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Why Jane Eyre is an Amazing Christian Feminist Heroine

October 15, 2014

*Warning: Spoiler Alert*

jane eyreCharlotte Bronte’s character Jane Eyre refuses to be dependent on her employer and friend Mr. Edward Rochester, even though he is her only friend (and love) in the world.  He is planning to be married to a rich beautiful woman he does not love, Blanch Ingram.  Jane sees “the necessity of departure; and it is like looking on the necessity of death” (pg. 292, Penguin Classics).  When Mr. Rochester objects to Jane’s plans to move to Ireland (because he doesn’t want to see her go in spite of his pending marriage) she declares: “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will, which I now exert to leave you” (p. 293).

In response, Mr. Rochester ditches his half-hearted plans to marry the rich and beautiful Blanche in favor of marrying the lowly but lovely Jane Eyre. He declares himself “Edward” to Jane. All seems well and happy in Jane’s world.

…Until the wedding day, when two men interrupt the ceremony and reveal that Edward already has a wife- a mentally insane woman he was tricked into marrying when visiting the Caribbean years ago, who has been in isolation in a far upper corner of the Thornfield mansion all this time.

Edward begs Jane to stay and be his mistress.  This would be easy- she has no known family who would care.  But Jane refuses:

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 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? 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.  Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot” (p. 365).

This, my friends, is the best variety of feminism available to you: independent, yet fully dependent on God.  Seize it!

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