Excerpts: Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte)

I first read Jane Eyre when I was eight. I never thought I appreciated it on a level higher than that of a trashy romance novel, but rereading it this past week seems to suggest it may have influenced me in ways I wasn’t aware of at the time. In teenage years I developed (and still hold to) characteristics and views extraordinarily similar to hers, but I certainly never consciously sought to emulate her.

On the self:

“I can live alone, if self-respect and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give”…”Reason sits firm and holds the reins, and she will not let the feelings burst away and hurry her to wild chasms. The passions may rage furiously, like true heathens, as they are; and the desires may imagine all sorts of vain things: but judgment shall still have the last word in every argument, and the casting vote in every decision. 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.”

On hating how most of your fellow females talk to men:

“Surely she cannot truly like him, or not like him with true affection! If she did, she need not coin her smiles so lavishly, flash her glances so unremittingly, manufacture airs so elaborate, graces so multitudinous. It seems to me that she might, by merely sitting quietly at his side, saying little and looking less, get nigher his heart. I have seen in his face a far different expression from that which hardens it now while she is so vivaciously accosting him; but then it came of itself: it was not elicited by meretricious arts and calculated manoeuvres; and one had but to accept it – to answer what he asked without pretension, to address him when needful without grimace…”

On how to address the man you are completely in love with, after being separated from him for ages, and meeting again to find him blind, crippled and morose:

“Have you a pocket-comb about you, sir?”
“What for, Jane?”
“Just to comb out this shaggy black mane. I find you rather alarming, when I examine you close at hand: you talk of my being a fairy, but I am sure, you are more like a brownie.”
“Am I hideous, Jane?”
“Very, sir: you always were, you know.”

Jane rocks.