and knows that she must return to him. She can retain her dignity in doing so because she has proven to herself that she is not a slave to passion.
protagonist Jane Eyre
antagonist Jane meets with a series of forces that threaten her liberty, integrity, and happiness. Characters embodying these forces are: Aunt Reed, Mr. Brocklehurst, Bertha Mason, Mr. Rochester (in that he urges Jane to ignore her conscience and surrender to passion), and St. John Rivers (in his urging of the opposite extreme). The three men also represent the notion of an oppressive patriarchy. Blanche Ingram, who initially stands in the way of Jane’s relations with Rochester, also embodies the notion of a rigid class system—another force keeping Jane from fulfilling her hopes.
setting (time) Early decades of the nineteenth century.
setting (place) The novel is structured around five separate locations, all supposedly in northern England: the Reed family’s home at Gateshead, the wretched Lowood School, Rochester’s manor house Thornfield, the Rivers family’s home at Moor House, and Rochester’s rural retreat at Ferndean.
point of view All of the events are told from Jane’s point of view. Sometimes she narrates the events as she experienced them at the time, while at other times she focuses on her retrospective understanding of the events.
falling action After Jane hears Rochester’s call to her from across the heath, she returns to Thornfield and finds it burned to the ground. She learns that Bertha Mason set the fire and died in the flames; Rochester is now living at his home in Ferndean. Jane goes to him there, rebuilds her relationship with the somewhat humbled Rochester, and marries him. She claims to enjoy perfect equality in her marriage.
tense Past-tense; Jane Eyre tells her story ten years after the last event in the novel, her arrival at Ferndean.
foreshadowing The novel’s main instances of foreshadowing focus on Jane’s eventual inheritance (Chapter 33) from her uncle John Eyre. In Chapter 3, Jane tells Mr. Lloyd that her aunt has told her of some “poor, low relations called Eyre,” but she knows nothing more about them. Jane first receives hints of her uncle’s existence in Chapter 10 when Bessie visits her at Lowood and mentions that her father’s brother appeared at Gateshead seven years ago, looking for Jane. He did not have the time to come to Lowood, she explains, and he subsequently went away to Madeira (a Portuguese island west of Morocco) in search of wealth. Foreshadowing again enters into the novel in Chapter 21, when, returning to Gateshead to see her dying Aunt Reed for the last time, Jane learns that her uncle had written to her aunt three years earlier, reporting that he had been successful in Madeira and expressing his desire to adopt Jane and make her his heir; her aunt had deliberately ignored the letter out of spite. Another powerful instance of foreshadowing is the chestnut tree under which Rochester proposes to Jane. Before they leave, Jane mentions that it “writhed and groaned,” and that night, it splits in two, forecasting complications for Jane and Rochester’s relationship (Chapter 23).
tone Jane Eyre’s tone is both Gothic and romantic, often conjuring an atmosphere of mystery, secrecy, or even horror. Despite these Gothic elements, Jane’s personality is friendly and the tone is also affectionate and confessional. Her unflagging spirit and opinionated nature further infuse the book with high energy and add a philosophical and political flavor.
themes Love versus autonomy; religion; social class; gender relations
motifs Fire and ice; substitute mothers
symbols Bertha Mason; the red-room