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This edition of Jane Eyre includes a Foreword, Biographical Note, and Afterword by Madeleine Robins.
Penniless, orphaned, locked away in a prison-like boarding school, Jane Eyre has one chance for happiness: in the great mansion of Thornfield, as governess to a little French girl, the adopted ward of an eccentric millionaire...
Edward Rochester is troubled, cynical, moody--but funny, brilliant, giving, and sensitive; little Adele is a delight; Thornfield has all the beauty Jane could ever want. Life should be perfect...
But Jane Eyre and her decades-older employer are falling desperately in love--
And Thornfield holds a living horror that can, with no warning, destroy Edward, Jane, Adele..A murderous secret ready to devour Jane Eyre's dreams, hopes--even her life.
About the Author
Charlotte Brontë was the author of Jane Eyre.
Date of Birth:April 21, 1816
Date of Death:March 31, 1855
Place of Birth:Thornton, Yorkshire, England
Place of Death:Haworth, West Yorkshire, England
Education:Clergy Daughters' School at Cowan Bridge in Lancashire; Miss Wooler's School at Roe Head
Read an Excerpt
THERE was no possibility of taking a walk that day. We had been wandering, indeed, in the leafless shrubbery an hour in the morning; but since dinner (Mrs. Reed, when there was no company, dined early) the cold winter wind had brought with it clouds so sombre, and a rain so penetrating, that further outdoor exercise was now out of the question.
I was glad of it; I never liked long walks, especially on chilly afternoons: dreadful to me was the coming home in the raw twilight, with nipped fingers and toes, and a heart saddened by the chidings of Bessie, the nurse, and humbled by the consciousness of my physical inferiority to Eliza, John, and Georgiana Reed.
The said Eliza, John, and Georgiana were now clustered round their mamma in the drawing-room: she lay reclined on a sofa by the fireside, and with her darlings about her (for the time neither quarrelling nor crying) looked perfectly happy. Me, she had dispensed from joining the group, saying, "She regretted to be under the necessity of keeping me at a distance; but that until she heard from Bessie, and could discover by her own observation that I was endeavouring in good earnest to acquire a more sociable and childlike disposition, a more attractive and sprightly mannersomething lighter, franker, more natural, as it wereshe really must exclude me from privileges intended only for contented, happy little children."
"What does Bessie say I have done?" I asked.
"Jane, I don't like cavillers or questioners; besides, there is something truly forbidding in a child taking up her elders in that manner. Be seated somewhere; and until you can speak pleasantly, remain silent."
A small breakfast-room adjoined the drawing-room, I slipped in there. It contained a bookcase; I soon possessedmyself of a volume, taking care that it should be one stored with pictures. I mounted into the window-seat: gathering up my feet, I sat cross-legged, like a Turk; and, having drawn the red moreen curtain nearly close, I was shrined in double retirement.
Folds of scarlet drapery shut in my view to the right hand; to the left were the clear panes of glass, protecting, but not separating me from the drear November day. At intervals, while turning over the leaves in my book, I studied the aspect of that winter afternoon. Afar, it offered a pale blank of mist and cloud; near, a scene of wet lawn and storm-beat shrub, with ceaseless rain sweeping away wildly before a long and lamentable blast.
I returned to my bookBewick's History of British Birds: the letterpress thereof I cared little for, generally speaking; and yet there were certain introductory pages that, child as I was, I could not pass quite as a blank. They were those which treat of the haunts of sea-fowl; of "the solitary rocks and promontories" by them only inhabited; of the coast of Norway, studded with isles from its southern extremity, the Lindeness, or Naze, to the North Cape
Where the Norther Ocean, in vast whirls, Boils round the naked, melancholy isles Of farthest Thule; and the Atlantic surge Pours in among the stormy Hebrides.
Nor could I pass unnoticed the suggestion of the bleak shores of Lapland, Siberia, Spitzbergen, Nova Zembla, Iceland, Greenland, with "the vast sweep of the Arctic Zone, and those forlorn regions of dreary spacethat reservoir of frost and snow, where firm fields of ice, the accumulation of centuries of winters, glazed in Alpine heights above heights, surround the pole, and concentre the multiplied rigours of extreme cold." Of these death-white realms I formed an idea of my own: shadowy, like all the half-comprehended notions that float dim through children's brains, but strangely impressive. The words in these introductory pages connected themselves with the succeeding vignettes, and gave significance to the rock standing up alone in a sea of billow and spray; to thebroken boat stranded on a desolate coast; to the cold and ghastly moon glancing through bars of cloud at a wreck just sinking.
I cannot tell what sentiment haunted the quite solitary churchyard, with its inscribed headstone; its gate, its two trees, its low horizon, girdled by a broken wall, and its newly risen crescent, attesting the hour of eventide.
