When Kristina Perez with the Madeleine Project recently asked me which fictional character I would most like to have coffee with, I named Jane. Why? My answer was simple: Because she’s a bad-ass.
This week marked the annual anniversary of Jane Eyre’s 1847 publication. The book—scandalous in its time—is considered a cornerstone of feminist literature because it shared the interior soul and monologue of a woman. Jane is not a man’s interpretation of woman, and it’s not a one-dimensional ber-blah love story where the woman has few thoughts of her own. Jane is a complex and insightful character who controls her own destiny. Yes, there’s a love story. But it’s much more than that.
Why should you take cues from Jane Eyre on how to be awesome? Here’s why:
Jane says no to co-dependency. She loves Mr. Rochester, yadda yadda yadda, but she knows that she can survive on her own. She has respect, faith and love for herself, and when you have that, you can survive anything alone—even if you don’t want to.
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
Jane says yes to inner strength. Jane isn’t good-looking. She isn’t wealthy. She comes from a loveless and difficult childhood. But she perseveres. Jane operates on an unspoken No Pity-Party rule.
“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.”
Jane says play it cool. She feels deeply, but manages to keep it together because she knows that losing your cool doesn’t pay off. You can’t use your head if you don’t have it on your shoulders.
“It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action.”
Jane says get over yourself. Still nursing that slight from four years ago? Jane wouldn’t. She knows that we shouldn’t waste our time worrying about little things.
“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.”
Jane says I’m a woman and I can do more than knit. In her words:
“It is narrow-minded to say that (women) ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”
Jane says live with integrity, and you can’t go wrong. Jane is one of the most integrious (I’m pretty sure I just invented that word, but it’s a good one, no?) characters in popular literature. She wants to marry Rochester, but when she finds out he’s already married (sorry for the 166-year-old spoiler), she doesn’t shrug it off or rationalize or decide that it doesn’t really count because he and his wife are emotionally separated. She gets the hell out of dodge so she can move on with her life with her conscience in tact.
“Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation: they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth?”
So what are you waiting for? Go forth and be Jane-like.
For other articles on Jane Eyre’s general bad-assery, read this.