Over the last few years, I have been trying to take more time to read the classics, especially those written by women. So, after listening to a podcast episode in which the two hosts mentioned their love for Charlotte Bronte’s classic tale Jane Eyre, I decided to read it one Christmas break.
The story of Jane Eyre is one filled with sorrow, suffering, love, redemption, and twists and turns every step of the way. The story begins with an orphaned little girl Jane, who is cruelly treated by uncaring relatives. She is sent away to school, lives there as a student, and eventually becomes a teacher.
Desirous of new opportunities, Jane accepts a governess position at a beautiful, mysterious manor called Thornfield. There she meets Mr. Rochester, a moody, passionate man.
I will stop there to leave room for those who haven’t read it (go do so now!), and I certainly do not want to spoil the redemptive ending. But as I have read and reflected on this literary classic, I realize Jane’s life has many important lessons to teach women today, specifically about personal conviction and love.
Hold fast to your convictions
I think Jane Eyre is one of the strongest, most resilient female protagonists in any book I have read. She is a woman who has known great personal tragedy and suffering. Yet even in the face of adversity, Jane never loses her strong sense of identity—her confidence in who she is. She stands true to herself even when it is difficult.
For example, even after an emotionally abusive and loveless childhood she still has a tender, gentle heart. Her first inclination is not to think all people are horrible but that everyone deserves kindness.
Later in life, when her principles are challenged, Jane stands firm in her personal convictions. She faces the reality of doing what is right rather than what is easy. Throughout, Jane exemplifies moral courage and strength.
Love may look different than you imagine
Sometimes we can easily over-romanticize the notion of love. Our focus is on how someone makes us feel, the warm feelings we get in being near that other person.
For Jane, love looks different than she may have imagined it.
For her, love ends up looking like saying “no” to a situation she does not feel comfortable in. Love means leaving a situation to build a different path so she will stay true to her heart. Love means doing what is right for her because she values herself.
One of the best definitions I have come across for the word love is to will the good of the other. Throughout the book, Jane shows that kind of love to herself, and doing so equips her to better will the good of others as well. It just goes to show how a timeless classic still has a lot to tell modern women—and how true love leaves room for personal conviction and trusting yourself whatever the journey of life may bring.