The Profound Loneliness And Tenacious Reason Of Jane Eyre And Villette

Jane Eyre (1970 film)

Jane Eyre (1970 film) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I just can’t get enough of Jane Eyre! Words cannot describe how much I love this book. Up to now, it sits undisputedly on the top of my favorite literature books, even on top of Les Miserable. Of course, I do not doubt the profoundness of Les Miserable regarding to human nature in general, but Jane Eyre is more special to me personally, as I feel related to “her” in so many ways.

Jane Eyre not only strikes me with her independence, as I put it in my previous post, but also with countless other aspects. For examples, her rebellious disposition – “I resisted all the way.” (beginning of Chapter 2); her sharp inquiry about blind religious obedience, which is reflected in her friendship with Helen Burns; her unusually pre-matured intelligence, such as her quick learning ability, her art talent; and above all (even above her independence), Jane Eyre strikes me with her tenacious reason, which never gives way to her frail sentiment.

The profound loneliness and stern reason show in entire book of Jane Eyre, as well as in Villette – Charlotte Bronte’s another novel. Both Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe (protagonist of Villette) are sensitive and passionate, however, they both let their reason to be the beacon of their life. They both are orphans, parentless and friendless, completely free of human relations. With such kind of loneliness, they both long for companionship. However, born in low class, without any social ties, they face great challenge, such as survival struggle as well as social prejudice. Loneliness tortures them, but the prejudice of others pushes them back to solitary and forces them to adhere more seamlessly to their personal pride. I think from this perspective, it’s valid to say that the whole books of Jane Eyre and Villette are ruthless wrestles between eagerness of human relationships and personal pride: the profoundly acute loneliness goads the protagonists to other fellow human beings, on the other hand, personal pride prevents them from submitting to prejudice, sometime even to warm geniality.

In Villette, after Lucy reunited with her godmother and godbrother, she did such meditation before going to sleep:

“When I had said my prayers, and when I was undressed and laid down, I felt that I still had friends. Friends, not professing vehement attachment, not offering the tender solace of well-matched and congenial relationship; on whom, therefore, but moderate demand of affection was to be made, of whom but moderate expectation formed; but towards whom my heart softened instinctively, and yearned with an importunate gratitude, which I entreated Reason betimes to check.

‘Do not let me think of them too often, too much, too fondly,’ I implored: ‘let me be content with a temperate draught of this living stream: let me not run athirst, and apply passionately to its welcome waters: let me not imagine in them a sweeter taste than earth’s fountains know. Oh! would to God I may be enabled to feel enough sustained by an occasional, amicable intercourse, rare, brief, unengrossing and tranquil: quite tranquil!’

Still repeating this word, I turned to my pillow; and still repeating it, I steeped that pillow with tears.”

Such kind of timely “check” by reason appear from time to time through out Jane Eyre (and Villette), and I think it is precisely why Jane Eyre is so powerful. Think of this, according to our “civilized” patriarchal tradition, women are mostly “prey” to feeling, sentiment, but Jane shows otherwise – she transcends convention, transcends the human nature defined by man, she lets her reason reign over her feeling. She is capable of making decisions that suppress her most acute desires if, she discerns that such desires would jeopardize her pride, independence or dignity:

“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? ” (From Jane Eyre)

I only read half of Villette and enjoyed it very much, but I found difficult to continue reading the rest, because they appeared to be quite boring (maybe it’s myself to blame). However, though Villette is not as good as Jane Eyre (my personal opinion), I found it resembles the latter in many ways. Villette is more like autobiography of Charlotte Bronte’s life, especially the part when she was a teacher of a boarding school in Brussels, Belgium. Lucy Snow possesses the same personality as Jane Eyre, except, in Jane Eyre, the situation is more dramatic so the heroism seems so much stronger.

I once ranked Rebecca as my all time favorite, because of its hauntingly beautiful writing style (as matter of fact I just learned that Jane Eyre inspired Rebecca) , now, Jane Eyre seized her “crown”, because not only Jane Eyre is equally beautiful, but also it’s POWERFUL. And the reason Jane Eyre is powerful is precisely because of her non-negotiable reason.

Charlotte died only 38. What a genius!

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