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A Quiet but Passionate Woman

3

September 14, 2012 by Vicki

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre has always been a personal favorite of mine. I identify strongly with Jane Eyre because I suffer from light social anxiety. I, like Jane Eyre, prefer to watch how others behave and listen to other’s discourse. If asked, or among close friends, I will relate my own opinions and observations but I am also happy to remain in the shadows.

At first, I had difficulty seeing Jane Eyre in a feminist light. My own delight in reading the story made it difficult for me to look at Jane Eyre from a critical perspective. However, Jane’s quiet yet concrete strength and resolve in herself speaks loudly against the presumed weakness and flightiness of females. Her strong belief that every person, whether male or female, had the God-given right to active and worthwhile employment was in direct opposition to the beliefs of the time.

I think Jane Eyre teaches us that you do not have to shout to be heard. To live quietly and rightly, without allowing anyone to force you to behave against your beliefs, gives a more forceful impression than throwing a screaming tantrum for those same rights. It comes down to that old expression “Actions speak louder than words.” Jane never acted against her own belief in her self-worth. Her self-worth would forbid her to work in any situation she found degrading, as she tells Mr. Rochester himself. ” I should never mistake informality for insolence: one I rather like, the other nothing free-born would submit to, even for a salary.” (Bronte, p. 153) Mr. Rochester discovers that she would act on this belief when she leaves him upon discovering that he is already married. Her own self-worth will not allow her to degrade herself even for her love.

Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre also demonstrates how living life by your beliefs can require living on the edge and great sacrifice. Jane leaves behind the love of her life to adhere to her own self-worth. She leaves behind a life of relative comfort to penniless destitution until rescued by the kindness of strangers.  We may well have to sacrifice things that we hold dear in order to live by our principles and beliefs. Yet, even in her extremity, Jane does not cry out her situation but struggles onward even to accepting her own death. When she reaches the end of her strength, she says “I can but die. . . and I believe in God. Let me try to wait His will in silence.” (p.376) She does not wail and gnash her teeth, but calls on herself to be silent and await her destiny. After refusing to degrade herself and fleeing, she accepts her new situation and waits for the full details to be given to her. How often have we reached the same plateau? How often have we decided that we will not endure a situation, gathered courage and left waiting to discover where we would find ourselves next?

I believe that Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre teaches women the importance of self-worth and a means to uphold that self-worth. The difficulty arises in that many women are not aware of their own self-worth. We tell them but when difficulties arise, they do not have the strength of belief to rise about it. I don’t think silence is always the proper response, sometimes, we have to rage. However, I do think that a quiet but passionate life also has merit, worth, and can teach us something about ourselves.

3 thoughts on “A Quiet but Passionate Woman

  1. Kate says:

    Once again, when you write about something you care about, your writing is so powerful.Itis an excellent review of one of our favourite books and from a different perspective

    • Saskia says:

