Charlotte Bronte, surely a precursor to her aforementioned twentieth century creative counterparts, constructed perhaps the most famous literary example of what I will heretofore refer to as Dyer-Catalano Syndrome in her character Jane Eyre, a spirited, intelligent, not conventionally beautiful female protagonist, who makes questionable romantic choices, falling for the married, chronically dishonest (and eventually physically disfigured) Edward Rochester.
Now, Jane (much like Lelaina and Angela, the heroines of Reality Bites and My-So-Called-Life respectively) immediately leapt to mind when I began thinking the Friday Kindred Spirits series through. Much like Jo and Anne, Jane was noted more for her brains than she was for her beauty. While Jo and Anne remind me of my younger self, Jane reminds me of my slightly older self, the self who longed for boys who were no good for me, boys who wore baggy pants and hooded sweatshirts and skulked around campus looking sad and in need of cheering up. It should be no secret, then, why as an adult I dated men who had cancer, were emotionally unavailable, lived in other regions of the United States than I did, and/or had been diagnosed with chronic depression. Jane Eyre made me do it.
Kindred Spirit #2: Jane Eyre
Belongs to: Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte
Background: Jane Eyre, first published in 1847, is a novel that has long been considered ahead of its time due largely to its depiction of the evolution of its central character, an analytical and passionate young woman who longs to be recognized both an individual and as part of a larger community. Though initially described as a relatively charmless, poor, and plain young woman, throughout the course of the novel Jane develops into a compassionate and confident female character. Although Jane suffers much, she is never portrayed as a “damsel in distress" who needs rescuing. For this reason, Jane Eyre is widely regarded as an important early feminist novel.
The reader first meets Jane at age ten; she has been orphaned and is living with her uncle’s family. She is mistreated and is regarded more as a servant than she is a member of the family. Jane is eventually sent to The Lowood School for Girls, a charitable institution where she remains for nearly a decade. As a young woman, Jane sets out to become a governess and is eventually employed by Edward Rochester, the mysterious, wealthy, handsome, and often ill-tempered master of Thornfield Hall with whom Jane falls deeply in love with. Rochester, though engaged to be married to another woman, falls in love with Jane’s sweet demeanor, quick wit, and quiet, simple beauty. It is revealed to both Jane and the reader soon after she and Rochester begin planning their wedding that Rochester cannot marry Jane because…wait for it…he is already married! To a crazy woman*! That he keeps locked up! Who soon sets the house on fire! And leaps to her death amidst the flames (I know, I know -it’s like a nineteenth century Real Housewives of the English Moors episode)! Jane flees, heartbroken.
Of course, it all ends well. Jane receives a substantial inheritance after her uncle passes away and she returns to Thornfield Hall to be reunited with Rochester, with whom she lives happily ever after.
"I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will."
"Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last."
"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."
Would be friends with: Elinor Dashwood; the governess in The Turn of the Screw
*Jane Eyre lovers: if you have never read Wide Sargasso Sea by Jean Rhys, I highly recommend you pick it up! This 1966 novel is written from the point of view of Rochester’s insane wife, named Antoinette Cosway by Rhys, but known as Bertha Mason in Bronte’s Jane Eyre.