What is the original source of “I am no bird; and no net ensnares me: I am a free human being with an independent will” from Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre?

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This quote truly characterizes Jane Eyre; she demonstrates throughout the narrative of Charlotte Bronte's novel that she is a "free human being with an independent will."

  • Having been orphaned in her childhood, Jane must live with her uncle's wife, Mrs. Sarah Reed, who is very cruel to her and allows her spoiled children to taunt her. When her cousin John abuses her one day as she reads History of British Birds, Jane falls and hurts her head. Because she is hurt, Jane cries out and she fights back against John; as punishment the cruel aunt sends her to the "Red Room," the room in which her uncle has died. Little Jane is horrified in this room as she believes that she sees a ghost, but no one will let her out. Jane never forgets this experience and strengthens herself from it.
  • The headmaster of Lowood School comes to Gateshead Hall to meet with Jane; he questions her in a cruel manner. Nevertheless, the intrepid child replies bravely. When Mr. Brocklehurst inquires if she likes the Psalms, the candid and truthful girl bravely replies, “No sir.”
  • At Lowood School, Jane makes friends with a lovely girl named Helen Burns. Soon after they become friends, Helen is beaten by one of the teachers. When Jane talks to the long-suffering girl, Helen tells her, 

“Love your enemies; bless them that curse you; do good to them that hate you and spitefully use you.”

         Helen does not agree, saying that she could not possibly bless Mrs. Reed.

  • Having completed her studies at Lowood and taught there for a while, Jane Eyre is hired at Thornfield Hall, where she will work as the governess for Mr. Rochester 's ward. There she develops a warm relationship with her employer. However, when it appears that he will marry, Jane feels that she must resign, telling him that she is "no bird" that can be ensnared. "I am a free human...

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Domenick Franecki eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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