Jane Eyre - Themes

This GCSE English Literature quiz takes a look at themes in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. An idea conveyed by a literary text is known as a theme. A work of literature, even the most simple, will contain multiple themes ranging from the most obvious to the very subtle. Themes in literature do not operate in isolation, instead working together as if in conversation. Authors use the essential elements of fiction, such as setting, character, plot and dialogue, as vehicles through which to develop the themes of the text.

Whenever you read a text you will notice related ideas and concepts popping up. Analysing themes involves thinking about how these ideas develop over the course of the text. One place to start is to consider your own opinions: has the text prompted you to change or otherwise develop your own thoughts on the topics?

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When a text makes you think hard about an issue or maybe even persuades you to change your mind, then the author has successfully encouraged you to engage with one or more of the text’s themes.

Compare your thoughts at the end of the text with those you held as you began reading. If any of your views have changed, or grown stronger, can you explain why? Try to identify the section of text where you notice your personal views being confirmed or challenged. Remember that you do not have to agree with other readers. Any reader’s response to a text will be deeply personal; this is because individuals bring their own thoughts, beliefs and experiences into consideration while reading.

The themes of Jane Eyre relate to Jane’s journey from a poor, hated orphan girl to an independent, happily married and wealthy woman. Jane struggles against class-based prejudice, her own passions, men who do not take her ability to make her own decisions seriously, and the feeling of not quite belonging anywhere. She is at all times guided by a strong sense of personal integrity.

Read the questions below and test your knowledge of the themes of Jane Eyre.

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  1. Throughout the novel, Jane is frequently placed in the position of an outsider. This is NOT true in which of the following situations?
    Jane begins to feel at home at Lowood School during her time as a teacher. Her primary experience during the novel is of not belonging, of being an observer of the lives of others
  2. How does class impact on Jane?
    Jane's poverty is the result of her mother marrying a poorer clergyman against her family's wishes. Jane's background would place her level with the Reed family, but for most of the novel she has little money of her own
  3. When Jane informs Rochester's servants that she has married him, one remarks that she is not the handsomest of ladies but that she's good-natured and better than the "grand ladies". Which of the following statements is correct?
    Jane, who thinks of herself as "plain", frequently judges others by their appearance, believing character to show somehow in physical appearance. She does not, however, perceive this correspondence as one between good looks and good character. St John, for example, is as unmovable as the classical marble statues he resembles
  4. The first objects of Jane's affections are....
    Jane is also very fond of Bessie, the only person who shows her any kindness at Gateshead Hall. This is because she is starved for affection, rather than because Bessie reciprocates her feelings
  5. What is the effect of Jane's large inheritance from her uncle?
    Jane is able to be generous to those who had been kind to her and she also gains status in relationship to Mr Rochester, who can no longer perceive her as a poor beneficiary of his generosity
  6. "Mr Brocklehurst was here interrupted: three other visitors, ladies, now entered the room. They ought to have come a little sooner to have heard his lecture on dress, for they were splendidly attired in velvet, silk, and furs." To which of the following themes does this sentence relate?
    Poor orphan girls do not need to dress beautifully since their role in life will be to serve. Wealthy women must, by contrast, present themselves as adornments. Mr Brocklehurst, who insisted that pupils' curly hair and top-knots should be cut off, is a hypocrite when it comes to his own family
  7. What does Jane feel as a great, and unjust, restraint on her ability to determine her own future?
    Charlotte Brontë offers a heroine who self-consciously advocates for her equality with men and with anyone who would deny her ability to act and to make choices regarding her own future
  8. What do the accounts of Mrs Reed's punishment of Jane, Mr Brocklehurst's running of Lowood School and Blanche Ingram's account of her governesses share in common?
    Mrs Reed, Mr Brocklehurst and Blanche Ingram are cruel to those who possess less power. While the novel is scathing about those who are cruel to children in particular, Blanche's account of teasing her governesses demonstrates the text's interest in those who abuse their power over others more generally
  9. Which one of the following characters exhibits passion tempered by reason?
    Jane learns not to suppress her passions, like St John, nor to allow them to rule her, as did her childish self, but to control them wisely
  10. "If you won't let me live with you, I can build a house of my own close up to your door, and you may come and sit in my parlour when you want company of an evening." Which of the following themes is NOT evident in this sentence?
    Jane has spent her life to this point seeking a home, a place where she can love and be loved without losing her ability to act for herself

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