Meeting Jane – part 1
Age 14 was the year I came to a turning point in my reading life. I had been consuming library books voraciously until I came across Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë. This 19th-century British novel gave me such an impact that I could no longer read anything else after.
As I contemplate the experience now, I believe what happened was that not only did I resonate with Jane’s anger, but I also wished to become her.
Jane spent her childhood in a household where she was abused emotionally by her aunt Mrs. Reed and physically by her male cousin. Her aunt sounded like Miss Kawano, and the cousin like anyone of my male classmates. Unlike myself, however, Jane hit back her abuser cousin, calling him “cruel boy!” And she responded to the condescending clergyman’s question of how to avoid hell, “I must keep in good health, and not die.” How brilliant. Her self-defense based on firm conviction was deemed as impertinence, and she got sent to an institution run by the clergyman, which turned out to be as hellish as hell. But she didn’t let her aunt get off easy, either. Jane told her aunt the truth that she was “bad, hard-hearted” and “deceitful.”
Jane made me feel good by telling her truth, and I wished to have done so myself on many occasions, in which I was dismissed, lectured, and silenced.