How does St John Rivers compare to Rochester? Essay
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Jane Eyre is a novel written by Charlotte Bronte in 1847, it is written in the first-person narrative. The plot follows Jane Eyre through her life from a young age and through the novel the reader sees Jane maturing from a young girl into adulthood, Jane also goes through many emotions and experiences and the book touches on many themes for example love, social class and religion.
During the novel Jane encounters two important men and through these men has two proposals of marriage, one from Rochester whom she loves and the other from her cousin St John Rivers. The two men are portrayed very differently, as are their marriage proposals. This essay will compare and contrast St John Rivers and Edward Rochester.
Jane had a testing…show more content…
If he had been handsome Jane may have felt herself to be too simple and plain, she may have been embarrassed in his company. Jane had not spent much time with men in the course of her life, up until she was ten she lived with her cousin John Reed who bullied her. She then met Mr Brocklehurst who punished and embarrassed her at Lowood School. As Jane had never spent time in the company of a pleasant man she did not know how to act in the presence of one, Jane was more familiar with men who appear to have power over her, she goes to help Rochester without him asking and calls him sir, from this it appears she believes it is her duty to help him.
Jane describes St John Rivers in a very different light; her first description of him is a very pleasant one, one she defines as a gentle description. She discusses him as young, possibly twenty eight or thirty and of a tall and slender build; she claims his face is riveting to the eye, that he has a Greek face and a straight nose
‘His eyes were large and blue, with brown lashes; his high forehead, colourless as ivory, was partially streaked over by careless locks of fair hair.’ Chapter 29.
She believes that St John Rivers may be shocked by her plain looks as he was so handsome. Yet she is not shy of him, this could be due to her spending time in Rochester’s company. She has learnt how to be comfortable around men and other people, her self-esteem has grown through being with people who
St. John Rivers
The first thing to explain about St. John Rivers is how to pronounce his first name, "St. John." It’s not "Saint John," although of course that’s what it means; it’s pronounced "SIN-jun." Don’t ask us why this is; the English have this adorable accent.
He’s not actually a saint, either—it’s just a weird first name—although he does think that he’s one of the elect. (Also, while we’re talking about names, it might be worth thinking about Jane’s two different cousins named John: John Reed and St. John Rivers.)
High and Mighty
St. John may not have been officially canonized as a saint yet, but he’s pretty convinced that he’s close to it. After all, he’s done some serious mortifying of the flesh in order to sacrifice all his desires and become a missionary in India. Mostly, this makes sense; he just isn’t happy living calm, normal, domestic life. He has that drive that some people get to go out and prove themselves against strange challenges and unbearable odds.
But there is one thing he hasn’t been able to stop himself from wanting: Miss Rosamond Oliver, the local, wealthy beauty. She loves him, he loves her, her dad is okay with it—it should work out. And St. John basically turns into Jell-O every time he sees her. He thinks, though, that she’d be a bad missionary wife, and so he refuses to let himself act on his feelings for her. Giving up the missionary-in-India project just isn’t possible:
"It is strange," pursued he, "that while I love Rosamond Oliver so wildly—with all the intensity, indeed, of a first passion, the object of which is exquisitely beautiful, graceful, fascinating—I experience at the same time a calm, unwarped consciousness that she would not make me a good wife; that she is not the partner suited to me; that I should discover this within a year after marriage; and that to twelve months’ rapture would succeed a lifetime of regret. This I know." (3.6.45)
Ugh. Someone should tell this guy that love conquers all.
Iceberg, Dead Ahead!
Apart from this one passion, St. John is "hard and cold," he’s "frozen over," he’s "cold as an iceberg." He may be handsome, blonde, and blue-eyed, but he might as well be "no longer flesh, but marble"—like some kind of Greek statue of Apollo. When he proposes to Jane, whom he thinks would make a great missionary wife, she’s appalled by the idea that he would marry someone he doesn’t love. She also knows that he’d even force himself to have sex with her, because that’s what husbands and wives do, despite not having any warm feelings for her. Jane finds the whole thing disgusting, and so do we.
The strange thing about St. John is that he might at first seem like an obsessive-compulsive, cold-blooded freak, but actually he is what Jane’s been trying to become: someone who makes relationship decisions based only on logic and practicality. Once Jane realizes that he’s the natural end-point of that philosophy, she goes running back to her true love, Rochester, as fast as she can—Bertha or no Bertha.
Remember, Jane Eyre ends with St. John Rivers; he’s the last character we think about, alone out there in India, missionary-ing and stuff. There tends to be a lot of emphasis on endings in literature, so that’s probably important. (See "What’s Up With the Ending?" for details.)