Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre is a book every woman should read once or twice in her lifetime. I first read Jane Eyre at 11 years old and reading it two and half decades later was as if I was reading a totally different book. What I remembered as a tale of childhood misery, unrequited love, insanity, poverty and death turned out to actually be a tale of one woman’s open struggle to find identity, definition, meaning and handling disparities between expectation and reality with wisdom and grace.
In the book Jane Eyre, the main character of the story, grows up in a loveless environment and her childhood is miserable. This foundation teaches her to be fearless, outspoken and bold. At the age of 10, when she gets to know that she is being sent to a charity institution by her cruel aunt, there is nothing stopping her from the outburst she throws at her aunt for mistreating her and declares that she’ll never call the woman her ‘aunt’ again. She speaks out against her to-be-husband as well when she discovers he has a wife. When Jane gets to know that her uncle has left a fortune for her, she insists on sharing it with her cousins who had helped her later in life through thick and thin. Jane’s childhood and adolescence was miserable but she does bounce back and doesn’t fall prey to life’s adversities. Here are life lessons from this great book.
Live your life with conviction
Everyone should have beliefs that are too sacred to be compromised by anything. For Jane it was her faith and belief in love. As much as she is in love with Mr. Rochester she leaves him as soon as she learns that she is already married to someone else. Later she turns down the handsome St. John’s proposal simply because she does not love him. At the end of it all things work out in her favor and she ends up with the love of her life without her compromising her beliefs.
Learn to stand on your own
There will come a time in life when all you have to depend on is yourself. Jane finds herself with no family or friend after her sole friend at the Lowood Institution dies in her arms. Though conditions at charity institution were inhumane, she focuses on her studies and comes out as an educated woman. Later after she flees Thornfield Hall, she has to start from scratch to build her life relying on no one but herself which thanks to her independence she manages to do with grace and dignity.
Always hope for the best
If anyone had a good reason to lose hope it would have been Jane but she never did. It doesn’t matter what you are going through right now, life always gets better.
If you choose to get married, do so only for love
Jane Eyre is proposed to after she leaves Rochester, and she turns the man down. It is not because she doesn’t think he’s not a good person or not nice. It’s because she doesn’t think she should settle for anything less than true love. She’d rather be alone than marry someone who is not her kindred spirit. She states, “…I do not want a stranger—unsympathizing, alien, different from me; I want my kindred: those with whom I have full fellow-feeling.”
Conventionality is not morality
Self-righteousness is not religion. Don’t do things just because everyone is doing them or because you have to. Rather do things because you believe in them. Jane’s resistance to the dictates of her society is not the empty rebellion of nihilism or self-absorption. Rather, her quest for her true self peels back the stiff layers of conventionality in order to discover genuine morality and faith.