by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre Morality and Ethics Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Volume.Chapter.Paragraph)
"If people were always kind and obedient to those who are cruel and unjust, the wicked people would have it all their own way: they would never feel afraid, and so they would never alter, but would grow worse and worse. When we are struck at without a reason, we should strike back again very hard; I am sure we should—so hard as to teach the person who struck us never to do it again. […] I must dislike those who, whatever I do to please them, persist in disliking me; I must resist those who punish me unjustly. It is as natural as that I should love those who show me affection, or submit to punishment when I feel it is deserved." (1.6.50, 52)
Here Jane is responding to Helen Burns, who argues that you should "return good for evil," "turn the other cheek," "love your enemies," and all that sort of good Christian forgiveness stuff.
Jane (remember she’s only ten at this point) can’t quite agree with this; she doesn’t see any reason to "bless them that curse you," because then they’ll get away with it! Jane’s childhood ideas of justice are strict and exact—more like the Old Testament "eye for an eye" laws of retaliation than Helen’s New Testament charity. It’ll be interesting to see whether Jane’s ideas change over time and, if so, exactly how.
"If all the world hated you, and believed you wicked, while your own conscience approved you, and absolved you from guilt, you would not be without friends."
"No: I know I should think well of myself; but that is not enough: if others don’t love me, I would rather die than live—I cannot bear to be solitary and hated, Helen." (1.8.11-12)
Jane’s convinced that she wouldn’t be able to stick to her moral guns (so to speak) if doing so meant that she was alone and friendless. Wouldn’t it be so weird if that was exactly what she had to learn to do by the end of the novel?
"Nature meant me to be, on the whole, a good man, Miss Eyre: one of the better end; and you see I am not so. […] Then take my word for it,—I am not a villain: you are not to suppose that—not to attribute to me any such bad eminence; but, owing, I verily believe, rather to circumstances than to my natural bent, I am a trite common-place sinner, hackneyed in all the poor petty dissipations with which the rich and worthless try to put on life." (1.14.61)
Before Jane even really knows Rochester, he’s claiming he’s really not that bad a guy. We think the gentleman doth protest too much.