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.
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.
Psychologists claim psychiatry is useless
In a bruising attack, The British Psychological Society has claimed that psychiatrists are diagnosing people without any scientific basis. Is all psychiatry a waste of time?
Loneliness ‘epidemic’ plaguing young people
Experts say that loneliness could be reaching epidemic proportions among the young and that social media may be making it worse. How serious is the problem and should we do more to solve it?
Life lessons from global ‘happy’ study
Having a circle of good friends, yes, but being involved in politics? New academic research suggests there are obvious and less obvious ways to be happy. So can you choose a joyful life?
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.
Mrs. Carter shocks women with marriage tour
She is one of the world’s most successful female stars, admired for her empowering musical messages. But Beyonce’s latest tour is named after her husband. A step back for feminism?
Ali Smith wins prized women’s fiction award
Since the 1990s, the UK’s prize for women’s fiction has aimed to celebrate female authors from around the world. Are women-only awards empowering or patronising?
Women still blocked from corridors of power
A century after the first International Women’s Day, the achievements of women’s rights movements are impressive. But even today, there is no doubt that men still hold the balance of power.
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’?
‘One Nation’ Labour leader takes aim at elites
Ed Miliband claims the common touch because he went to a state school, while his opponent was educated at great expense. Does this mean only Labour’s leader can unite the nation?
UK society is increasingly divided by class
A new film about privileged youth has sharpened the debate about class division in modern Britain. Top jobs increasingly go to the privately educated. Whatever happened to meritocracy?
One in four Britons now living in relative poverty
UK families live in greater luxury than almost anybody in the history of the world. Yet a new study shows one in four struggle to afford an ‘acceptable’ quality of life. How can this be?
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?
Be my Valentine! Maybe, but what do you mean?
It's the day for cupid cards, red roses and wild expressions of love. But though it's a single word, love has many forms. What's yours called?
Victorian love saga still pulls in the crowds
A film version of ‘Wuthering Heights’ has cast a striking new light on Emily Brontë’s classic novel. Such adaptations are more popular than ever. What explains their enduring appeal?
New book offers love lessons from literature
Released this week to critical acclaim, a new book called ‘Much Ado About Loving’ distils the works of the world’s literary greats into useful relationship advice for modern readers.
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.
Commonwealth shocked by Gambia’s abrupt exit
On Wednesday, the Commonwealth of Nations had 54 members. Today, after a tiny African nation announced its withdrawal, it is down to 53. Is this really a blow to the forces of imperialism?
‘Knightmare’ takes Australian PM to the brink
Australia’s Tony Abbott is fighting for his political life after awarding Prince Philip a knighthood, while Fiji is ditching the union flag. Is it time to abandon such colonial relics?
Caribbean nations demand slavery compensation
Former colonies are making demands for Europe to make payments to atone for slavery and its legacy. But is it right, or even possible, to punish present-day nations for crimes of the past?