(Jonathan Ryan posting for Jen Schlameuss-Perry.)
There are certain books that I read over and over because no matter where I am in my life, they speak to me. They have spoiled me for inferior books. Like The Lord of the Rings or The Chronicles of Narnia, I couldn’t even guess how many times I’ve read another favorite—Jane Eyre. Some of the best lines ever written come from this poor, plain girl who has suffered so deeply, been overlooked so thoroughly and came to know herself so completely.
She comes to a point which should be the happiest day of her life—Mr. Rochester is finally going to marry her (after shunning rich, snotty girls)—she will have value in a monetary and social venue, value in love to another human being (whom she also loves), and will be recognized. She never in her life had any of those things. She was really alone. And then, her wedding day, at the Church, all dolled up with new duds, about to finally belong (in the most perfect sense of the word—not as property, my feminist friends) to someone else when, with a sentence, she is stripped of everything she ever wanted.
And then comes the best part. She loses everything she wanted, but retains everything she needs…and her speech is unparalleled. I came across it in March on the Charlotte Bronte Facebook page attached to a picture of the old black and white movie version with Orson Wells:
“Feeling . . . clamoured wildly. “Oh, comply!” it said. “. . . soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?” Still indomitable was the reply: “I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad—as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation. . . They have a worth—so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane—quite insane: with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs.” –Jane Eyre
Ohhhh….that is some good stuff!!!! It’s like drop the mic and walk off good. I could end the blog here, really, because I can’t say anything better than what Ms. Bronte wrote for my friend, Jane. But, that’s me. I can’t keep my mouth shut.
I am envious of Jane’s resolve. I am in awe of her ability to be so strong in her own sense of value when it seems that no one else does. I mean, how does someone who’s supposed to love you try and trick you into marrying him when he’s already married (granted, to a homicidal maniac, but married nonetheless)? Jane is sane! She’s the opposite of his nutso wife. She’s worthy of so much more than what he was offering her and she knows it. And she won’t accept less than what her dignity demands.
If only we could imbue every young lady with this sense of dignity and self-worth. I want to tattoo it to my nieces’ foreheads—or, better—write it onto their hearts. And, because Jane does things the right way, she ultimately gains everything she ever wanted and more. If she had gone ahead and stayed with Edward at the time, she would have lost everything for real. She would never be acknowledged and she would have sacrificed the best part of herself, for a relationship with would likely have spiraled into a guilt-ridden, sadness-fest.
Let’s learn from Jane how temptation and sin would try and rob us of ourselves. They dress inferiority up in clothes that look like true love and steal away our happiness. But, if we know who we are—children of God—then we will never settle for anything less than real happiness.
Jen Schlameuss-Perry is a massive fan of sci-fi, cartoons and superheroes and loves to write about them in light of her Catholic tradition. She currently works for a Catholic Church and practices martial arts, cares for her family and pets and writes in her spare time. Check out some of Jen’s other stuff on her Facebook page or her website.