Lesson Plan

Introducing Jane Eyre: An Unlikely Victorian Heroine

Portrait of Charlotte Brontë
Photo caption

Portrait of Charlotte Brontë.

When Charlotte Brontë set out to write the novel Jane Eyre, she was determined to create a main character who challenged the notion of the ideal Victorian woman, or as Brontë was once quoted: "a heroine as plain and as small as myself" (Gaskell, Chapter XV). Brontë's determination to portray a plain yet passionate young woman who defied the stereotype of the docile and domestic Victorian feminine ideal most likely developed from her own dissatisfaction with domestic duties and a Victorian culture that discouraged women from having literary aspirations. Through the following activities, students can learn the expectations and limitations placed on Victorian women. Contemplating Brontë's position and desire for literary achievement in that context, students will compare Jane Eyre to other literary heroines and discuss her social class in relation to other characters.

Guiding Questions

How does Charlotte Brontë's Jane Eyre refute the notions associated with the ideal Victorian woman?

Learning Objectives

Analyze qualities and traits associated with the ideal Victorian woman and how that affected women's status in society.

Compare and contrast Jane Eyre to other iconic female heroine from this literary era.

Analyze the opening chapters of Jane Eyre in the context of criticism of the novel.