A Small Outlook and A Small Creed

Indeed I do write about Jane Eyre a lot.  I have no shame.  She’s especially on my mind lately since I re-read the book this summer, as well as found THE BEST TV series of it out there.  If you haven’t seen Masterpiece Theater’s 2006 Jane Eyre (starring Ruth Wilson and Toby Stephens), you’re missing out.  It’s even closer to the book than the most recent movie because they have more time to include details.  The actors are still too pretty.  And Jane’s not waif-like enough.  But Toby Stephen’s performance as Rochester is dead on.

And when I say Jane Eyre’s been on my mind lately, it’s specifically Jane’s character and the decisions she makes.  This time my reading was less occupied by the thrill of the plot and more about the personhood of Jane Eyre.  Her quiet strength.  She’s someone I want to be like and as I read, I desperately followed the course of her thoughts, her reasoning through struggles.  Her simplicity reveals my vanity.

I did not find the formula on how to be Jane Eyre (and honestly, I shouldn’t because then who would be Lisbeth?), but I’m left with a model of surprising courage and unwavering conviction.  The edition of my book closes with commentaries both of positive and negative natures, written by literary greats.  I found the negative commentaries harder to read, and yet I do see truth in them, especially in Virgina Woolf’s.  G. K. Chesterton’s commentary is one that I had to share.  It’s an excerpt from a larger essay entitled “Charlotte Bronte”, which I have all good intentions to fully read someday.

“Such a story as Jane Eyre is in itself so monstrous a fable that it ought to be excluded from a book of fairy tales.  The characters do not do what they ought to do, nor what they would do, nor it might be said, such is the insanity of the atmosphere, not even what they intend to do.  The conduct of Rochester is…primevally and superhumanly caddish…The scene in which Rochester dresses up as an old gipsy has something in it which is really not to be found in any other branch of art, except in the end of the pantomime, where the Emperor turns into a pantaloon.  Yet despite this vast nightmare of illusion and morbidity and ignorance of the world, Jane Eyre is perhaps the truest book that was ever written.  Its essential truth to life sometimes makes one catch one’s breath.  For it is not true to manners, which are constantly false, or to facts, which are almost always false; it is true to the only existing thing which is true, emotion, the irreducible minimum, the indestructible germ.  It would not matter a single straw if Bronte’s story were a hundred times more moonstruck and improbable than Jane Eyre …It would not matter if George Read stood on his head, and Mrs. Read rode on a dragon, if Fairfax Rochester had four eyes and St. John Rivers three legs, the story would still remain the truest in the world…

The shabby and inconspicuous governess of Charlotte Bronte, with the small outlook and the small creed, had more commerce with the awful and elemental forces which drive the world than a legion of lawless minor poets.  She approached the universe with real simplicity, and consequently, with real fear and delight.  She was, so to speak, shy before the multitude of stars, and in this she had possessed herself of the only force which can prevent enjoyment being as black and barren as routine.  The faculty of being shy is the first and the most delicate of the powers of enjoyment.  The fear of the Lord is the beginning of pleasure…

Every one of us has had a day-dream of our own potential destiny not one atom more reasonable than Jane Eyre.  And the truth which the Brontes came to tell us is the truth that many waters cannot quench love, and that suburban respectability cannot touch or damp a secret enthusiasm.”

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3 thoughts on “A Small Outlook and A Small Creed

      1. Though you are not Jane in many ways, Lisbeth, you have her steadfast and unwavering conviction in pursuit of truth, justice, and “true” emotion. Yes, sir!
        Dad

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