“Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong! — I have as much soul as you — and full as much heart! 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!” – Jane Eyre
I will never forget my first encounter with Jane Eyre, the book that was my introduction to the classic English novel. It was one of the first “grown up” novels I remember reading, and although I didn’t fully comprehend its intricacies after my first reading, it certainly left a lasting impression on me, which has only deepened as I have returned to re-read it again and again.
My novel-reading world was shattered by the depth of the symbolism and the overwhelming power of the emotion in the climax of what remains one of my favorite stories of all time. I still struggle to find the words to describe what strikes me so strongly every time I go back to Jane Eyre, but I think my first and most vivid impression came from the example of Jane turning her back on all she knew and loved, at great cost to her well-being and especially to her happiness, in order to do what she believed was right. To stand against the world and leave behind everything that provided comfort and security, in order to do the right thing – I always wondered whether I would have had the moral courage to do the same.
Jane Eyre is certainly a dark and brooding tale, and rather depressing for many of its pages, but the sad struggles Jane undergoes at first simply serve to make the climax even more triumphant and glorious in the end, a powerful conclusion such as I have only experienced in a handful of other literary masterpieces.
Worth noting, in addition to the book itself, are several film adaptations that have done a masterful job of translating the story to the screen. I have yet to see a movie version that I would call perfect, and honestly I’m not sure it could ever be done perfectly, but my favorite is the recent version starring Mia Wasikowska and Michael Fassbender. Although nothing will ever compare to the delightful experience of the book itself, I was pleasantly surprised by how well this film version captured the essence of the story’s emotion and the moral courage of Jane. Well worth watching!