This post contains minor spoilers for Jane Eyre.
I don’t know what took me so long to read Jane Eyre. It was never required reading when I was in high school, though it always appeared on recommended reading lists. Once I started making an effort to research classic literature more, I found its name thrown around in several circles, and I decided that it was a book I needed to read.
When I first started Jane Eyre, I had finished Wuthering Heights just a few days earlier, and I expected that it would not quite shock or move me as much as that one did. The opening chapter, featuring Jane as the victim of child abuse, shattered said expectations immediately. From then on, I knew that this was going to be quite a book. And it was.
My biggest takeaway from Jane Eyre is the character of Jane. One of the most independent and self-respecting heroines I’ve encountered in literature, Jane Eyre undoubtedly deserves a spot on my list of Fascinating Female Characters, though whom she’d boot off remains uncertain. My admiration of Jane Eyre can be boiled down into three basic concepts:
- She knows herself.
- She trusts her own judgment.
- She doesn’t back down for anyone, not even the man she loves.
Jane Eyre is truly a character a lot of people admire. What I found especially intriguing about her is that she’s a strong female character who nevertheless upholds traditional moral values and women’s roles. Though this may seem paradoxical, it is the essence of what makes Jane unique. In fact, Jane is strong because she upholds these values.
HERE BEGIN THE SPOILERS.
Take the scene in which Jane refuses to be Rochester’s mistress, for example. He wants her to break tradition and live with him without being wed since he cannot legally marry. But Jane knows herself too well – knows that if she acquiesces to his request, she’d no longer be her own person: she’d be under his mercy, and she wouldn’t be upholding the values in which she believes. No matter how much she wants to, she simply cannot sacrifice her morality for Rochester. In rejecting Rochester’s request, Jane chooses her moral values over her own happiness. As she explains:
“‘Laws and principles are not for times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?’”
With those words, Jane asserts that her principles mean more than her passions, and you have to admire her for that.
HERE END THE SPOILERS.
Having now gotten my feet wet in the Brontës’ work with Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre, I will most certainly be reading
more the rest of their work. I’ll be making some changes to my Classics Club list soon, so you can safely assume that those other titles will be included.
If you’ve read Jane Eyre, what was your biggest takeaway?
This was the Book #6 off my Classics Club list. To see the rest of it, click here.