A Lot or a Little?
What you will—and won't—find in this book.
Young Jane is sad, hungry, and misunderstood during the first half of her career at Lowood School, but conditions improve and she dedicates herself to her studies. Her education becomes one of her greatest assets; it is her way out of Lowood, and twice enables her to support herself: first as Adele's governess in Thornfield Hall, and then as a school teacher in Morton.
Jane Eyre is a 19th-century gothic romance of the highest order, but it's an unconventional one. The message here is that Jane is better off single than with the wrong partner, or a partner who asks her to betray her own conscience. In a cruel world full of chaos and madness, Jane Eyre listens to her mind at least as much as her heart. She always does what she knows is right, and she knows her own worth.
Positive Role Models
Jane Eyre possesses such impressive strength of character -- a powerful sense of her own self-worth and moral fiber, despite the abuse and neglect she suffers in her Aunt Reed's house and at Lowood School. Her opportunities are limited by her finances and by Victorian gender roles, but she is always guided by her own conscience and intelligence, and is one of the strongest female characters in English literature. During her formative years, Jane herself learns from the example set by two friends at Lowood, her classmate Helen Burns, a sickly child but the soul of Christian patience and goodness, and School Superintendent Maria Temple, a firm but kind teacher whom Jane eventually emulates.
Violence & Scariness
As a young child, Jane is pushed and struck by her young cousins, and locked in a dark room as punishment. As an adult at Thornfield Hall, she is asked to nurse Rochester's brother-in-law, Richard Mason, when he is savagely stabbed and bitten by a madwoman -- this is a bloody scene. Fire breaks out at Thornfield Hall twice. The second time, Rochester is wounded and a woman jumps from the roof to her death.
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Sex, Romance & Nudity
The characters kiss and describe romantic feelings. Rochester speaks of previous adulterous affairs.
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Products & Purchases
Since the novel is set in Victorian England, there are no product names to drop, but the quality or type of the characters' dress is often viewed as indicative of their wealth and station.
Drinking, Drugs & Smoking
Wine, beer, and gin are sometimes consumed -- mostly for medicinal purposes. Rochester also smokes the occasional cigar. After Jane leaves Rochester, she worries about what "opiate" state he may have entered.
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Parents Need to Know
Parents need to know that Charlotte Bronte's classic romantic novel does not contain "mature themes" in the modern sense, but it does require a mature reader to comprehend the characters' complex relationships and inner turmoil, and to take in the troubling events that occur: Children are abused and neglected; half of the students of Lowood School die of typhus, while the other half are malnourished and cold. Mental illness and adulterous affairs figure in the story, as well.
Is It Any Good?
Charlotte Bronte's classic romantic novel is simply one of the greatest works of English fiction. Jane's independence, fortitude, and intelligence render her one of literature's strongest female characters, and the passionate love between Jane and Rochester is a romance for the ages. Bronte's development of that relationship, set against the mysteries within Thornfield Hall, is peerless.
Did we miss something on diversity?
Research shows a connection between kids' healthy self-esteem and positive portrayals in media. That's why we've added a new "Diverse Representations" section to our reviews that will be rolling out on an ongoing basis. You can help us help kids by suggesting a diversity update.