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During my freshman year of high school, I fell in love.
My English teacher assigned Jane Eyre as our last reading of the year. Great, I thought, another pretentious novel about 19th century English society that the BBC adapts for television every five years. The book began negatively with abused children, draconian boarding schools, and tuberculosis. And then Edward Rochester fell off his horse and everything changed. He was tall, brooding, and a bit of a snob. He was also flirtatious, delightfully witty, and had an endearing soft streak that emerged only in rare vulnerable moments. From the moment he fell off of his horse, I knew. He was the love of my life.
Perhaps it was the way he rode around the English moors like a king. Maybe it was how he bossed Jane around with a playful tone in his voice. It could have been that although he was described as ugly, I could tell he would have been stunning. Nothing ceased my passion for him. When I learned he had been harboring his insane wife in the attic, I justified it by arguing that he was saving her from the ruthless asylums of the day. When he tragically lost his sight and his hand, I reassured myself that he was still beautiful on the inside.
As the chapters continued, I began to understand that Mr. Rochester wasn’t the only thing I loved about Jane Eyre. I loved the symbolism of the color red and the hints of feminism embedded in Jane’s character, making the book even more meaningful and relevant. After reading Jane Eyre, I would see symbolism everywhere, not only in books but also in movies, art, even in real life. I began to look forward to English classes every day. As I continued into sophomore, junior, and eventually senior English classes, I became completely faithful to the English subject and the written word. For eighty minutes I could escape the modern world and plot a murder with Macbeth, or raft down the Mississippi with Huckleberry Finn. In English class I could travel to any place or any time, and just thinking about where I could go next was the best part!
As a thinker, I was maturing, and as a writer, I was improving. I started to wonder if I could ever create something so magical or touch somebody’s life like Charlotte Brontë had touched mine. As a junior I enrolled in a creative writing class, and the story-telling time-traveler inside of me was finally introduced in my work. I wasn’t just Brooke Thomas: student. I was Brooke Thomas: Novelist, Poet, Playwright, Time-traveler, and Philosopher. My computer screen is covered with thumbnails of short stories, poems, plays, and even little bits of wisdom. Some are great; some deserve the trashcan. But I can’t seem to get rid of them because each little piece of writing has a part of me in it.
Every writer I look up to, like Ken Follett or Kate Chopin, puts parts of their own experiences and personalities in their stories. The fact that I do the same thing has only nourished my passion for writing. As I reflect on my freshman year, I can’t remember why I thought Mr. Rochester was so “dreamy”. But my crush on this fictional character sparked the discovery of my love for literature and its personal importance. I now know that the written word, not Edward Rochester, is the true love of my life.
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