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Jane Eyre - Understanding the Text

This GCSE English Literature quiz is about understanding the text in Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre. It is important to ensure that you understand a text as well as possible before you begin to analyse and write about it. Comprehending a text is not always as straightforward as it might seem. After all, if authors had only simple messages to convey, would they really require hundreds of pages and thousands of words to do so? Extra effort is needed when you read a text written in a previous century, or in another country, or with characters given a strong dialect. Jane Eyre was written in the nineteenth century, using a vocabulary and style rather different to that of a modern novel. These factors can make the novel more of a challenge to understand

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Authors have a variety of methods at their disposal in order to convey meaning. While it is always possible to state what they mean directly, they will also communicate with their readers through the various aspects of fiction: character, setting, plot, theme and dialogue, for example. Analysing each of these elements separately will help you to develop your understanding of the text. It is always a good idea to re-read the text; only reading a book once can lead you to miss important details. So, whenever you find that you need to re-read sections of text, don’t worry! If you have to make some extra effort to understand a part of the text which you find tricky, it just shows that you’ve been paying close attention to its subtleties!

Spend some time considering how the context, setting and events of the text are related. Making a timeline of events is a useful method of revision, one which will help develop your understanding of the text. Remember that events in a novel are not always related chronologically, so the timeline will need to account for flashbacks or for earlier events only revealed in later chapters. How might Jane Eyre change, for example, if Mr Rochester had not had his terrible secret hidden away in the attic, but had been honest from the beginning?

Analyse the relationship between characters’ actions and motivations. Examine the clues which explain the interactions of different characters. Consider whether words can be taken at face value, or if subtext reveals otherwise. Remember to think about the narrator, too. What is the narrator’s role? As you consider these elements of the text, remember to ask yourself how you could justify your views through evidence.

Always spend some time analysing the beginnings and endings in the text. Consider possible reasons why the text begins as it does. What do you learn at the very beginning of the novel about the setting and the characters? Do you see any evidence of the foreshadowing of future events? This type of analysis also works well with the beginnings and ends of chapters. You can significantly improve your knowledge and understanding of the text by careful and detailed analysis of this sort.

Read the questions below on Jane Eyre and test your knowledge and understanding of the text.

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  1. Mr Rochester is filled with self-loathing for his past mistakes and the wild behaviours of his youth. What does he say draws him to Jane?
    Mr Rochester believes he can become a better man if Jane loves him, as if her character will rub off on his
  2. Why is the wedding between Jane and Mr Rochester stopped?
    Mr Rochester attempts an illegal bigamous marriage. He is already married and unable to divorce Bertha. He knows that Jane would not agree to be his mistress
  3. Which of the following is NOT a change Jane finds when she finds Mr Rochester at the end of the novel?
    The fire started by Bertha destroys Thornfield Hall; Mr Rochester loses his sight and his hand attempting to save everyone from the burning house
  4. Who does Jane believe at first to be responsible for the strange sounds in the attic at Thornfield?
    Even after Bertha attacks her brother Mr Mason, Jane is kept ignorant of her existence
  5. Where is Jane sent by her aunt, Mrs Reed?
    Mrs Reed sends Jane to Lowood School not long after the incident in which Jane is locked into the Red Room. The apothecary who attends Jane suggests that a "change of air and scene" might be good for her, although Mrs Reed seems more intent on ridding herself of her responsibility towards Jane
  6. Why is Mr Rochester responsible for Adèle?
    Adèle might be Rochester's daughter, but he never recognises her as such, rejecting the possibility. He does recognse that his relationship with her mother places some responsibility upon him for the child's upbringing. He is alternately cold and indulgent towards his ward
  7. What does Jane learn from her visit to Gateshead as an adult?
    Jane is the only practical presence in the house and stays at her aunt's bedside out of duty while her cousins bicker
  8. Which of the following is true of Blanche Ingram?
    Not only is Blanche beautiful, wealthy and accomplished, while Jane is poor and humble about her skills and her appearance, but she also represents traits which Jane rejects, for example her belief that she is superior to others by virtue of her wealth, appearance and intelligence
  9. How are Jane and the Rivers siblings related?
    Jane is overjoyed to find cousins (the Reeds are also cousins, but the family had disowned her mother and they do not treat Jane as family)
  10. The regime at Lowood School is cruel and harsh on the children. Which occurrence brings a drastic change in circumstances at the school?
    The devastating disease draws public attention to Lowood; afterwards wealthy individuals improve conditions at the school and provide some oversight of Mr Brocklehurst

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