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Jane Eyre - Context

This GCSE English Literature quiz focuses on context in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. When used to refer to a work of literature, “context” means the specific environment in which a text was written. Context includes an author’s social and political environment in addition to the time and geographical location in which he or she wrote. This particular collection of influences might sound familiar to you because these same elements within the text are discussed as “setting”. Setting refers, of course, to these aspects of a text’s created, fictional world, while context refers to these aspects of the author’s own world. The meaning of a text is never dictated by its context. Authors are, however, influenced by their environment and this influence can be seen in the texts which they write. Personal beliefs also have an effect on the text, although it is important not to make easy assumptions about their influence.

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How to write about context

Try to learn as much as you can about the context of any fictional work you study. Doing so will enable you to better understand the important influences which helped to shape the text. It is important not to leap to the conclusion that context dictates the meaning of a text, however. The influence of context on meaning can often be subtle and it is unwise to assume that a particular historical event is represented in an unbiased and clear way in the pages of a fictional text. Nevertheless, having some knowledge of context gives you a good grounding for approaching an analysis of a text.

Reading a novel such as Jane Eyre, which is far removed from the modern day, is always in interesting experience. It is easy to identify with the young Jane and her determination despite the many differences between Charlotte Brontë’s time and our own. One of the traps into which some readers fall is to see the novel as a form of autobiography and to look for all of the correspondences between Brontë’s life and Jane's. Jane, of course, is a fictional creation, like any other character.

Research the context of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, remembering everything you have learned in English (and maybe history) lessons, and try these questions to see how much you know about the context of the novel.

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  1. How are the Yorkshire Moors depicted in the novel?
    Jane is repeatedly turned away when driven to ask for help and nearly dies from exposure, yet the Moors are also where she finds unexpected hope by stumbling across the home of the Rivers siblings
  2. In which era was Jane Eyre written?
    Queen Victoria ruled Britain through most of the nineteenth century
  3. Where did Charlotte Brontë live during the time when she wrote Jane Eyre?
    The Brontë home was in Haworth, Yorkshire
  4. Charlotte Brontë spent some time working as which of the following?
    Charlotte Brontë taught English at a school in Brussels for a short while
  5. Inheritance plays an important role in Jane Eyre. Which of the following events relies on the rules of inheritance?
    As a younger son, Rochester had not expected to inherit Thornfield. When Jane's uncle learns of her existence, he leaves her his fortune, thereby disappointing the Rivers family who might have inherited some of his money. Jane, of course, rectifies the situation by sharing her inheritance with her new-found cousins
  6. What was the profession of Charlotte Brontë's father?
    Her father shares this profession with St John Rivers, who is also responsible for parish life on the Yorkshire moors. St John admits to the ambitions and difficulties underlying his choice of profession
  7. Jane Eyre was first published under which name?
    Charlotte Brontë, like some other female authors of her era, published under a male pseudonym. Her sister Emily published Wuthering Heights under the name Ellis Bell; their sister Anne used the name Acton Bell
  8. Where was Charlotte sent with her sisters after her mother died?
    Jane's time at Lowood School was inspired by this early educational experience. Two of Charlotte Brontë's sisters died after becoming seriously ill at the school
  9. When was Jane Eyre first published?
    Jane Eyre was first published in October 1847
  10. What does Spanish-town, Jamaica, have in common with India, where St John Rivers carries out his missionary work?
    The men of Jane Eyre travel to the outposts of the British Empire: Rochester marries in Jamaica and St John aims to produce new Christians through conversion in India

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