“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”

Sometimes, my urge to read conflicts with my desire for comfort. In these times, I return to my favorite books, the classics that sustain and comfort me. One of those books is Jane Eyre. It is a powerful, infinitely quotable and haunting novel. Every time I read it, I am reminded of the power and talent Charlotte Bronte possessed. I’ve quarried a list of fascinating women and Bronte and her sisters are surely on it. But for today, I want to highlight the beauty of her language, honor the character of Jane Eyre, and reflect on the deep levels of thought shining through her text.

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilised by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

Though it is difficult to completely appreciate the breadth and power of her novel, these excerpts reflect the truly astonishing and admirable strength of the titular character, Jane Eyre.

“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!”

When I first read the novel, I was drawn to the independence and self-assurance of Jane. At 18 years old and dealing with painful personal illnesses, her confidence and quiet dignity inspired me to dig deep and find those qualities within myself. She’s an inspiration, even if she never “lived.” She lived within me, and sometimes, that’s all I need.

“I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”

Do you have a favorite quote from the novel? Or perhaps there is another fictional character that has inspired you? Please share with me in the comments.

Photograph Courtesy of the University of Texas Libraries, The University of Texas at Austin. By Painted by Evert A. Duyckinick, based on a drawing by George Richmond [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons