Theme: Being True to Yourself
Grades: Grades 11-12
In 19th century England, Jane is an orphan, a teacher, and a governess.
She is fiercely independent and moral in spiritqualities that
are tested and that ultimately bring her the happiness she has searched
for. The heroine claims her right to feel strong emotions and to act
on her own convictions.
Have students discuss or role-play one of these situations:
- You are falsely accused of stealing someone's wallet at school.
Your accuser is a credible witness, believed by your peers. Do you
insist on your innocence and try to prove it? Do you confront your
accuser? How do you live with the disapproval of your peers? Is the
knowledge of your innocence enough to sustain you?
- Imagine that you begin dating someone and gradually fall in love
with that person. After about a year, you discover through a mutual
acquaintance that your boyfriend or girlfriend has been "two-timing"
you the whole time, with someone he or she has known and dated since
junior high school. How do you feel? What do you say? What do you do?
What would you consider to be a reasonable explanation for the behavior?
- Linking to Today: Divorce.
Ask students what they think about the traditional marriage vow, "for
better or worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health,
until death do us part." Help students explore their views on marriage
and divorce, and what they think are legitimate grounds for breaking
up a marriage. Discuss how views of marriage and divorce have changed
since the 19th century.
Balladeers, Rockers, and Rappers.
Interested students can do some research on 19th century English
love songs and ballads, such as the one that Rochester sings for
Jane. Then they can compose their own ballad (either using a tune
that they know or making one up) to relate the love story of Rochester
and Jane. You might have the same group or a different group write
a contemporary love songeither rock or rapas a counterpoint.
Rockers and rappers can tell Rochester and Jane's story or use another
incident in the book for their lyrics.
Even though Jane Eyre is deeply in love with Rochester and knows he
genuinely loves her, she chooses to leave him when she learns he is
married and can offer her only an "unsanctified" liaison. Ask students
if they think Jane made the right decision. Suggest that they make
a "pro" and "con" chart and then divide them into groups to debate
the decision. Make sure they use examples from the book to back up
- Children in the 19th Century.
Have students research the status of children in two or more sectors
of society in 19th century England. They might research how children
were viewed, what legal or property rights they had, how they were
educated, and what they did for recreation. Then instruct them to
write a comparison of the groups of children they researched.
- Psychology Then and Now.
In this project, students will study the novel from a psychological
perspective and stage a conference on the psychology of Jane Eyre.
After researching psychological topics in groups, students will create
psychological profiles of four characters in the novel.
- Divide students into groups and have them first tackle the research.
Suggested topics that each group can look into include mental
asylums in the 19th century; theories of mental illness in the
19th century; treatment of the mentally ill in the 19th century;
Freud and the early psychologists; mental health reform; current
psychological trends and theories; current treatment of mental
illness; and so forth. You may want to suggest more general sources
for information gathering; for example, encyclopedias and popular
magazines such as Time, Newsweek, and Psychology Today.
- Each group member should have a specific role in the process,
which includes research, summarizing, and presenting to the class.
As a whole, the group should decide on the best way to present
- When all the reports have been presented, divide the class into
four groups. Have each group create a psychological case study
on one of the following characters: Jane, Rochester, Bertha, St.
John. This can be done through one or more group discussions,
in and out of class. One person in each group can record major