Jane Eyre Essential Quotes by Theme: Autonomy
by Charlotte Brontë

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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 was. Yet Jane finds that this is not the case. Mrs. Fairfax is extremely pleasant, Adele adores her governess, and the staff is respectful and kind to their new addition. Jane feels like something more than a servant, yet she still has a small feeling of discontent. Things are going too well—she is almost bored. Jane reflects that rebellions often come from such a sense of boredom. Women, just as men do, must have a sense of value in their efforts, beyond the “domestic” duties that are often their sole responsibility. She states that if she cannot find action, she must create it.

Essential Passage 3: Chapter 37

“Mr. Rochester, if ever I did a good deed in my life—if ever I thought a good thought—if ever I prayed a sincere and blameless prayer—if ever I wished a righteous wish—I am rewarded now. To be your wife, is, for me, to be as happy as I can be on earth.”

(The entire section is 1,403 words.)