No matter how much you unconditionally love your other half, there are often times where you disagree on something and it escalates. So, you turn to a friend or online source for it all to make sense. It’s the natural order of things. However, all too often modern day relationship advice just doesn’t make the cut and so, I find myself coming back to some of Literature’s fiercest Heroines and Authors.
Take Charlotte Brontë’s protagonist Jane Eyre (1847) for example. Though, in this classic novel, and film and adaptations, Brontë creates her character as someone who is plain and simple, in terms of description; but, if you delve deeper into her personality and outlook on life – and in this argument the affairs of relationships – she’s quite possibly one of English Literature’s most fiery, do I dare say ‘sassy’? of characters. I mean, she literally takes no shit from Rochester. Given the fact that he is first of all pretty much her boss, (Jane being his daughter’s Governess). Also, not to mention the twenty year age gap between the couple! Take these quotations from the novel.
Exhibit A: “I do not think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have…”
Exhibit B: “Do you think, because I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think wrong!”
I mean, I could go on… Brontë presents Jane as someone who gives zero fucks about wishing to please some guy and more about her own independence and integrity (Talk about 19th Century Feminism, or what?) Despite their differences, however; Jane and Rochester fall deeply in love with one another (“Reader, I married him.”)
Not just one, but all of the Brontë sisters (Charlotte, Emily and Anne) have been a great help when it comes to relationship ‘advice’. To this day, I have personal notes pencilled in at the margins of copies of Jane Eyre and Withering Heights, which I still return to if. It’s almost as if they’re secretly whispering, between the lines, “Hey, we totally get it, boys suck!” I feel as though these women are my long lost best friends, someone to turn to for help, and have no one judge you, with help readily available in the form of paper bound together. They have become a form of self-help.
In Jane Austen’s novel Pride & Prejudice (1813) let’s face it, Darcy is a total bellend (to begin with) flirting with women through bluntness, and shutting them down (How this works is beyond me? People of the internet, please enlighten me?) He is enigmatic and fucking brutal:
Exhibit A: “She is tolerable, but not handsome enough to tempt me, and I am in no humour at present to give consequence to young ladies who are slighted by other men.”
Exhibit B: “You either choose this method of passing the evening because you are in each other’s confidence, and have secret affairs to discuss, or because you are conscious that your figures appear to the greatest advantage in walking; if the first, I would be completely in your way, and if the second, I can admire you much better as I sit by the fire.”
On the contrary, Lizzy Bennet, Austen’s female protagonist, is just as much as fiery in the tongue as Fitzwilliam Darcy. Lizzy Bennett is a character I come back to, time and time again – for not necessarily advice – I guess more a reminder, from Austen, to take a stance and stand up to myself sometimes (For example: “I could easily forgive his pride, if he had not mortified mine.”) I would turn to Austen about my crushes in my pre-teen years, and when I was still single. She has always there for me, even through the pages of a (near) two hundred-year-old book.
So, why do I keep going back to these authors? They have loved people and had their hearts broken. They have turned these encounters into their stories, and have publicly poured out their hearts on paper. Through these novels, I have learnt that sometimes relationships aren’t perfect, and people do argue and that’s perfectly okay.