The two ships becalmed on a torpid sea, I believed to be marine phantoms.
The fiend pinning down the thief's pack behind him, I passed over quickly: it was an object of terror.
So was the black, horned thing seated aloof on a rock, surveying a distant crowd surrounding a gallows.
Each picture told a story; mysterious often to my undeveloped understanding and imperfect feelings, yet ever profoundly interesting: as interesting as the tales Bessie sometimes narrated on winter evenings, when she chanced to be in good humour; and when, having brought her ironing-table to the nursery-hearth, she allowed us to sit about it, and while she got up Mrs. Reed's lace frills, and crimped her nightcap borders, fed our eager attention with passages of love and adventure taken from old fairy tales and older ballads; or (as at a later period I discovered) from the pages of Pamela, and Henry, Earl of Moreland.
With Bewick on my knee, I was then happy: happy at least in my way. I feared nothing but interruption, and that came too soon. The breakfast-room door was opened.
"Boh! Madam Mope!" cried the voice of John Reed; then he paused: he found the room apparently empty.
"Where the dickens is she?" he continued. "Lizzy! Georgy! (calling to his sisters) Jane is not here: tell mamma she is run out into the rainbad animal!"
"It is well I drew the curtain," thought I, and I wished fervently he might not discover my hiding-place: nor would John Reed have found it out himself; he was not quick either of vision or conception; but Eliza just put her head in at the door, and said at once: "She is in the window-seat, to be sure, Jack."
And I came out immediately, for I trembled at the idea of being dragged forth by the said Jack.
"What do you want?" I asked with awkward diffidence.
"Say, 'what do you want, Master Reed,'" was the answer. "I want you to come here"; and seating himself in an armchair, he intimated by a gesture that I was to approach and stand before him.
John Reed was a schoolboy of fourteen years old; four years older than I, for I was but ten; large and stout for his age, with a dingy and unwholesome skin; thick lineaments in a spacious visage, heavy limbs and large extremities. He gorged himself habitually at table, which made him bilious, and gave him a dim and bleared eye with flabby cheeks. He ought now to have been at school; but his mamma had taken him home for a month or two, "on account of his delicate health." Mr. Miles, the master, affirmed that he would do very well if he had few cakes and sweetmeats sent him from home; but the mother's heart turned from an opinion so harsh, and inclined rather to the more refined idea that John's sallowness was owing to over-application, and, perhaps, to pining after home.
John had not much affection for his mother and sisters, and an antipathy to me. He bullied and punished me; not two or three times in the week, nor once or twice in a day, but continually: every nerve I had feared him, and every morsel of flesh on my bones shrank when he came near. There were moments when I was bewildered by the terror he inspired, because I had no appeal whatever against either his menaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offend their young master by taking my part against him, and Mrs. Reed was blind and deaf on the subject: she never saw him strike or heard him abuse me, though he did both now and then in her very presence; more frequently, however, behind her back.
Habitually obedient to John, I came up to his chair: he spent some three minutes in thrusting out his tongue at me as far as he could without damaging the roots: I knew he would soon strike, and while dreading the blow, I mused on the disgusting and ugly appearance of him who would presently deal it. I wonder if he read that notion in my face; for, all at once, without speaking, he struck suddenly and strongly. I tottered, and on regaining my equilibrium retired back a step or two from his chair.
"That is for your impudence in answering mamma a while since," said he, "and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!"
Accustomed to John Reed's abuse, I never had an idea of replying to it: my care was how to endure the blow which would certainly follow the insult.
"What were you doing behind the curtain?" he asked.
"I was reading."
"Show the book."
I returned to the window and fetched it thence.
"You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mamma says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen's children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mamma's expense. Now, I'll teach you to rummage my bookshelves: for they are mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and windows."
I did so, not at first aware what was his intention; but when I saw him lift and poise the book and stand in act to hurl it, I instinctively started aside with a cry of alarm: not soon enough, however; the volume was flung, it hit me, and I fell, striking my head against the door and cutting it. The cut bled, the pain was sharp: my terror had passed its climax; other feelings succeeded.
"Wicked and cruel boy!" I said. "You are like a murdereryou are like a slave-driveryou are like the Roman emperors!"
I had read Goldsmith's History of Rome, and had formed my opinion of Nero, Caligula, &c. Also I had drawn parallels in silence, which I never thought thus to have declared aloud.
