Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is revered for uncovering its heroine’s moral and spiritual sensibilities. Bronte’s novel is widely considered revolutionary since it gives such unprecedented insight into its eponymous main character’s thoughts when the private consciousness was rarely explored in fiction. The exploration of Jane’s thoughts is not the only way in which Bronte was ahead of her time. With her resilient, clever heroine, who defies the conventional ideal of a submissive, brainless beauty, many consider the novel proto-feminist. The famous feminist essayist and poet Adrienne Rich considered Jane Eyre “Bronte’s Feminist Manifesto.” In a quote regarding responsibility, Rich says, “It means being able to say, with Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre: “I have an inward treasure born within me, which can keep me alive if all the extraneous delights should be withheld or offered only at a price I cannot afford.”
This is one of my favorite lines in Jane Eyre. During my freshman year I remember writing this quote on my wall. My roommate found it sort of odd that I would pick that quote to decorate my side of the wall. “What does it even mean?” She asked. But to me, this quote made me think of the respect that I owed myself. I know this may sound kind of cliché and a tad bit selfish, but I once made a promise to myself that I would never sacrifice my values, goals, and education for anyone. To me, this is exactly what Bronte means. Of course, I can never be sure of her intent in writing this, but I am pretty sure it is within the realm of respecting your body, mind, and soul and not letting anyone or anything come in the way of that. Jane explicitly says, “I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss.” One of the reasons that Jane Eyre is one of my favorite classics is that it grapples with the oppressive patriarchal society of its time. Like Chopin’s The Awakening, it fights back and questions the current system by having strong heroines that defy the patriarchy’s feminine ideal.
Here are some inspirational quotes from Jane Eyre:
“Strong wind, earthquake-shock, and fire may pass by: but I shall follow the guiding of that still small voice which interprets the dictates of conscience.”
“I am no bird, and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you.”
“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, too absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer.”
“I longed for a power of vision which might overpass that limit; which might reach the busy world, towns, regions full of life I had heard of but never seen; that then I desired more of practical experience than I possessed.”
“It would, indeed, be a relief, if I had ever so small an independency; I never can bear being dressed like a doll by Mr. Rochester, or sitting like a second Danae with the golden shower falling daily round me.”
“Do you remember what you said of Celine Varens?-of the diamonds, the cashmeres you gave her? I will not be your English Celine Varens. I shall continue to act as Adele’s governess; by that I shall earn my board and lodging, and thirty pounds a year besides. I’ll furnish my own wardrobe out of that money.”
Also when reading the November Issue of O, I stumbled upon an article called “Heroine Chic” about an illustrator named Samantha Hahn and her book Well-Read Women. This book is a collection of fifty female heroines’ portraits, including my two favorite heroines Edna Pontellier from Chopin’s The Awakening and Jane Eyre. According to Arianna Davis’s article in O, Hahn says she “discovered a soul sister” in Edna. I was so happy to read Hahn’s comment because many people dislike Edna for being selfish, but I find myself, like Hahn, identifying with Edna as a woman who craves independence and self-discovery.
Image Source: (www.brainpickings.org)