Anger is what’s stopping me from finishing Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte. I can only read a few pages a day or even a week because I get so affected by the injustices that are happening to the main character Jane. I keep on reading though because the writing is so strong, and there’s one scene where I really liked how it portrayed the power of truth.
Jane is a young girl, an orphan who is living with her aunt Mrs. Reed. Her aunt insults her, scolds her for fighting against her abusive son, and humiliates her in front of other people. In one scene, when Mrs. Reed summoned her to meet a man from a school that Jane will be going to, Mrs. Reed tells this man that Jane is a deceitful child and a liar. Jane had to listen to all of these unkind words, but when the man left, Jane finally retaliates against Mrs. Reed.
“I am not deceitful: if I were, I should say I loved you, but I declare I do not love you: I dislike you the worst of anybody in the world except John Reed (Mrs. Reed’s young son); and this book about the liar, you may give it to your girl Georgina, for it is she who tells lies, and not I.”
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 suffocating 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 anybody who asks me questions, this exact tale. People think you a good woman, but you are bad, hard-hearted. You are deceitful!”
Ere I had finished this reply, my soul began to expand, to exult, with the strangest sense of freedom, of triumph, I ever felt. It seemed as if an invisible bond had burst, and that I had struggled out into unhoped-for liberty. Not without cause was this sentiment: Mrs. Reed looked frightened; her work had slipped from her knee; she was lifting up her hands, rocking herself to and fro, and even twisting her face as if she would cry.
“Jane, you are under a mistake: what is the matter with you? Why do you tremble so violently? Would you like to drink some water?”
“No, Mrs. Reed.”
“Is there anything else you wish for, Jane? I assure you, I desire to be your friend.
“Not you. You told Mr. Brocklehurst I had a bad character, a deceitful disposition; and I’ll let everybody at Lowood know what you are, and what you have done.”
“Jane, you don’t understand these things: children must be corrected for their faults.”
“Deceit is not my fault!” I cried out in a savage, high voice.
“But you are passionate, Jane, that you must allow: and now return to the nursery–there’s a dear–and lie down a little.”
“I am not your dear; I cannot lie down: send me to school soon, Mrs. Reed, for I hate to live here.”
“I will indeed send her to school soon,” murmured Mrs. Reed sotto voce; and gathering up her work, she abruptly quitted the apartment.
Mrs. Reed could have punished Jane or she could have not sent Jane to the school, but, no, Mrs. Reed retreated. Even though Jane was less powerful than Mrs. Reed, as Jane is a mere child and under the care of her aunt, Jane got away with saying those stinging words. Mrs. Reed’s power over her was subverted by the power of the truth. In this scene, the truth was more powerful than power.
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