"What! what!" he cried. "Did she say that to me? Did you hear her, Eliza and Georgiana? Won't I tell mamma? but first"
He ran headlong at me: I felt him grasp my hair and my shoulder: he had closed with a desperate thing. I really saw in him a tyrant: a murderer. I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these sensations for the time predominatedover fear, and I received him in frantic sort. I don't very well know what I did with my hands, but he called me "Rat! rat!" and bellowed out aloud. Aid was near him: Eliza and Georgiana had run for Mrs. Reed, who was gone upstairs; she now came upon the scene, followed by Bessie and her maid Abbot. We were parted: I heard the words
"Dear! dear! What a fury to fly at Master John!"
"Did ever anybody see such a picture of passion!"
Then Mrs. Reed subjoined: "Take her away to the red-room, and lock her in there." Four hands were immediately laid upon me, and I was borne upstairs.
All new material copyright © 1994 by Tom Doherty Associates, LLC
Table of Contents
*New to this editionPART ONE: THE COMPLETE TEXT IN CULTURAL CONTEXTIntroduction: Biographical and Historical Contexts The Complete Text of Jane Eyre *Cultural Documents and Illustrations PART TWO: A CASE STUDY IN CONTEMPORARY CRITICISMA Critical History of Jane Eyre Marxist Criticism and Jane Eyre *Terry Eagleton, "Jane Eyre" Feminist Criticism and Jane Eyre Sandra M. Gilbert "Plain Jane’s ProgressCombining Marxist and Feminist Criticism Susan Fraiman, "Jane Eyre’s Fall from Grace," Combining Feminist Criticism with Disability Studies *Elizabeth J. Donaldson, "The Corpus of the Madwoman: Toward a Feminist Disability Studies Theory of Embodiment in Mental Illness Postcolonial Criticism and Jane Eyre *Gayatri Chakravorty Spivak, from "Three Women’s Texts and a Critique of Imperialism" *Erin O’Connor, from "Preface for a Postcolonial Criticism" *Deidre David,, "She Who Must Be Obeyed: A Response to Erin O’Connor" Glossary of Critical and Theoretical Terms
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Reading Group Guide
This reading group guide for Jane Slayre by Charlotte Brontë and Sherri Browning Erwin includes an introduction, discussion questions, and ideas for enhancing your book club. The suggested questions are intended to help your reading group find new and interesting angles and topics for your discussion. We hope that these ideas will enrich your conversation and increase your enjoyment of the book.
Raised by vampyre relatives, young Jane Slayre is forced to adhere to a nocturnal schedule, never enjoying a sunny afternoon or the sight of a singing bird. But things change for Jane when the ghost of her uncle visits her, imparts her parents’ vampyre slayer history, and charges her with the responsibility or striking out on her own to find others of her kind and learn the slayer ways. She begins at Lowood, a charity school run by a severe, stingy headmaster, who Jane quickly discovers is reanimating dying students to be trained for domestic service. With the help of head teacher Miss Temple, Jane frees the souls of her friends and ends their zombified misery. Eventually, she decides to venture out once more, this time as a governess to the ward of wealthy Mr. Rochester, whose dark good looks hide an even darker secret. Deeply in love, she agrees to trust him against her better instincts, until a surprise revelation at the altar brings her dreams of marriage to an end. Determined not to become his mistress—for Rochester is already married to a mad werewolf, who he keeps locked in his attic—Jane secretly departs. Alone, penniless, and starving, she is rescued from the brink of death by local clergyman St. John, who shelters her with his sisters. Jane recovers and thrills to discover that St. John is a slayer, like her. Together they work to develop new weaponry and train the local children to kill vampyres, but when St. John proposes that Jane marry and accompany him on missionary work to hunt vampyres in India, she must decide once and for all where her future lies.
Questions for Discussion
1. What seems to be more repugnant to the Reeds—that Jane is a dependent of common blood, or that she’s human? Do you think Mrs. Reed is more irritated that her niece has a continuous flow of warm blood on tap and she doesn’t, or that Jane won’t share? What finally induces her to beg that Jane help release her soul?
2. Bessie suggests to Jane that much of the Reed children’s nasty disposition can be attributed to their vampyre nature. Do you agree? Could there be another explanation? Do you think they would be such immortal brats if they’d been allowed to finish puberty before Mrs. Reed turned them into vampyres? Discuss the effects of being stuck in a child’s body forever.
3. John Reed constantly threatens Jane, who believes his habit of taking small bites of her flesh indicates that he sees her as little more than food. But more astute critics have noted the complexity of John’s personality: left without a male role model, this sad, misunderstood boy in a house full of women may simply be “pulling pigtails” to get Jane’s affection. What effect does his expression of unrequited love have on Jane’s adult interactions with men?
4. The Reeds are famous for hosting extravagant parties featuring buffets of noble-blooded guests. Why do you suppose people keep coming to Gateshead? Is it possible no one cares that so many rich folk have gone missing? How are vampyre-related disappearances explained throughout the novel?
