What Character!

I just finished reading Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. In order to not ruin the story for any readers who have not yet read this classic, I will continue this entry . . . Let me set up the basic plot of the story so that the quote I am about to post is relevant. Jane Eyre, governess to young Adele, has fallen in love with her master, Mr. Rochester, who is the custodian of Adele. And he has fallen in love with Jane, even though her place in society is well below his. After some time, he asks her to marry and she consents. On their wedding day, at the wedding ceremony, the priest asks if there is any reason the couple should not be wed. Although almost no one is in attendance at this humble marriage ceremony, two strangers come forth and accuse Mr. Rochester of already being married. And indeed he is – to a mad woman whom he was tricked into marrying fifteen years ago. Though Mr. Rochester begs her to stay, Jane realizes that they can no longer be together. She cannot marry him. Jane, who is basically an orphan, has no family or friends who would ever know of her marriage to Mr. Rochester. She has no one to whom she would cause scandal. Yet, this is her speech to the reader: “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principle received by me when I was sane, and not mad – as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the time when there is not temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth – so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane – quite insane; with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, forgone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by. There I plant my foot.” What character!

Share Tweet Email