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Ideas for Analyzing Jane Eyre

Robert Harris
Version Date: October 29, 2000

Questions for Further Investigation and Analysis

1. Is Jane Eyre a Gothic novel? Or is it at least in the tradition of the Gothic? Or does it show the influence of the Gothic?

2. Jane Eyre ends happily. Is it a comedy?

3. One of the questions in the background of the book is, What makes a lady? Is it birth, breeding, experience, money, or something else? What is the novel's answer?

4. The novel is rich with symbols. Look for symbols in objects (such as, say, a tree), people's names (Miss Temple, Mrs. Harden), location names (Thornfield), and even events.

5. What should be the reasons for marriage? The novel suggests several possibilities and rejects many of them. Discuss.

Ideas for Computer Analysis

1. You can use MTAS to discover the movement of motifs throughout the novel as you have been doing with the other works, or you can examine the occurrence of different motifs in various sections of the novel. There are several distinct sections in Janeís life: home, Lowood, Mr. Rochesterís, St. Johnís, Mr. Rochesterís again. Do each of the sections have unique identifiers, themes, or moods?

2. Compare the occurrences of words relating to love and those relating to marriage. What pattern do you find? Is there a surprise in the pattern (you will have to look at the text to see what happens at each correlation or disparity. For love, include love, loves, loved, loving, lover. For marriage, include marry, marriage, married, wed, wedding, wedded. And what role does kissing play in all this? Look for kiss, kissing, kissed, kisses.

3. Is there an interaction between the motifs of love and hate?

4. What is the role of fear in the novel? Look for words such as fright, horror, terror, terrified, fear.

5. Charlotte Bronte often creates suspense by declaring that something is a mystery or unexplainable. Search for related words and then see how these items are placed throughout the book. Does this create a pattern or rhythm? What occurrences line up the the peaks and the valleys of the motif? Some useful words may be puzzle, puzzled, mystery, mystification, conjecture, unknown, suspense.

6. God is mentioned at certain points and not others. What if anything determines when he is mentioned? What events surround references to God? What is the rhythm of spiritual awareness or comment in the book? Is Jane present when God is mentioned? Has she changed between peaks of mention? If so, how? Some words to search on include God, Godís, and perhaps faith, heaven.

7. A powerful pendulum in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries was that between hope and fear. What kind of connection do you find between these two motifs in the book? Search on hope, hopes, wishes, wish, wished, and then graph those results against references to fear, feared, afraid.

8. There seems to be substantial talk about health and sickness in the book. Find words related to both and see how they figure in the structure of the text. Possibilities would include dying, sick, ill, die, death, died, pestilence, disease, fever, consumption, typhus. Contrast those results with a search on health, healthy, robust, etc.

9. What is the role of sin in the book? Look for blot, contamination, polluted, sin, evil, sullied, bane.

10. Examine the contrast between two common elements of struggle, such as reason and passion, life and death, humility and pride.

11. Search on character names to see how their presence comes and goes throughout the book. What can you say about the movement of plot or the focus on various characters based on this analysis?

12. Computer analysis using Microsoft Word. Since Word counts replacements, you can count the number of occurrences of a term in Word by doing a find and replace. You can highlight a section and perform the find and replace on just that section (such as a chapter) or perform it on the entire book. Some ideas are as follows.

13. Run Words on all the novels we have read so far and compare the number of unique words to the total number of words in each novel. Which writers have the best vocabularies? How are their vocabularies distinctive? Who is the most abstract? Who is the most concrete?

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About the author:
Robert Harris is a writer and educator with more than 25 years of teaching experience at the college and university level. RHarris at virtualsalt.com