Brontë-along started by Melissa at Yummy Goods has inspired me to get out my embroidery hoops. Inspired by one of the most telling and intriguing lines in the book, I've started embroidering a handkerchief -- surely something worthy of a gentlewoman.
About a year ago, I checked out a lecture course on British Literature from the library where I worked. The lecture on Jane Eyre really stood out -- it had been years since I'd read the book, and the lecture really went beneath the surface of the swoony romance and pointed out how revolutionary and feminist Charlotte Brontë really was. Key to this argument is the line, "Reader, I married him." Not "He married me," or "We were married," but the very active, Jane-centric "I married him."* I immediately reread the book, and was struck how often Jane bucked Victorian convention. She tells Rochester she loves him before he tells her. She constantly defied straight-laced religion -- from her classic "I must keep in good health, and not die," in response to Mr. Brocklehurst's query as to how she can avoid going to hell, to her opinions about St. John Rivers' missionary zeal and her abandonment of his mission to marry a godless reprobate like Rochester (in Rivers' eyes, anyway). Putting true love before God? That was pretty daring. And then, shocker of shockers, Jane actually seriously considers running off with Rochester and being his mistress! It's why she leaves Thornfield -- she knows she can't resist him otherwise (and really, can you blame a girl?). All this -- the woman taking the lead in a courtship, putting human wants and emotions before God, frank sexuality -- in a Victorian novel. Written by a woman!
idea I got from the incomparable Kate Davies of Needled.
*Sutherland, John. "Jane Eyre and the Other Brontë," Classics of British Literature. Lecture 35. Chantilly, VA: The Teaching Company.
6 hours ago