Bring modern novels into your classroom with creative contemporary works. We often hold tight to the curriculum we have used for years, but many modern titles are just as worthy of our classroom time. I have been creating a series of posts related to modern pairings to classic literature. Read on to see my suggestions for Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte.
Jane becomes an orphan at a young age, and never quite feels like she fits in. Her courage is tested again and again as she finds herself up against unfair circumstances and societal standards. She finds a job caring for a young ward for a brooding Edward Rochester. Jane finds herself drawn to him, even though he is clearly harboring a secret.
This novel comes across as very “ho-hum”. It isn’t necessarily action-packed. It doesn’t have a lot of bells and whistles that students can find in modern films and novels. But some deep themes are relatable if they are willing to push through the details and find the story within. Themes such as the quest for love versus having autonomy, what it means to be part of a society with social classes (and if we are still part of this structure today), gender relations, questioning what is home, where we belong, and how to deal with uncertainty.
I have found many retellings of Jane Eyre, so if you aren’t interested in any of these, trust me, there are plenty more.
Re Jane by Patricia Park
This Jane is half-Korean, half-American, and an orphan. She’s been trying to escape from Queens from her strict uncle’s rules and following the traditional principle of nunchi (a combination of impeccable manners, hierarchy, and obligation). Finding an au pair job, Jane finds herself in a whole new lifestyle. Unfortunately, a family death interrupts her new life, and she travels to Seoul, bringing to the surface her inner struggle to balance the two cultures and accept who she is.
Jane by Aline Brosh McKenna
This reimagined classic follows Jane, a young girl growing up in a broken home and dreaming of an art school in NYC. Although she succeeds in obtaining this dream, she finds herself out of place in the big city. After taking a job nannying, she finds herself falling for her father. Jane will have to decide what kind of life she will want to lead. This is a really great option to spice things up in the classroom because it is a graphic novel.
The Wife Upstairs by Rachel Hawkins
This novel pairs Southern charm and domestic suspense. A broke dog-walker named Jane arrives at the gated community of Thornfield Estates, located in Birmingham, Alabama. It’s the kind of place where no one notices if Jane swipes a few knick-knacks here and there.
Recently widowed, Eddie Rochester is the neighborhood’s most mysterious resident. Jane sees an opportunity. He’s rich, handsome, and single. But he also could offer a protection she’s never had before. Trouble is, the further she explores her feelings for Eddie, the more she worries about measuring up to his former wife and her own past catching up to her.
The Flight of Gemma Hardy by Margot Livesey
Gemma’s widower father drowns at sea, so she is taken in by her uncle. She moves from Iceland to Scotland to live with him and his family. Though her uncle is kind, her aunt is resentful. After receiving a scholarship to a private school, Gemma believes she’s found the perfect solution to sets out to a new home. Gemma later takes an au pair job on a remote set of islands. Mr. Sinclair, the ward to his niece, is intriguing. Flying from the islands to London whenever he pleases, a seemingly luxurious life, and being single, he is easy to fall for. This story is set primarily in Scotland and Iceland in the 1950s and 1960s. A unique spin on the classic for sure.
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys
This isn’t so much a retelling as it is an expansion on a character from the original Jane Eyre. The novel brings to light the “madwoman in the attic”. Following the life of Antoinette Cosway, we learn about a young woman who is essentially sold into her marriage of Mr. Rochester. As we view the events of her life, it causes us to understand that perhaps anyone can be driven to madness given the right circumstances.
Do you have any favorite modern retellings for Jane Eyre that your students love? What activities help solidify broader concepts and themes with your students? Share here or check out Facebook and Instagram for more ideas!