The 35 Best Lines from Jane Eyre

The 35 Best Lines from Jane Eyre

Jane Eyre is my favorite classic novel of all time. It’s hauntingly beautiful, eloquently written, daringly progressive, and a terrific love story to boot. Eyre was one of the first literary heroines to command recognition of feminine fortitude, wit, and desire. Like her creator, she was a heroine ahead of her time, and her story is peppered with nuggets of wisdom that are just as relevant today as they were 169 years ago when the book was first published. Today is Charlotte Brontë’s 200th birthday. To celebrate, here are 35 of my favorite quotes from Jane Eyre, loosely sorted by topic. Quotes by characters other than Jane are noted.

On the Value and Autonomy of the Individual

“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me; I am a free human being with an independent will.”

“Some of the best people that ever lived have been as destitute as I am; and if you are a Christian, you ought not to consider poverty a crime.”

On Women’s Equality

“Do you think I am an automaton?–a machine without feelings? and can bear to have my morsel of bread snatched from my lips, and my drop of living water dashed from my cup? Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!–I have as much soul as you,–and full as much heart! And if God had gifted me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to leave me, as it is now for me to leave you. I am not talking to you now through the medium of custom, conventionalities, nor even of mortal flesh;–it is my spirit that addresses your spirit; just as if both had passed through the grave, and we stood at God’s feet, equal,–as we are!”

“Women are supposed to be very calm generally: but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a field for their efforts, as much as their brothers do; they suffer from too rigid a restraint, to absolute a stagnation, precisely as men would suffer; and it is narrow-minded in their more privileged fellow-creatures to say that they ought to confine themselves to making puddings and knitting stockings, to playing on the piano and embroidering bags. It is thoughtless to condemn them, or laugh at them, if they seek to do more or learn more than custom has pronounced necessary for their sex.”

“I do not think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience.”

On Love

“I would always rather be happy than dignified.”

“There is no happiness like that of being loved by your fellow-creatures, and feeling that your presence is an addition to their comfort.”

“’I am not an angel,’ I asserted; ‘and I will not be one till I die: I will be myself. Mr. Rochester, you must neither expect nor exact anything celestial of me–for you will not get it, any more than I shall get it of you: which I do not at all anticipate.’”

“Every atom of your flesh is as dear to me as my own: in pain and sickness it would still be dear. Your mind is my treasure, and if it were broken, it would be my treasure still.” –Mr. Rochester

“I sometimes have a queer feeling with regard to you–especially when you are near me, as now: it is as if I had a string somewhere under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string situated in the corresponding quarter of your little frame. And if that boisterous Channel, and two hundred miles or so of land come broad between us, I am afraid that cord of communion will be snapt; and then I’ve a nervous notion I should take to bleeding inwardly.” –Mr. Rochester 

“Her coming was my hope each day,
Her parting was my pain;
The chance that did her steps delay
Was ice in every vein.”
–Song sung by Mr. Rochester

“Reader, I married him.”

On True Beauty 

Most true it is that ‘beauty is in the eye of the gazer.’”

“A beauty neither of fine colour nor long eyelash, nor penciled brow, but of meaning, of movement, of radiance.”

On Self-Care and Respect

I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself.”

“I can live alone, if self-respect, and circumstances require me so to do. I need not sell my soul to buy bliss. I have an inward treasure born with me, which can keep me alive if all extraneous delights should be withheld, or offered only at a price I cannot afford to give.”

On Morality

“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?”

“Conventionality is not morality. Self-righteousness is not religion. To attack the first is not to assail the last. To pluck the mask from the face of the Pharisee, is not to lift an impious hand to the Crown of Thorns.”

“Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre; remorse is the poison of life.” –Mr. Rochester

“Feeling without judgement is a washy draught indeed; but judgement untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition.”

Life Wisdom

“Prejudices, it is well known, are most difficult to eradicate from the heart whose soil has never been loosened or fertilized by education: they grow there, firm as weeds among stones.”

“Friends always forget those whom fortune forsakes.”

“Oh! That gentleness! how far more potent is it than force!”

“I remembered that the real world was wide, and that a varied field of hopes and fears, of sensations and excitements, awaited those who had the courage to go forth into it’s expanse, to seek real knowledge of life amidst it’s perils.”

“It is a pity that doing one’s best does not always answer.”

“What necessity is there to dwell on the Past, when the Present is so much surer–the Future so much brighter?” –Mr. Rochester

“It is always the way of events in this life…no sooner have you got settled in a pleasant resting place, than a voice calls out to you to rise and move on, for the hour of repose is expired.” –Mr. Rochester

The Wisdom of Helen Burns

“Life appears to me too short to be spent in nursing animosity or registering wrongs.” –Helen Burns

“If all the world hated you and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends.” –Helen Burns

“It is not violence that best overcomes hate–nor vengeance that most certainly heals injury.” –Helen Burns

“It is far better to endure patiently a smart which nobody feels but yourself, than to commit a hasty action whose evil consequences will extend to all connected with you.” –Helen Burns

Of course Jane had some very different ideas, which have their merit as well.

“When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure we should–so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again.”

Blunt Honesty

“I mentally shake hands with you for your answer, despite its inaccuracy.” –Jane to Rochester

“’Am I hideous, Jane?’
‘Very, sir: you always were, you know.’”

On the Poetry of the Universe

“Night was come, and her planets were risen: a safe, still night: too serene for the companionship of fear. We know that God is everywhere; but certainly we feel His presence most when His works are on the grandest scale spread before us; and it is in the unclouded night-sky, where His worlds wheel their silent course, that we read clearest His infinitude, His omnipotence, His omnipresence.”

What’s your favorite quote from Jane Eyre?

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