Essential Quotes

Essential Quotes by Character: Jane Eyre

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 1

“You have no business to take our books; you are a dependent, mamma says; you have no money; your father left you none; you ought to beg, and not to live here with gentlemen's children like us, and eat the same meals we do, and wear clothes at our mamma's expense. Now I'll teach you to rummage my book-shelves: for they are mine; all the house belongs to me, or will do in a few years. Go and stand by the door, out of the way of the mirror and the windows.”


Jane Eyre, orphaned as an infant, had been reared by Mr. Reed, her uncle. Before he died, Mr. Reed made his wife promise to treat Jane as her own child. Mrs. Reed reluctantly agreed to do so, but immediately disregarded her promise and considered Jane an unwelcome burden on the household. The Reed children, especially John, go out of their way to be abusive to their cousin. On the occasion related in the above passage, Jane has taken refuge in a curtained nook, where she hides with a favorite book away from John’s meanness. However, he finds her and berates her for daring to touch the Reeds’ property, including their books. He belittles her position as an orphan, penniless and dependent on the charity of relatives. He makes sure she understands what a great financial and familial burden she is, one which he intends to rectify when he comes of age.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 4

Mrs. Reed's hands still lay on her work inactive: her eye of ice continued to dwell freezingly on mine.

“What more have you to say?” she asked rather in the tone in which a person might address an opponent of adult age than such as is ordinarily used to a child.

That eye of hers, that voice, stirred every antipathy I had. Shaking from head to foot, thrilled with ungovernable excitement, I continued: “I am glad you are no relation of mine: I will never call you aunt again as long as I live. I will never come to see you when I am grown up; and if any one asks me how I liked you, and how you treated me, I will say the very thought of you makes me sick, and that you treated me with miserable cruelty.”

“How dare you affirm that, Jane Eyre?”

“How dare I, Mrs. Reed? How dare I? Because it is the truth. You think I have no feelings, and that I can do without one bit of love or kindness; but I cannot live so: and you have no pity. I shall remember how you thrust me back—roughly and violently thrust me back—into the red-room, and locked me up there, to my dying day; though I was in agony, though I cried out, while suffering with distress, ‘Have mercy! Have mercy, Aunt Reed!’ And that punishment you made me suffer because your wicked boy struck me—knocked me down for nothing. I will tell any body who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad; hard-hearted. You are deceitful!”


Mrs. Reed has decided, on the advice of Mr. Lloyd, the apothecary, to send Jane to school. She has found one suitable, she believes, to rid Jane of her “wickedness.” Lowood is run by Mr. Brocklehurst, a self-righteous, mean-spirited, hypocritical cleric. On visiting Jane to determine her qualifications for Lowood (a school specifically meant for poor and orphaned children), he is met with her obstinance and her willfulness; he thus finds himself in agreement with Mrs. Reed’s assessment of Jane's character, and accepts Jane into Lowood. Coming to say good-bye to her aunt, Jane...

(The entire section is 1547 words.)

Essential Quotes by Theme: Autonomy

Essential Passage 1: Chapter 10

“A new servitude! There is something in that,” I soliloquized (mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud). “I know there is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words as liberty, excitement, enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere waste of time to listen to them. But Servitude! That must be matter of fact. Any one may serve: I have served here eight years; now all I want is to serve elsewhere. Can I not get so much of my own will? Is not the thing feasible? Yes—yes—the end is not so difficult: If I had only a brain active enough to ferret out the means of attaining it.”


For eight years, Jane Eyre has lived at Lowood—six years as a student and two years as a teacher. When her favorite teacher and confidante, Miss Temple, marries and leaves, Jane decides that it is time for her departure as well. While she has come to enjoy her students (as well as the school, following Mr. Brocklehurst’s demotion in control and influence), she feels that it is time for her life to move on. She no longer has the financial support of Mrs. Reed, so she is entirely on her own. Employment for respectable women being limited, Jane knows that she will not free herself from labor, but merely transfer it to another venue. Although she is not free to refrain from having a job, she is free to choose her “new servitude.” She has received a very good education at a time of limited schooling, and she now has experience as a teacher. She decides to remain in that field by placing an advertisement announcing her desire for a position as a governess. Within a week, Jane accepts a position at Thornfield Hall, the home of Edward Rochester.

Essential Passage 2: Chapter 12

It is in vain to say human beings ought to be satisfied with tranquility: they must have action; and they will make it if they cannot find it. Millions are condemned to a stiller doom than mine, and millions are in silent revolt against their lot. Nobody knows how many rebellions besides political rebellions ferment in the masses of life which people earth. 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, too 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.


Jane has arrived at Thornfield Hall to take up her “new servitude” as governess to Adele, Mr. Rochester’s ward. At the beginning, Jane had feared that her situation in an upper-class house might mirror that of her childhood, with the housekeeper, Mrs. Fairfax, being as unpleasant and controlling as Mrs. Reed...

(The entire section is 1403 words.)