One of three literarily brilliant sisters, Charlotte Brontë wrote the revolutionary novel Jane Eyre during the 1800s when there were so few female voices in society. Autobiographical in essence, yet written under a male pseudonym, Jane eyre the heroine is based on Charlotte’s own life experience and eternal suffering.
Writing under a pseudonym she says, ‘gave her the daring to write the plain truth’. A luxury not often afforded to women, both back then and some even now.
Re-discovering Charlotte in adulthood has been a pure delight. Here are 7 quotes that ring true more now than ever before.
One: Conventionality is not morality. On the surface, an idea when widely accepted in society is deemed moral. Brontë challenges this at the very core. Just because things are done a certain way, and have been for centuries on end, doesn’t make it ‘right’ behavior. As women, constantly questioning the status quo and pushing the limits of conventionality will bring society closer to morality and ethics in its purest form.
Two: Crying does not indicate that you are weak. Since birth, it has always been a sign that you are alive. Crying, often associated with the feminine gender, has been relegated to being an unneeded and culpable emotion. Letting this emotion slip, more specifically as a woman, at the corporate workplace (and in life) can be a death sentence to your career, and perceived decision making capabilities. (Ironically, when a male employee expresses emotion, he is deemed passionate.) Brontë stoically reminds us, crying is an indication of life and birth.
Three: I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; i am a free human being with an independent will. Through the titular character Jane Eyre, Brontë expresses a wish to be treated as a whole human being. To view a woman as a bird to be caged, an animal to be tamed, is unacceptable. Declaring freedom from all invisible societal nets and exercising independent will is all of what Brontë talks about.
Four: The human heart has hidden treasures, in secret kept, in silence sealed, the thoughts, the hopes, the dreams, the pleasures, whose charms were broken if revealed. Brontë often repeats the wish to qualify her heart as being human. As deep as any other. Yet vulnerable of letting anyone take a peek inside, lest they pollute with careless dismissal. Therefore, holding it close.
Five: Better to be without logic than without feeling. Logic makes the world go round, but the heart is fueled by feeling. Did Brontë envisage the questions riddling the world today? While the logic of artificial intelligence threatens to take over most of the world, it’s only human feelings that differentiate us from machines and computers. Logic it seems machines can learn; feelings are still a human forte.
Six: I am neither a man nor a woman but an author. Ten years before Jane Eyre was published in 1847, poet laureate Robert Southey advised against women pursuing a career in writing. “Literature cannot be the business of a women’s life, and it ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for it even as an accomplishment as a recreation.”, he wrote when Brontë sent poems seeking feedback and advice. While no sane man or woman would flaunt these views (publicly at least), the real danger would be if they are harbored in the dark corners of our minds.
Seven: I’m just going to write because i cannot help it. Following your instincts takes courage. Going against popular culture, societal norms and practicality is isolating. The Brontë siblings had particularly challenging childhoods including illness, death, and relative poverty. Brontës created paracosms, imaginary worlds, as a coping mechanism for hardships in their early life. Resulting in prolific characters, plots, settings and stories; writing therefore was an early experience that never quite left them. And in many ways, writing was both a refuge, and a desire.
The world is viewed by a male gaze, and when those like Charlotte brontë who unravel life with a new lens come along, all we can do is sit back and revel.