Thursday, January 10, 2008


A few weeks ago I finished reading a book called "A Thomas Jefferson Education". Everybody in the whole country ought to read this book. In this book, the author, Oliver Demille tries to sell the reader on studying the classic works of literature.
To those who enjoy reading but don't spend a lot of time on the classics; I encourage you, read them. They may be difficult to read. Keep going. I've abandoned classics myself that were difficult. But when I persevere, it is always worth it.
There were a couple of paragraphs in "A Thomas Jefferson Education" that allude to "Jane Eyre" by Charlotte Bronte, and how it is a valuable book for studying moral courage. I suddenly remembered my favorite quote in the whole book. I kept thinking about it. Then it was shown on Masterpiece Theatre on Sunday and I thought about that quote again. I decided I'd better write it down on my blog just to get it out of my head. Here it is, for anyone who has struggled to do the right thing (everyone).
First some background: Jane Eyre is hired as a governess in a wealthy man's home. She falls in love with this man and he with her. They decide to get married. At the last possible moment it is revealed that Mr. Rochester is already married (to a madwoman). Jane has decided that she must leave Thornfield Hall. Mr. Rochester begs her to move away with him and become his mistress. He uses every possible argument.
"...for you have neither relatives nor acquaintances whom you need fear to offend by living with me."
"This was true: and while he spoke my very conscience and reason turned traitors against me , and charged me with crime in resisting him. They spoke almost as loud as Feeling: and that clamoured wildly. 'Oh comply!' it said, 'think of his misery; think of his danger-look at his state when left alone; remember his headlong nature; consider the recklessness following on despair-soothe him; save him; love him; tell him you love him and will be his. Who in the world cares for you? or who will be injured by what you do?"
"Still indomitable was the reply- 'I care for myself. The more solitary, the more friendless, the more unsustained I am, the more I will respect myself. I will keep the law given by God; sanctioned by man. I will hold to the principles received by me when I was sane, and not mad-as I am now. 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. If at my individual convenience I might break them, what would be their worth? They have a worth-so I have always believed; and if I cannot believe it now, it is because I am insane-quite insane; with my veins running fire, and my heart beating faster than I can count its throbs. Preconceived opinions, foregone determinations, are all I have at this hour to stand by: there I plant my foot.' "
"I did. Mr. Rochester, reading my countenance, saw I had done so."

I try to remember this quote when I'm tempted to do something bad. It has saved me more than once. Isn't this the best argument there is for reading good books?


Anonymous said...

That is a great quote. What a great example of strength in the face of temptation... and love can tempt you to do almost anything.
I agree, great argument for reading. I am not quite there yet with the love of reading to go to the classics. But someday, I have that as a goal to read more great books.

Robin said...

Wow. There is a reason that classics are classics. They go beyond telling a nice story to actually teaching us something about human nature and about what brings happiness and what doesn't. I have a long list of classics that I mean to get around to reading or rereading. I found a copy of an AP English suggested reading list that has some good ones, and I've checked off all the ones I've read. Despite a BA in English, I've got a long way to go to finish that list! Here's the link, if any of you are interested:

Lindsay said...

I love that classics have morals. And I love Jane Eyre! I am not a classic book reader though, I'm the person that trys and reads several pages only to put the book down and say it's to hard! Guess I need to try a little harder.