Brontë’s Jane Eyre plumbs depths of emotion both in the child and woman, but there is also a certain wry humour. Here the tiny Jane, whose small body can barely contain her strong and uncrushable spirit, responds with astounding and refreshing logic, though clearly not as required by her persecutor.
This interrogation comes from the man who oversees the running of the orphanage to which she is being sent, and who believes that the more hardship you pile on a small body and young mind, the better for its soul.
‘Do you know where the wicked go after death?’
‘They go to hell,’ was my ready and orthodox answer.
‘And what is hell? can you tell me that?’
‘A pit full of fire.’
‘And should you like to fall into that pit, and to be burning there for ever?’
‘What must you do to avoid it?’
I deliberated a moment; my answer, when it did come, was objectionable: ‘I must keep in good health, and not die.’
Source: Charlotte Bronte, Jane Eyre (London: Bounty Books, 2012 (1847)), p. 36
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