By Juliette Cule
Published in 1847 by Charlotte Brontë under the pseudonym Currer Bell, Jane Eyre follows the emotions and experiences of the eponymous Jane. We follow her from her oppressive and abusive childhood through to her role as governess at Thornfield Hill under the moody Mr Rochester and end with her marriage to the man himself.
It is a remarkable book in the way it expresses interior thought and can be perceived progressive in the way Jane strives for independence in a patriarchal world. Reader, she married him. I’ve studied Jane Eyre more times than I can count (three times) and every time I read it I am struck by this passage:
It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquillity: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just 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; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.
It hits home every time. As long as we need to fight for equality, this passage retains its relevance, and Jane’s fight for autonomy will remain appealing.