by Charlotte Brontë
Jane Eyre Society and Class Quotes
How we cite our quotes: Citations follow this format: (Volume.Chapter.Paragraph)
Bessie answered not; but ere long, addressing me, she said,—
"You ought to be aware, Miss, that you are under obligations to Mrs. Reed: she keeps you: if she were to turn you off, you would have to go to the poor-house."
I had nothing to say to these words: they were not new to me: my very first recollections of existence included hints of the same kind. This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song in my ear; very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible. (1.2.14-16)
Jane’s early life includes constant reminders that she’s poor, that she’s alone, and that even her aunt and cousins consider her lower-class than they are because she won’t inherit any money. Thinking of herself as beneath others, even those in the same household with her, is a habit that she learns from the very beginning.
Poverty looks grim to grown people; still more so to children: they have not much idea of industrious, working, respectable poverty; they think of the world only as connected with ragged clothes, scanty food, fireless grates, rude manners, and debasing vices: poverty for me was synonymous with degradation. (1.3.63)
Jane would refuse to live with poor relatives, even if she had any and they were loving, because the Reeds have taught her that poverty is always accompanied by immorality and unpleasantness. It’s going to take Jane some time to realize that wealthy people can easily be just as degraded as poor ones—or more so.
"A new servitude! There is something in that," I soliloquized (mentally, be it understood; I did not talk aloud). "I know there is, because it does not sound too sweet; it is not like such words as Liberty, Excitement, Enjoyment: delightful sounds truly; but no more than sounds for me; and so hollow and fleeting that it is mere waste of time to listen to them. But Servitude! That must be matter of fact. Any one may serve: I have served here eight years; now all I want is to serve elsewhere." (1.10.13)
Jane’s keeping it real here: she knows that she can’t just up and leave Lowood and be the Queen of England tomorrow. (Besides, that job is taken, and Victoria’s not going anywhere.) Instead of wanting complete freedom from all responsibilities, she just wants new responsibilities. She’s accepted that she’s just a peon, and all she’s asking for is a change of scenery. So her new job really isn’t any kind of class or status change—just a transfer.