This Gothic-Romantic novel, set in Victorian England, chronicles the life of Jane Eyre: a plain governess who falls in love with her employer and discovers a terrible secret within Thornfield.
Below are some reading passages that we have hand picked to supplement this book. Be sure to read the passage summaries and our suggestions for instructional use.
A writer describes what she has learned by living her twenty-first-century life as if she lived in the late 1800s.
Introduce “Everyday Life as a Learning Experience” before students begin to read Jane Eyre to provide historical context on the period setting of the novel. Ask students to discuss what daily life was like during the Victorian period, based on Chrisman’s descriptions, and how this contributes to the events and environment in Jane Eyre.
In “Our Deportment, or the Manners, Conduct, and Dress of Refined Society,” John H. Young explains the rules of etiquette during the early 19th century. In this excerpt, Young explains the proper etiquette for wives and husbands.
Introduce this text before students begin reading Jane Eyre to provide background into the culture and social norms of the 19th century. Pair “Our Deportment, or the Manners, Conduct, and Dress of Refined Society” with Jane Eyre and ask students to consider how these social expectations shaped interactions between men and women (especially husbands and wives), as well as how well the characters in Jane Eyre adhere to these norms.
In “The Raven,” the speaker bemoans the loss of his lover and, tortured by love, steadily slips into madness.
Introduce this text once students have read up to the end of Chapter 3, when Jane is locked in the red room, in order to analyze the Gothic genre across different forms. Pair “The Raven” with Jane Eyre and ask students to analyze the Gothic elements present in both texts. How does the presence of the supernatural influence both Jane and the speaker of the poem?
In the poem “On the Death of Anne Brontë,” Charlotte Brontë discusses the death of her sister, and how she feels about facing life without her.
Have students read this poem after finishing Chapter 9, following the death of Helen, for thematic comparison regarding death, as well as a comparison of the author’s literary style in both prose and poetry. Pair “On the Death of Anne Brontë” with Jane Eyre and ask students to evaluate how Charlotte Brontë writes about grief and loss —how did death affect both the character Jane Eyre and her creator, Charlotte Brontë? What does this focus on death reveal about Brontë’s character and style?
In “‘Hope’ is the thing with feathers - (254),” Dickinson symbolizes hope as a bird that prevails in a storm.
Introduce this text after finishing Chapter 10 of the novel, in order to encourage students to track thematic connections around hope and perseverance. Pair “Hope is the thing with feathers (254)” with Jane Eyre and ask students to consider the adversity Jane endures in her childhood, in her aunt’s house and at boarding school. How do these experiences contribute to her resilience? How is Jane influenced by her friendship with Helen, their views on faith, and their education?
Jane Austen (1775-1817) was an English novelist who is famous for writing works of romantic fiction set among the British upper class. Pride and Prejudice, published in 1813, deals with the issues of class, marriage, manners, and morality. In this scene, the protagonist, Elizabeth Bennett, is visited by Lady Catherine de Bourgh, who is furious about a rumor she heard that could threaten her plans for her daughter.
Introduce this text after students have read Chapter 19 in order to generate discussion around the subject of social class, as well encourage a comparative study of heroines in classic English literature. Pair “Excerpts from Pride and Prejudice” with Jane Eyre and ask students to discuss how class and wealth play intrinsic roles in both texts, especially when it comes to potentially thwarting the romance between the main couples within the novels. How do Jane and Elizabeth respond to these challenges, and what do their responses reveal about their characters?
“The Yellow Wallpaper” is a groundbreaking short story from 1892 told through journal entries that chronicles a woman’s struggle in dealing with male physicians who will not take her illness seriously.
Introduce this short story after students have completed Chapter 27, in order to draw on a literary comparison of the concept of madness. Have students read this text as a framework for character analysis. Pair “The Yellow Wallpaper” with Jane Eyre and ask students to compare the short story’s narrator to Bertha Mason — what insight do these texts provide into the psychological treatment of women in the late 19th century?
In Jack London’s “Love Letter,” London expresses a romantic, introspective view into his feelings of tenderness toward a fellow writer.
Introduce this text after students have completed Chapter 27 of Jane Eyre, as insight into the notions of romance and betrayal, specifically relating to extramarital relationships. Ask students to compare Jack London’s letter with Mr. Rochester’s pleas to Jane after she discovers his secret wife. How do both men frame their ideas about love and morality when it comes to their affairs?
In this excerpt, American author and philosopher Emerson expounds his Transcendentalist beliefs about individuality and nonconformity.
Introduce this text after students have finished reading Chapter 35, when Jane leaves Thornfield and becomes a teacher at her own school, in order for students to track themes on individuality and autonomy. Pair “Excerpt from Self-Reliance” with Jane Eyre and ask students to consider the changes that occur in Jane when she is away from Thornfield Hall and how this relates to forming her independence.
Sonnet 43 is better known by its popular first line, "How do I love thee? Let me count the ways." Elizabeth Barret Browning's Sonnet 43 is one of the most famous poems in the English language.
Introduce this text once students have read up to Chapter 38 of Jane Eyre, in order for them to draw thematic connections on the topic of love between the novel and poem. Pair “Sonnet 43” with Jane Eyre, and ask students to discuss how themes of love and devotion are present within both texts. What connections do the texts make between love and the soul? Alternately, “Sonnet 43” can be paired with Chapters 23 or 27, in which Jane and Rochester portray their love in relation to the soul.
Written anonymously, by a young female poet if the title is accurate, this poem laments the position of women as was then believed to be natural: subservient to men.
Have students read this text after completing the novel, in order to provide historical insight into the treatment and expectations of women in the 18th and 19th centuries. Pair “Verses Written by a Young Lady, on Women Born to Be Controll’d” with Jane Eyre and ask students to discuss how the narrators of these two texts comply or rebel against forms of “control.”