Monday, August 25, 2008

An essay contest

The book for this year's Penguin's annual scholarship essay contest is Jane Eyre. The contest is open to high school juniors and seniors in the US. Students have until April to write and send their applications. Winners get $1000. (That should buy at least two terms' worth of textbooks.) And Jane Eyre's not a horrible read; in fact, it's on my list of favorite classics.

If you're a student eligible for this contest, let me take a moment to remind you that because this scholarship opportunity requires writing as essay (no more than three pages long--that's easy!), automatically the numbers of your competition are cut; there are a lot of students who just won't write an essay outside of English class. Some actually choose their colleges based on which ones don't require essays with the applications. Can you believe it? Lazy gits.


Select one of the following four topics:

  1. Erica Jong, in her "Introduction," in the Signet Classic edition, states:
    The universe of JANE EYRE operates according to female laws. Jane's success as a heroine depends on her breaking all the rules decreed for nineteenth-century women." (p. viii). To what extent is Jane Eyre an appropriate heroine for the feminist movement? In what ways, if any, does she fall short? Give examples from the novel to support your conclusions.

  2. In outline, the novel is a Victorian update of the Cinderella story; a non-descript young woman, poor and abused, catches the eye of a Prince Charming, powerful and wealthy. After a series of obstacles, she marries him, and they live happily ever after. Do you regard the Jane/Rochester story as a fairy tale? If so, discuss the reasons for your opinion. What elements make their love affair seem like a fantasy? Or, do you believe the love between them is realistic? If so, what accounts for their strong attachment to each other despite the differences between them?

  3. Discuss the elements of "paranormal" or supernatural experiences in the novel. Use specific examples to illustrate the way characters' dreams and visions help advance the narrative, reveal psychological complexity, build suspense and evoke sympathy for the characters? You may also discuss the ways such elements enhance (or detract from) the overall realism in the novel.

  4. Discuss the issue of social class in the novel. What overt or implied class differences exist between Jane, the governess, and her employers and her young charges? How is Jane's status different from that of other servants in the household? Use specific scenes that illustrate the social system that existed.

1 comment:

jenclair said...

Those are very good essay topics, and Jane Eyre is an excellent book choice!