There are several lines that could be considered Jane Eyre feminist quotes. I love the novel and I love Jane as a protagonist. But was Jane Eyre a feminist?
Consider the following quotes:
“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 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.”
“I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will.”
On the one hand, Jane asserts her independence throughout the novel, whether she cuts ties with Mrs. Reed, holds her ground with Mr. Rochester, or rejects a proposal from St. John. She is willful, bright, and resourceful. I feel the main appeal of the novel is the strength of its protagonist.
Yet, she goes back to a man who locked his “crazy” wife in the attic. Is Mr. Rochester really a good guy, or is he abusive? We know his explanation and on the surface it makes sense. Yet, imagine if your best girlfriend tried to explain: Well, he lied about his first wife. She likes to rant, rave, and start fires, so he kept her locked up. But yeah, she died, so now I’m going back to him.
Could you approve of such a guy?