Favorite Passages

Jane Eyre is a rich lode of cunning dialogue and descriptions. Charlotte Brontë's vivid language, unbounded sentence structures, and outpourings of fear and joy make it an endlessly fascinating story.

Here are some of my favorite gems from the collection. More will be added as time permits. (Also see other pages in this section of the site for my comments on specific aspects of the story.)

They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that could not sympathize with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing, opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation at their treatment, at contempt of their judgement.

– Jane, packing a page's worth of revelation and emotion into one extended sentence, in Chapter II

... I knew it was all over now, and, as I stooped to pick up the two fragments of slate, I rallied my forces for the worst. It came.

– Jane, correctly dreading what will happen [reminding me of  the modern "Series of Unfortunate Events" books], in Ch. VII

"Teachers, you must watch her; keep your eyes on her movements, weigh well her words, scrutinize her actions, punish her body to save her soul — if, indeed, such salvation be possible, for (my tongue falters while I tell it) this girl, this child, the native of a Christian land, worse than many a little heathen who says its prayers to Brahma and kneels before Juggernaut — this girl is — a liar!"

– Reverend Brocklehurst, embodying religious leaders' hypocrisy, overblown speech, and self-importance, in Ch. VII

... [T]his is not to be a regular autobiography: I am only bound to invoke memory where I know her responses will possess some degree of interest; therefore I now pass a space of eight years almost in silence: a few lines only are necessary to keep up the links of connection.

Jane, justifying skipping parts of her life story, in Ch. X

My first quarter at Lowood seemed an age; and not the golden age either …

– Jane, making an understatement, in Ch. X

"I had not, it seems, the originality to chalk out a new road to shame and destruction, but trode the old track with stupid exactness not to deviate an inch from the beaten centre."

– Mr. Rochester, regretting his past, in Ch. XV

Some of them were very tall; many were dressed in white; and all had a sweeping amplitude of array that seemed to magnify their persons as a mist magnifies the moon.

– Jane's first view of Rochester's high-society guests, in Ch. XVII

Her mind seemed wholly taken up with reminiscences of past gaiety, and aspirations after dissipations to come.

– Jane, on Georgiana's fantasy life, in Ch. XX

Sweet-briar and southernwood, jasmine, pink, and rose have long been yielding their evening sacrifice of incense: this new scent is neither of shrub nor flower; it is — I know it well — it is Mr. Rochester's cigar.

– Jane's attention moving from dreamy/flowery reveries to her love's arrival, in Ch. XXIII

"Her mother, the Creole, was both a madwoman and a drunkard! — as I found out after I had wed the daughter: for they were silent on family secrets before. Bertha, like a dutiful child, copied her parent in both points."

– Rochester, detailing his wife's ancestry to poor Jane, in Ch. XXVI

"This girl," he continued, looking at me, "knew no more than you, Wood, of the disgusting secret: she thought all was fair and legal and never dreamt she was going to be entrapped into a feigned union with a defrauded wretch, already bound to a bad, mad, and embruted partner!"

– Rochester, wallowing in negative verbiage, in Ch. XXVI

A Christmas frost had come at midsummer; a white December storm had whirled over June; ice glazed the ripe apples, drifts crushed the blowing roses; on hayfield and cornfield lay a frozen shroud: lanes which last night blushed full of flowers, to-day were pathless with untrodden snow; and the woods, which twelve hours since waved leafy and fragrant as groves between the tropics, now spread, waste, wild, and white as pine-forests in wintry Norway. My hopes were all dead — struck with a subtle doom, such as, in one night, fell on all the first-born in the land of Egypt. I looked on my cherished wishes, yesterday so blooming and glowing; they lay stark, chill, livid corpses that could never revive. I looked at my love: that feeling which was my master's — which he had created; it shivered in my heart, like a suffering child in a cold cradle; sickness and anguish had seized it; it could not seek Mr. Rochester's arms — it could not derive warmth from his breast. Oh, never more could it turn to him; for faith was blighted — confidence destroyed!

– Jane, gushing out a profusion of miseried hyperbole, in Ch. XXVI

I wanted to be weak that I might avoid the awful passage of further suffering I saw laid out for me; and Conscience, turned tyrant, held Passion by the throat, told her tauntingly, she had yet but dipped her dainty foot in the slough, and swore that with that arm of iron he would thrust her down to unsounded depths of agony.

– Jane, anthropomorphizing her motivating forces, in Ch. XXVII

"There is no folly so besotted that the idiotic rivalries of society, the prurience, the rashness, the blindness of youth, will not hurry a man to its commission."

– Rochester, ruing his earlier sins, in Ch. XXVII

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 rigour; stringent are they; inviolate they shall be.

– Jane, codifying her conscience, in Ch. XXVII

Nature seemed to me benign and good; I thought she loved me, outcast as I was; and I, who from man could anticipate only mistrust, rejection, insult, clung to her with filial fondness. To-night, at least, I would be her guest, as I was her child: my mother would lodge me without money and without price.

– Jane, loving the physical world, in Ch. XXVIII

It was as still as a church on a week-day ....

– Jane, perhaps serving as a voice for Bronte to jab at people who took religion lightly, in Ch. XXXVII

Reader, I married him.

– Jane, delivering the book's most renowned line, and breaking the "fourth wall" by addressing the book's reader, in Ch. XXXVIII

The housekeeper and her husband were both of that decent phlegmatic order of people, to whom one may at any time safely communicate a remarkable piece of news without incurring the danger of having one's ears pierced by some shrill ejaculation, and subsequently stunned by a torrent of wordy wonderment.

– Jane, emphasizing how highly she values restraint, in Ch. XXXVIII