When one thinks of great literature there often three classics that come to mind: The Bible, Any and Everything Toni Morrison has ever written, and Jane Eyre.
For close to two-hundred years Charlotte Bronte’s tale of a young woman’s quest for independence and self-love has been the inspiration of several film adaptations, fan-fiction stories, intertextual prequels, web series, etc. There are several reasons why the stubborn and passionate character of Jane Eyre continues to be relevant in the 21st century:
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
It’s a theme that echoes through each page of the novel.
Jane is a young woman who has felt the neglect and the abuse of being dependent on others as a child. As a young adult she is steadfast in her quest to be financially and emotionally independent.
“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.”
Though Jane is described as : “poor, obscure, plan, and little,” that is no cause for her to think lesser of herself. She stands up to the man she loves and demands his respect, not on the bases of “mortal flesh,” but from spirit to spirit.
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
Faced with the tragedy of heartbreak from family members, institutions, and her beloved, Jane does not crumble into a pool of sorrow. She is a follower of the “if at first you don’t succeed” philosophy where she dusts herself off and continues to go forth in life without bitterness and hate in her heart. Though she may be guarded, love and passion still burn underneath her cool exterior.
Jane Eyre is a novel about a young woman with principles. She challenges her society’s idea of femininity and chooses happiness and self-worth over image and acceptance. She is not a flat, life-less character who only comes alive through the presence of a male. She is a resilient, self-respecting, independent woman; one we can still draw inspiration from today.