      a0a0a0a0a0a0 This review is from: I first read Jane Eyre in ehtgih grade and have read it every few years since. It is one of my favorite novels, and so much more than a gothic romance to me, although that’s how I probably would have defined it at age 13. I have always been struck, haunted in a way, by the characters Jane and Mr. Rochester. They take on new depth every time I meet them and their’s is a love story for the ages. Charlotte Bronte’s first published novel, and her most noted work, is a semi-autobiographical coming-of-age story. Jane is plain, poor, alone and unprotected, but due to her fierce independence and strong will she grows and is able to defy society’s expectations of her. This is definitely feminist literature, published in 1847, way before the beginning of any feminist movement. Perhaps this is one of the reasons why the novel has had such a wide following since it first came on the market. It is also one of the first gothic romances published and defines the genre. Jane Eyre, who is our narrator, was born into a poor family. Her parents died when she was a small child and the little girl was sent to live with her Uncle and Aunt Reed at Gateshead. Jane’s Uncle truly cared for her and showed his affection openly, but Mrs. Reed seemed to hate the orphan, and neglected her while she pampered and spoiled her own children. This unfair treatment emphasized Jane’s status as an unwanted outsider. She was often punished harshly. On one occasion her nasty cousin Jack picked a fight with her. Jane tried to defend herself and was locked in the terrifying Red Room as a result. Jane’s Uncle Reed had died in this room a little while before, and Mrs. Reed knew how frightened she was of the chamber. Since Jane is the narrator, the reader is given a first-hand impression of the child’s feelings, her heightened emotional state at being imprisoned. Indeed, she seems almost like an hysterical child, filled with terror and rage. She repeatedly calls her condition in life unjust and is filled with bitterness. Looking into the mirror Jane sees a distorted image of herself. She views her reflection and sees a strange little figure, or tiny phantom. Jane has not learned yet to subordinate her passions to her reason. Her passions still erupt unchecked. Her isolation in the Red Room is a presentiment of her later isolation from almost every society and community. This powerful, beautifully written scene never fails to move me. Mrs. Reed decided to send Jane away to the Lowood School, a poor institution run by Mr. Brocklehurst, who believed that suffering made grand people. All the children there were neglected, except to receive harsh punishment when any mistake was made. At Lowood, Jane met Helen Burns, a young woman a little older than Jane, who guided her with vision, light and love for the rest of her life. Jane’s need for love was so great. It really becomes obvious in this first friendship. Helen later died from fever, in Jane’s arms. Her illness and death could have been avoided if more attention had been paid to the youths. Jane stayed at Lowood for ten years, eight as a student and two as a teacher. Tired and depressed by her surroundings, Jane applied for the position of governess and found employment at Thornfield. The mansion is owned by a gentleman named Edward Fairfax Rochester. Her job there was to teach his ward, an adorable little French girl, Adele. Over a long period the moody, inscrutable Rochester confides in Jane and she in him. The two form an unlikely friendship and eventually fall in love. Again, Jane’s need for love comes to the fore, as does her passionate nature. She blooms. A dark, gothic figure, Rochester also has a heart filled with the hope of true love and future happiness with Jane. Ironically, he has brought all his misery, past and future, on himself. All is not as it seems at Thornfield. There is a strange, ominous woman servant, Grace Poole, who lives and works in an attic room. She keeps to herself and is rarely seen. From the first, however, Jane has sensed bizarre happenings at night, when everyone is asleep .There are wild cries along with violent attempts on Rochester’s life by a seemingly unknown person. Jane wonders why no one investigates Mrs. Poole. Then a strange man visits Thornfield and mysteriously disappears with Mr. Rochester. Late that night Jane is asked to sit with the man while the lord of the house seeks a doctor’s help. The man has been seriously wounded and is weak from loss of blood. He leaves by coach, in a sorry state, first thing in the morning. Jane’s questions are not answered directly. This visit will have dire consequences on all involved. An explosive secret revealed will destroy all the joyful plans that Jane and Rochester have made. Jane, once more will face poverty and isolation. Charlotte Bronte’s heroine Jane Eyre, may not have been graced with beauty or money, but she had a spirit of

    • Firda says:

      As for the Norton edition, it’s the only one to buy. Bronte makes the aspsmution that you have read the Bible cover-to-cover a zillion times, and for those of us who have not read it through once, Norton’s annotations are more than helpful they’re essential to understanding the novel’s Christian allusions. This edition also provides the reader with critical essays, contexts of Bronte’s life, Bronte’s reactions to critics of her day, etc. Bottom line: you can get the Dover Thrift edition for a couple bucks, but, if you are interested in giving this classic more than a cursory read, this edition is worth the extra money.

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Vicki

Hi, I'm the blogger behind Boudicabooks. Tour around the site and hop into the discussions. This site discusses life as a woman. The site also hosts a Book Club that investigates the lives of women through novels by women, about women, and for women.
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