This GCSE English Literature quiz focuses on context in Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre. When used to refer to a work of literature, “context” means the specific environment in which a text was written. Context includes an author’s social and political environment in addition to the time and geographical location in which he or she wrote. This particular collection of influences might sound familiar to you because these same elements within the text are discussed as “setting”. Setting refers, of course, to these aspects of a text’s created, fictional world, while context refers to these aspects of the author’s own world. The meaning of a text is never dictated by its context. Authors are, however, influenced by their environment and this influence can be seen in the texts which they write. Personal beliefs also have an effect on the text, although it is important not to make easy assumptions about their influence.
Try to learn as much as you can about the context of any fictional work you study. Doing so will enable you to better understand the important influences which helped to shape the text. It is important not to leap to the conclusion that context dictates the meaning of a text, however. The influence of context on meaning can often be subtle and it is unwise to assume that a particular historical event is represented in an unbiased and clear way in the pages of a fictional text. Nevertheless, having some knowledge of context gives you a good grounding for approaching an analysis of a text.
Reading a novel such as Jane Eyre, which is far removed from the modern day, is always in interesting experience. It is easy to identify with the young Jane and her determination despite the many differences between Charlotte Brontë’s time and our own. One of the traps into which some readers fall is to see the novel as a form of autobiography and to look for all of the correspondences between Brontë’s life and Jane's. Jane, of course, is a fictional creation, like any other character.
Research the context of Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre, remembering everything you have learned in English (and maybe history) lessons, and try these questions to see how much you know about the context of the novel.