‘Jane Eyre’ – an icy blast!

I’ve just finished a half-term of teaching ‘Jane Eyre’ to year 12. Jane Eyre is not my favourite text to read (I know…I’m sorry…) but it is one of my favourite texts to teach. My students (in the main) have really worked well on it and they’ve been the catalyst for some fantastic discussion and insights.

Rather than going backwards and trying to cover all the resources that I’ve used I thought I’d just recap on a few of the favourites. The one that sticks in my head is St. John day –  when we looked in some detail at the characterisation of Bronte’s Ice King.

I began the lesson by showing this quotation: “While a virtuous man who performs works of charity, he does so with a grim sense of duty, and seems more motivated by carrying out his ideals than by genuine emotional sympathy with his beneficiaries” and students explored what they thought was meant by this and how we could link it to AO3.

If St. John had a theme song it would be ‘Ice Ice Baby!’ – why is this? This led to a discussion on Bronte’s use of imagery and fire/ice – Rochester etc… it also led to a very funny discussion on what songs we’d have for ‘Jane Eyre – The musical’ (an idea that I may well come back to before the exam!)

Ao5 came into play with Gilbert and Gubar and how St.John’s behaviour and ‘proposal’ could propel Jane’s response to be read as feminist – it became quite heated (unlike St.John!)

I then gave the students four extracts from different points in the novel with the following guidance:

You have several extracts regarding St. John to annotate:

In each extract, consider:

  • Description of appearance
  • Use of dialogue
  • The significance of Jane’s narration
  • Contextual influences

Fire and Ice:

  • Locate the passages in which both Rochester and St. John propose to Jane.
  • Make notes on what the extracts tell us about the similarities and differences between the two men.

The homework for this lesson was to write the opening paragraph plan the other paragraph and research the theory for the following questions:

‘Jane must learn to control her passions before she can ever be happy’ – how far do you agree?

‘Jane Eyre is a fairy-tale and nothing more important’ – do you agree?


‘All the male characters in Jane Eyre are a disappointment” – do you agree with this statement?




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