Sunday, November 09, 2014

Jane Eyre Read-along: Week 8

Welcome to the eighth week of 
the 2014 Jane Eyre Read-Along,
brought to you by

Introduction:  "I liked to read what they liked to read:"

In this week's reading Jane is taken in by St. John Rivers and his sisters, Diana and Mary.  They nurse Jane back to health after her journey on which she comes near starvation.  These residents of Moor House, especially the sisters, seem to be a perfect match for our dear forlorn Jane:

"The more I knew of the inmates of Moor House, the better I liked them. . . . I could join with Diana and Mary in all their occupations;  converse with them as much as they wished . . . I liked to read what they liked to read:  what they enjoyed, delighted me;  what they approved I reverenced."

This Week's Discussion Questions  
for  Chapters 29 - 33

St. John Rivers makes the following very blunt statement about Jane, in Chapter 29: "Ill or well, she would always be plain. The grace and harmony of beauty are quite wanting in those features." What does this tell you about him, especially in light of subsequent chapters?

I believe he is being honest in his assessment of her features.  He has little reason not to be so and his knowledge of their relation has not yet developed.  One may suspect that he is predisposed to overlook the true inner beauty of Jane given his dedication to the ministry and his intention to become a missionary, especially considering his later ability to overcome his passion for Rosamund Oliver and reject her.

Do you think the fact that St. John and his sisters turn out to be Jane's cousins much too coincidental?

It certainly is coincidental, but I would not consider it too coincidental.  The nature of this novel almost requires coincidences.  I am not too concerned about this coincidence above others.

Why does Bronte give Jane three more cousins, and precisely two females and one male, as with her Gateshead cousins?

Well, speaking of coincidences, it makes it rather easy for sharing her inheritance between them equally while leaving each relatively generously provided for.  

Why do you think Jane tries to convince St. John to marry Rosamond, and give up his dream of becoming a missionary?

Perhaps this is the romantic side of Jane.  She has lost her own chance with the dashing Edward Rochester and this is a way for her to see someone she respects have a life like the one she lost.  I do not believe that she appreciates the sincerity of St.John's desire to become a missionary.  However, I also find this surprising because Jane seems to find some satisfaction in teaching and mentoring as a governess.

Do you think the fact that Jane is now an heiress something that seems too 'providential', and thus, not realistic and believable?

Again, more coincidences as the providential side of nature raises its benevolent hand.  A change resulting from her distant relative was hinted, if not foreshadowed, earlier in the story when she found out she had an Uncle of whom she was previously unaware.  That this connection should prove to change her life for the better is no more unbelievable than the cruelty of Mrs. Reed in the opening chapters of her story.  I do not read this novel as an example of realism, but rather as a Gothic Romance.

Bronte dedicates many pages to describing St. John's personality. Why do you think she does this? 

St. John is developed as a representative of reason providing an alternative to the irrational Bertha at Thornfield Hall.  While he is described as brooding he also demonstrates a "mental serenity" and "abstracted nature".  Jane is puzzled by his countenance, but I attribute that at least somewhat to her more romantic notions of life.  The contrast is greatest in St. John's evaluation of his feelings about Rosamund when he says, "I experience at the same time a calm, unwarped consciousness that she would not make me a good wife".   St. John's passion is devoted to helping people and in this he also provides a valuable model for Jane whose previous encounters with men (Brocklehurst and Rochester) have proven to be neither supportive nor worthwhile.


Brian Joseph said...

Your assessment of St John Rivers is interesting and enlightening. I never thought of him being the opposite of Bertha. In retrospect this seems to me true. He exudes mental serenity.

I completely agree that coincidences work in this novel. They fit neatly into the nature of the story.

Maria Behar said...

I totally agree with Brian regarding your assessment of St. John Rivers. I especially like your observation that Rivers is a rational counterpoint to the irrationality of Bertha Mason. Indeed, Rivers becomes a very important character in this part of the novel. Bronte concentrates on him her, just as she did on Rochester in the middle section.

Thanks for your thoughts!! : )

James said...


Thanks for your comment. It seems we agree about coincidences and the "mental serenity" of St John Rivers.

James said...


Thanks for your observation about the importance of St John Rivers. The fortunate meeting with him and his sisters really saved the day for a very distraught Jane.