Life has moved at a rapid-fire pace since we returned home from Deleware. I have missed my little blogging community.
God is continuing His faithfulness to me in my helpless and ususally- flesh-laden pursuit of Him. I am grateful.
Over vacation I read Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I have never read this classic and one of my goals this summer is to catch up on some classic writings. (Thankfully, B&N sells them cheap!) I won't go on a rant about how my growing-up "Christian" education completely ignored the classic works in literature, art and even theology, BUT...I'm finding that I approach classics with a bias that I must have picked up in those moldable childhood days. I have kind of approached these classics the same way I approach ab-crunches. I know they are good for me but I don't expect to enjoy them!
That is the attitude I took on when I opened up the novel. I prepped myself internally, "OK, Tam, you can do this. Go ahead and start reading. If it gets too depressing you have my permission to close the book without feeling like an intellectual failure."
Imagine my surprise as I fell in love with the character of Jane Eyre. Imagine my surprise as I found myself caught up in the plotline that has since the days of Bronte been hashed and re-hashed by both skilled author and poor imitator alike. Imagine my surprise as I fell in love with the gruff and macho Mr. Rochester and tried to reason with Jane as she made the moral decision to walk away from the relationship instead of marry him. Imagine my surprise when I read Jane's dilemma to do what is right instead of following her feelings -- and seemingly her dreams -- and my absolute shock that some of the most powerful biblical truth I've read all summer came from the pages of a nineteenth-century work of fiction. The passage Jane speaks to herself about resisting temptation is powerful...I am tempted to have my entire family memorize it. I know that it would serve me well as I face more temptation than I ever expected as an adult, mother and wife.
May I share this with you? I've included the whole scene for those of you who want to take in all the whole romance of it, but for the rest of you I've bolded and colored the most profound paragraphs...you can scroll down to find them.
"Jane, you understand what I want of you? Just this promise -- 'I will be yours, Mr. Rochester.' "
"Mr. Rochester, I will not be yours."
Another long silence.
"Jane!" recommenced he, with a gentleness that broke me down with grief, and turned me stone-cold with ominous terror -- for this still voice was the pant of a lion rising -- "Jane, do you meant to go one way in the world, and to let me go another?"
"Jane (bending toward and embracing me), do you mean it now?"
"And now?" softly kissing my forehead and cheek.
"I do--"extricating myself from restraint rapidly and completely.
"Oh, Jane, this is bitter! This -- this is wicked. It would not be wicked to love me."
"It would to obey you."
A wild look raised his brows -- crossed his features; he rose, but he forebore yet. I laid my hand on the back of a chair for support; I shook, I feared -- but I resolved.
"One instant, Jane. Give one glance to my horrible life when you are gone. All happiness will be torn away with you. What then is left? For a wife I have but the maniac upstairs; as well might you refer me to some corpse in yonder church-yard. What shall I do, Jane? Where turn for a companion, and for some hope?"
"Do as I do; trust in God and yourself. Believe in Heaven. Hope to meet again there."
"Then you will not yield?"
"Then you condemn me to live wretched, and to die accursed?" His voice rose.
"I advise you to live sinless; and I wish you to die tranquil."
"Then you snatch love and innocence from me? You fling me back on lust for a passion -- vice for an occupation?"
"Mr. Rochester, I no more assign this fate to you that I grasp at it for myself. We were born to strive and endure -- you as well as I; do so. You will forget me before I forget you."
"You make me a liar by such language; you sully my honor. I declared I could not change!you tell me to my face I shall change soon. And what a distortion in your judgement, what a perversity in your ideas, is proved by your conduct? Is it better to drive a fellow-creature to despair than the breach? for you have neither relatives nor acquaintances whom you need fear to offend by living with me."
This was true; and while he spoke my very conscience and reason turned traitors against me, and charged me with crime in resisting him. They spoke almost as loud as feeling and that clamored wildly. "Oh, comply!" it said. "Think of his misery, think of his danger, look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature, consider the recklessness following on despair; soothe him, save him, love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?"
Still indomitable was the reply, "I care for myself.The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained, I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God, sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad-- as I am now. Laws and principles are not for the times when there is no temptation; they are for such moments as this, when body and soul rise in mutiny against their rigor; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth, so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now; it is because I am insane, quite insane, with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by; there I plant my foot."
I did. Mr. Rochester, reading my countenance, saw I had done so. His fury was wrought to the highest; he must yield t it for a moment, whatever followed; he crossed the floor and seized my arm, and grasped my waist. He seemed to devour me with his flaming glance; physically, I felt at the moment powerless as stubble exposed to the draught and glow of a furnace; mentally. I still possessed my soul, and with it the certainty of ultimate safety. The soul, fortunately, has an interpreter -- often an unconscious, but still a truthful, interpreter--in the eye. My eye rose to his, and while I looked in his fierce face, I gave an involuntary sigh; his grip was painful, and my overtasked strength almost exhausted.
"Never," said he, as he ground his teeth, "never was anything at once so frail and so indomitable. A mere reed she feels in my hand! (and he shook me with the force of his hold). I could bend her with my finger and thumb, and what good would it do if I bent, if I uptore, if I crushed her? Consider that eye; consider the resolute, wild, free thing looking out of it, defying me, with more than courage, with a stern triumph. Whatever I do with its cage, I cannot get at it, the savage, beautiful creature! If I tear, if I rend the slight prison, my outrage will only let the captive loose. Conqueror I might be of the house, but the inmate would escape to heaven before I could call myself possessor of its clay dwelling-place. And it is you, spirit, with will and energy, and virtue and purity, that I want; not alone your brittle frame. Of yourself, you could come, with soft flight, and nestle against my heart, if you would; seized against your will, you will elude the grasp like an essence; you will vanish ere I inhale your fragrance. Oh! come, Jane, come!"
As he said this, he released me from his clutch, and only looked at me. The look was far worse to resist than the frantic strain; only an idiot, however, would have succumbed now. I had dared and baffled his fury, I must elude his sorrow; I retired to the door.
"You are going, Jane?"
"I am going, sir."
"You are leaving me?"
"You will not come? You will not be my comforter, my rescuer? My deep love, my wild woe, my frantic prayer, are all nothing to you?"
What unutterable pathos was in his voice! How hard it was to reiterate firmly, "I am going!"
"Withdraw, then, I consent; but remember, you leave me here in anguish. Go up to your own room; think over all I have said, and, Jane, cast a glance on my sufferings; think of me."
He turned away, he threw himself on his face on the sofa. "Oh, Jane! my hope, my love, my life!" broke in anguish from his lips. Then came a deep, strong sob.
I had already gained the door, but, reader, I walked back -- walked back as determinedly as I had retreated. I knelt down by him, I turned his face from the cushion to me; I kissed his cheek, I smoothed his hair with my hand.
"God bless you, my dear master," I said. "God keep you from harm and wrong, direct you, solace you, reward you well for your past kindness to me."
"Little Jane's love would have been my best reward," he answered; "without it, my heart is broken. But Jane will give me her love; yes, nobly, generously."
Up the blood rushed to his face; forth flashed the fire from his eyes, erect he sprung, he held his arms out, but I evadd the embrace, and at once quitted the room.
"Farewell!" was the cry of my heart, as I left him. Despair added, "Farewell, forever!"