I was a sophomore in high school when I first stumbled upon Jane Eyre. From page one I was enthralled with that novel. So enthralled, in fact, that by chapter three I was eating only one meal a day of purposefully chilled gruel and begging my mother to send me to a spiritually, emotionally, and physically abusive private school (she said they were too expensive). By the time I got to the part where Jane and Mr. Rochester fall in love, I was making eyes at any man eighteen years my senior (mostly my teachers); and by the end I was asking these elder male authority figures if they wouldn’t mind purposefully burning/blinding themselves and marrying me (they said they couldn’t cause they’d get fired). #punintended
Yes, from page one I was a Jane-Eyre-wannabe-er, for she was everything I wanted to be: the greatest of the female archetypes, the one that never lets her quest-for-virtue compromise her own humanity.
Her story felt familiar to me–the lack of childhood, the lack of light–and although I could relate to much of it at the ripe young age of fifteen, when I got to the part where Jane leaves Mr. Rochester for the moors, for nothing and no one at all, I lost her. I couldn’t comprehend what kind of conviction could induce anyone to self-inflict such pain like that. I flipped each page with literal, physical agony–my stomach turned; my hands shook. It was too real: I’d fallen in love with Mr. Rochester, too–his melancholic nature, his dark soul. She couldn’t leave him; she just couldn’t because I couldn’t; I just couldn’t. He was the sustenance in our desert–oh, we’d finally, finally, finally become precious in someone’s sight. Not only was there bread and water, now–satisfaction–but milk and honey, too–an overflowing cup. We weren’t going to just have to survive anymore–no more obscurity, no more abuse. We were going to thrive.
Oh, to finally understand what it truly means to be alive!
Suffice it to say, I’m no longer a girl of fifteen, so when I re-read Jane Eyre this past Spring–and got to the part where Jane leaves that which she wholly loves–my stomach didn’t turn, and my hands didn’t shake. Instead, I smiled a very knowing smile because I knew exactly what kind of conviction induces someone to sacrifice all that one wants, knows, and loves on the altar of truth–and not even take a glance back. Suffice it to say, I’m glad I got way too into that book I was reading because although it was fiction, it taught me what I now know to be absolute fact: that salvation lies not in the temporal, but the eternal; that a woman’s strength lies not in her ability to hold on, but to let it all go.