Jane Eyre

Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre tells the story of an outspoken and passionate woman in Victorian England. Despite being her plain appearance and low social class, the novel’s heroine falls in love, sticks to her beliefs, and eventually finds her independence. But the ‘insane’ first wife of Mr Rochester casts a dark, Gothic shadow over this classic romance.

Mental health

The ‘madness’ of Bertha Mason is one of the novel’s most memorable and compelling features. The world has learnt a lot about mental health since the Victorian era, but it still a hugely important issue.

Gender equality

Jane insists that women are every bit as capable of rational thought and passionate feeling as men. It was a radical message then, and feminism remains controversial today.

Class

As a governess and an orphan, Jane inhabits an ambiguous social class; she is more than a servant, but still dependent on others. How far has Britain come in the ‘class wars’?

Love

The powerful love story between Jane and Mr Rochester is one of the reasons the novel remains so popular. How has romance changed in the last 150 years?

British Empire

The influence of the British Empire is felt throughout Jane Eyre - in the characterisation of Bertha’s ‘Creole’ madness, and St John’s ‘civilising mission’ to India.