1. Charlotte Brontë “rejected the convention of the beautiful heroine” and wanted to write a more relatable female protagonist.
While writing the novel, she stated: “I will show you a heroine as plain and as small as myself.”
2. Jane Eyre was also one of the first novels to be told from the perspective of a child while they were still a child.
And then show how those experiences shaped a person’s adult life.
3. Jane addressed the constraints her gender dealt with, and actively defied them.
“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.”
4. She also understood the importance of friendship and loyalty, and stood by Helen Burns’ side even though it meant she was punished as well.
“If all of the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.”
5. Because she was poor and not bound by social convention, Jane embraced and searched for greater meaning in life.
“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”
6. And she operated entirely on her own moral compass.
“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion.”
7. She admitted that she had fallen for Edward Fairfax Rochester, despite her efforts not to.
“I had not intended to love him; the reader knows I had wrought hard to extirpate from my soul the germs of love there detected; and now, at the first renewed view of him, they spontaneously arrived, green and strong! He made me love him without looking at me.”
8. But she also loved him because she saw how much he loved her for her soul.
“He was the first to recognise me, and to love what he saw.”
9. She showed that women could be vulnerable.
“Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive.”
10. And that it was normal to deal with depressed thoughts and that there was no shame in feeling sad.
“I could not help it: the restlessness was in my nature; it agitated me to pain sometimes.”
11. Despite her self-respect, she could also express feelings of self-consciousness in regard to her looks.
“Listen, then, Jane Eyre, to your sentence: tomorrow, place the glass before you, and draw in chalk your own picture, faithfully, without softening one defect; omit no harsh line, smooth away no displeasing irregularity; write under it, ‘Portrait of a Governess, disconnected, poor, and plain.’”
12. And she was honest about her feelings, even in her lowest points in the story.
“The spell by which I had been so far supported began to dissolve; reaction took place, and soon, so overwhelming was the grief that seized me, I sank prostrate with my face to the ground. Now I wept: nothing sustained me; left to myself I abandoned myself, and my tears watered the boards. Now, here I lay again crushed and trodden on; and could I ever rise more?”
13. She was unafraid to let herself feel love, even though she did everything she could to conceal it.
“It is madness in all women to let a secret love kindle within them, which, if unreturned and unknown, must devour the life that feeds it.”
14. And she was totally aware of her sexuality in a super-advanced way for the time.
“Then I rose up on my curtainless bed, trembling and quivering; and then the still, dark night witnessed the convulsion of despair, and heard the burst of passion. By nine o’clock the next morning I was punctually opening the school; tranquil, settled, prepared for the steady duties of the day.”
15. But, despite trying to be reserved, she eventually stood up for her feelings for Rochester via one of the best monologues ever.
“And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh: it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal — as we are!”
16. She was also delightfully flirtatious with Edward (while also always sticking up for herself).
“Jane, you understand what I want of you? Just this promise — I will be yours, Mr. Rochester.”
“Mr. Rochester, I will not be yours.”
17. And she refused to let him treat her like she was inferior just because of her social status.
“I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”
18. Even though she had feelings for Rochester, she was still determined to always be true to herself.
“I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me — for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.”
19. She learned to value being alone so that she could truly know herself and what she wanted.
“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.”
20. And when she found out about Rochester’s secret, she went away to be on her own before returning to him in the end.
“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”