Tonight, keep reading… if you haven’t watched the movies yet… flip back through the postings and take a few moments to view the videos. There is a quiz posted… you will need to make a list of detailed facts about the Rivers family and Jane’s stay at Marsh End.
And, now… here is our question for the evening. The every popular literary blog, “But, I Digress…” states this about Mr. Rochester and St. John:
St. John is perhaps either John the Baptist (which would make a bit of sense, a martyr and an ascetic) or John from the gospels (the disciple Jesus loved). The first John, in considering the temperament of St. John Rivers, makes the most obvious sense. St. John Rivers has long been acknowledged as cold, calculating, exacting, ambitious, stoic, severe, etc, and does make himself and his passions martyrs to his religious zeal. On the other hand, we know he has a passionate side from his love for Rosamonde Oliver – albeit an unacknowledged and smothered passion. In this he might be more like the apostle John in a way – he does love. He can love passionately, but he consciously subdues his love to his greater love, which is sometimes difficult to dissect or understand. Does St. John love God with so much cold and fiery passion? Or is it really himself, his own pride of martyrdom, the kind of craze that drives some ascetics to starve themselves or live on top of pillars for years, the kind of passion that is really ambition, that is on the borderline of being pharisaical? I’ve read Jane Eyre many times over the years, and I still can’t figure St. John out. Jane finds him frightening. I think he’s fascinating.And on the other hand, of course, we have Jane’s choice, Mr. Rochester. Mr. Rochester is as equally brusque as St. John and as practical and unsparing of the feelings of others. He is also, we might argue, as prideful and ambitious. The main distinctions most people seem to make between Jane’s two suitors is that St. John is holy, cold, and antiseptic while Rochester is a sinner, warm-hearted if tough. As he says of his own heart, it is like an India rubber ball that is very tough, but that can change back with the right encouragement. St. John, on the other hand, is inflexible, like steel.Some critics that I have read have presented the difference between the two as the natural dichotomy of a religious tale – Heaven rejoices more for a repentant sinner than a peerless saint, so Jane, a missionary in her own right, chooses the sinner rather than the saint. Well, that makes sense in a way, I suppose.Jane’s greatest strength is remaining true to herself by learning how to control herself. Rochester can’t (or won’t) control his feelings, and St. John has so much control that he daily murders his feelings. I think Jane is the stair step between them, rather than simply the spoke. Jane has the potential to become Rochester or St. John. She could give in to her passions as she did when she was younger (that was for justice’s sake) and the even more powerful motivator of love is very convincing. But she doesn’t. She can sacrifice. She already even has a bit of a taste for self-mortification. She and St. John could be a pretty pair of masochists. She could spend her life in achieving something she already knows is impossible. She’s already skilled in self-deprivation.But she doesn’t. But the only reason she doesn’t is because of a miracle. For Jane, the right answer is to go with St. John and become the next thing – to bury that passionate part of her once and for all and realize that she really is formed for labor, not love. It’s only though a miracle that she doesn’t go down this road.