For as long as I can remember, I lived my life with my nose in a book. Books have been my constant companions, and, at times, my dearest friends. The book bug got me early, and I never really recovered. While other kids were lining up for Segas and Nintendos (yes, I know I just dated myself with that one), I was lining up for the library book sale. Books opened horizons that I beyond my imaginings, giving me a passport to travel as far as the stories could take me.
I've traveled the world in the company of a thousand characters, some of whom I remember and even more of whom I’ve long forgotten. But there are a select few that have never really left me. They stick with me through the years, teaching me new lessons every time I revisit them. That’s how Jane’s always been for me. Jane, of course, is Jane Eyre, titular heroine of the classic Charlotte Bronte novel.
Too often relegated to school reading lists and dreadful English literature assignments, Jane Eyre rarely gets the credit she deserves as a heroine. Yes, she’s synonymous with Gothic Romance and strong female leads, but she has so many more lessons up her sleeve than that. Since I first discovered her during my college days, Jane has taught invaluable lessons about life and creativity. Allow me to pass on some of her wisdom (warning, spoilers lie ahead!):
A Curious Mind is the Greatest Wealth
Central to Jane’s story is the fact that, while she is neither wealthy nor beautiful, she is intelligent. Unlike her female peers, Jane’s sole claim in life was a quick and ingenious mind. Her brilliant mind propelled her forward through life, and she never once tried to hide it. She knew she had a good mind, and she used it to her advantage again and again. While the wealth, beauty, and status of her adversaries faded with time, Jane’s mind kept blossoming and bringing her more opportunities. Talk about mind over matter!
Never Let Anyone Tell You That You’re Worthless
To me, this is the central lesson of the Jane Eyre story. The ultimate underdog, Jane spends her childhood and much of her adulthood being belittled, ignored, and outright scorned. She is cast off by family from an early age, yet, somehow, she develops a deep inner conviction of her worth. It’s her self-worth (coupled with the keen intellect I mentioned above) that wins her the admiration and ultimate love of Mr Rochester. She famously declares her self-worth to him with this fantastic speech:
Do you think I am an automaton? — a machine without feelings? . . . 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! . . . it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God's feet, equal — as we are!
Don’t Be Afraid to Walk Away
Couple a fierce intellect with determined self-worth, and you’ll have a woman unafraid of walking away from a bad situation. First with Mr Rochester, then again with St John Rivers, Jane proved that she wouldn’t be trapped long in situations that went against her character. Even when love was on the line, she remained true to herself and her convictions. Jane made the hard, brave choice to walk away, not once but twice, because she knew so well the person she would lose if she stayed.
Don’t Be Afraid to Make the “Crazy” Choice
Yes, Jane was smart and self-aware and very practical, but she was also a dreamer with a wanderer’s heart. She walked away from Mr. Rochester initially, but she was willing to make what seemed like an insane choice when she knew she couldn’t stay away from him any longer. The idea had all the hallmarks of madness, but she knew in her gut that it was the right choice. So she stepped out. She hung up the sure comfort of her current place, turned down the life of dull safety being offered to her, and set off after the wild dream that kept her heart awake at night.
What lessons can you take from Miss Eyre? Maybe it’s time to embrace your intellect, even when it seems out of place. Are you struggling with self-worth in the face of rampant condemnation? Maybe it’s time to walk away from what isn’t right, in order to pursue the crazy thing that’s calling to your heart. Whatever your unique situation, let me offer you one last piece of wisdom from dear Jane:
I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into its expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst its perils.
Sarah is the co-founder of Bright Ideas, a designer by trade, and an artist by passionate choice. She was born and raised in South, and delights in sharing Southern culture with anyone who cares to learn. Sarah collects creative hobbies; when she isn’t making art, you can usually find her on the dance floor. Follow her creative adventures on Instagram and Twitter!