5. Jane’s charge to kill vampyres and release their souls is a Godly mission, yet she feels far less angelic than her friend, Helen Burns. If Helen is such a paragon of goodness and devotion, why doesn’t Jane want to be more like her? Does Helen inspire or annoy the crap out of you? Were you surprised that Jane didn’t cut off her head sooner? What would you have done?
6. The zombies in this novel appear in two major roles: as poor charity-case students and as domestic servants, both groups for whom life is defined by obedience. To kill a zombie, one must take off its head. Do you think the author is making a statement here, or are the zombies just another excuse for the gore so common to nineteenth-century novels, which have been deemed vulgar by today’s more genteel standards. If the former, what do you think the author might be saying?
7. Once she leaves Gateshead, where she’s been exposed to vampyres, zombies, and stories of so much more, Jane develops a tendency to suspect nearly everyone of being unnatural. Is she simply obsessed with killing monsters as surrogates for the Reeds (especially John Reed), or does this reflect a more innate narrowness of thought crucial to her slayer destiny? Or perhaps, do you agree with critics that she’s a Victorian feminist expressing her sexual frustration? Do you think it’s a coincidence that she zeroes in most on people who make her uncomfortable, like Grace Poole or Lady Ingram? Is it possible that her instinct is correct—all people are really just monsters in disguise?
8. At Thornfield, Jane spends a good deal of time ignorant of and then denying her feelings for Mr. Rochester. He seems to drop a lot of hints that she simply doesn’t catch. Do you think her inability to see what’s right in front of her (aside from unnatural creatures) is a product of a childhood absent of love, or is it a necessary feature for a vampyre slayer, as natural to Jane’s character as her killing instinct? Do you believe she can ever really love anyone? Why or why not?
9. On page 269, Mr. Rochester exclaims that in revealing the truth about his wife, others may judge “whether or not I had a right to break the compact.” Do you think he’s justified, or is he just another Englishman looking to unload his stroppy cow of a wife? Is it significant that Bertha becomes increasingly difficult at the full moon? Do you think Rochester is compassionate to care for Bertha, albeit secretly, or is her confinement crueler than simply killing her, as Jane would have done?
10. In this novel, killing is a kindness more often than it’s a sin. What makes it so in Jane’s mind? Do you think she’s right in her assessment that she should have killed Bertha Mason and released her from her cursed life? Imagine if Bertha was merely been mad and not a werewolf—would your opinion be different? Do you think Rochester would really have minded if Jane had killed his wife, or doth he protest too much?
11. Jane’s discovery that St. John, Mary, and Diana are her cousins fills her with joy, but what does it say about the sisters that they choose to distract themselves with such unimportant activities as education when there are monsters to be rid of? Jane often remarks on her desire to be useful; do you think the other women in this novel (except, perhaps, Miss Temple) endeavor to be useless? Why or why not?
12. Ultimately, Jane’s union with her cousin St. John seems a fulfillment of her Uncle’s charge to go forth and find other slayers to learn from. St. John’s offer to take her to India gives her the opportunity to destroy perhaps hundreds of vampyres in a place where they menace unchecked. Why then, does she shun her destiny as a slayer in favor of shacking up with Rochester? Do you think she’s made the right decision, or will it come back to haunt her eventually?
13. Like so many young women dating older men, Jane suffers when her seemingly perfect romance with Rochester is ruined by his beastly ex’s refusal to move out, disappear, or just die (and his refusal to simply kill her). Do you think she’s really horrified to find him blind and infected with his wife’s disease when they are reunited, or is there a bit of her that feels he’s gotten his just desserts? How difficult do you think it really is for her to bury him six feet deep after all he’s put her through? Would his ordeal be enough to satisfy you, to allow your lover to emerge from the grave with a clean slate?
Enhance Your Bookclub
1. Armed with Jane’s description of vampyres, zombies, and werewolves, visit a crowded public place such as the mall or a party at night and see if you can spot the unnatural walking among us. (Note: it is unadvisable for untrained citizens to attempt the work of a slayer. Don’t try to stake or behead anyone.)
2. An abridged version of the novel is available under the title Jane Eyre. It’s been hailed by some as a truer representation of Victorian England than the original, but others believe its deletion of all vampyres, zombies, werewolves and the like has made it much duller. Read a few chapters and compare the two versions, sharing your opinion with your book club.
3. Coauthor Sherri Browning Erwin has established a website where you can go to learn more about her and find out about her other books on vampyres and romance. You’ll also find links to her blog and social media pages, where you can share with her your encounters with the undead and unnatural. Visit her at www.sherribrowningerwin.com.