This post contains spoilers through chapter 34 of Jane Eyre.
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From Gateshead to Lowood; from Lowood to Thornfield; from Thornfield to Moor House. Which setting have you enjoyed most so far? DISCUSS. Moor House seems the best to me, but I think it’s because I love hearing about Diana, Mary, and Jane just chilling and studying. Of the four, I think Moor House is the closest to House Introvert.
I am less familiar with this section than the others….I’m usually tempted to skim over it, I’m sorry to say. There’s a lot going on, but I think the primary plot of this section of the book is the Mystery of St. John Rivers. Jane is immediately driven to figure him out, but it takes her a while, even with all of her observation and talent for drawing people out in conversation.
We get a good working knowledge of the three Rivers siblings in this chapter; in a nutshell, Diana is strong-willed and openhearted; Mary is gentle and affectionate; St. John is brooding and industrious.
Jane’s attitude toward St. John is an evolving thing but she respects and admires him from early on because of his kindness and charity, but even she notices that “I was sure St. John Rivers-pure-lived, conscientious, zealous as he was- had not yet found that peace of God which passeth all understanding.” St. John is not comfortable; or he does not allow himself to be comfortable.
Jane also comments on St. John’s “Calvinistic doctrines”: if you’re unfamiliar with Calvinism, here’s a brief summary of the theology and you can read up on it here, but a big defining point for them is the concept of predestination or unconditional election: God has already chosen those “elect” who will be saved, so freewill gets pretty complicated and difficult. St. John Rivers’s Calvinism makes it easier for him to categorize or dismiss people, based on whether he believes they’ve been chosen by God for greater things.
Diana says that St. John “looks quiet, Jane; but he hides a fever in his vitals. You would think him gentle, yet in some things he is inexorable as death.” Of course, we see where Jane realizes how true this is in a later chapter.
Which Moor House sibling do you relate to the most? Why? DISCUSS. The Rivers are landed gentry from an old family, but they’ve become poor. How do you think this has influenced their personalities? What does it say about them that they’ve each chosen to work, rather than try to marry money or find their rich relative and reconcile? DISCUSS.
Jane becomes a teacher to a tiny school full of poor farmer kids. The narration, Jane, and St. John all make a big deal about how low of a position it is, but wouldn’t it be similar to Jane’s experiences at Lowood? Lowood is full of poor children, especially orphans, but they have sponsors. So I suppose it’s a class difference.
Anyway, I like how Jane recognizes her own bad attitude but fights against it: “I was weakly dismayed at the ignorance, the poverty, the coarseness of all I heard and saw round me….I know [these feelings] to be wrong…..I shall strive to overcome them.” Even beyond adjusting to her new situation, Jane is constantly comparing it to what she could have with Rochester. She concludes she would rather be poor and have some self-respect than be rich and feel like a terrible person. DISCUSS, HAHA.
If you follow me on Twitter you know that St. John has been driving me absolutely crazy. It’s not that he’s a terrible person, it’s mostly that he so rigid, and so particularly demanding of Jane. Jane gets to work at the school, doesn’t complain, does a good job, and he’s like “HI JANE DO YOU REGRET YOUR CHOICES YET?” His allusion to Lot’s wife particularly irritates me – Lot’s wife is popularly used as an example of a person who obeys God, but does so with doubts or regrets. The biblical figure is turned into a pillar of salt as a result. First of all, St. John, calm down with your sexist biblical references; second, Jane is doing a great job! WHY SO CRITICAL?
I don’t know, do I need to calm down? AM I OVERSENSITIVE? Discuss hahaha.
Meanwhile, we meet Miss Oliver, and observe the embarrassing crush she and St. John have on each other. I like Jane’s comparison between Miss Oliver and Adele; I would take it a step further and point out that Mr. Rochester underestimates and devalues Adele in the same way St. John underestimates and devalues Miss Oliver, in spite of how much he likes her.
Jane is doing a great job at her school. I would love more story at her school than we get, though. What are her pupils names? Which are her favorites, and what are they like? DO THEY HANG OUT? DO THEY HAVE MOOR ADVENTURES? I need these things. I love that Jane learns to appreciate them each as individuals, rather than dismissing all of the girls as tolerable but still a single mass of poverty. It’s also cool how Jane befriends their parents, and treats them like actual people with “a consideration-a scrupulous regard to their feelings- to which they were not, perhaps, at all times accustomed.” Treating people with basic human decency is always a good plan and as Jane learns, it usually encourages people to act like decent humans in return.
Meanwhile, Jane observes Extreme Thirst between Miss Oliver and St. John, even though “he could not-he would not-renounce his wild field of mission for the parlours and peace of Vale Hall.” Question: Do you ship Miss Oliver and St. John? I definitely do not. I think she’s better off without him. However, as we’ve already established, I’m really irritated by and biased against St. John. Miss Oliver seems like a nice girl.
St. John brings Jane a new poem that is described “one of those genuine productions so often vouchsafed to the fortunate public of those days-the golden age of modern literature” which is named as Marmion, a poem by Sir Walter Scott and published in 1808. You can read the poem here. It just goes to show that no matter what great literature is being published at present, we always think of the older classics as the golden age.
I adore the scene where Jane calls St. John out on his feelings for Miss Oliver. He’s not used to anyone talking to him that way, much less her, and I think it’s good for him. Besides which, it’s hilarious to see his consternation. The weirdest bit is when he sets his pocket-watch to limit his time that he allows himself for thinking about or talking about his feelings. Yikes. I’m not saying St. John needs Jesus but….
“Again, the surprised expression crossed his face. He had not imagined that a woman would dare to speak so to a man. For me, I felt at home in this sort of discourse. I could never rest in communication with strong, discreet, and refined minds, whether male or female, till I had passed the outworks of conventional reserve, and crossed the threshold of confidence, and won a place by their heart’s very hearthstone.”
Salty Jane is back! It feels like we haven’t seen her since Thornfield, although we saw glimmers of her old attitude in her parley with Hannah at Moor House.
Do you think St. John’s principled devotion is a good characteristic, or a dangerous extreme? Is it sometimes one or the other? DISCUSS.
So here we find out important things: 1, Jane is hella rich thanks to her uncle; 2, Jane HAS FAM!
Jane, at least, knows that suddenly coming into money doesn’t mean her problems are solved: “One does not jump, and spring, and shout hurrah! at hearing one has got a fortune, one begins to consider responsibilities.” In typical Jane fashion, she is immediately concerned with what the proper thing to do with the money is, rather than emote and then plan.
Other characters have commented on Jane’s Serious Face, notably Mrs. Reed who felt judged, and Mr. Rochester who called it “sphynx-like.” Here, St. John compares her to the famous Gorgon: “You unbend your forehead at last. I thought Medusa had looked at you, and that you were turning to stone.” Just because Jane knows how to control her emotions doesn’t mean y’all should get to judge her.
My favorite moment in this chapter:
“But I apprised you that I was a hard man,” said he; “difficult to persuade.”
“And I am a hard woman, – impossible to put off.”
JANE EYRE IN A NUTSHELL.
If anyone deserves to win the inheritance lottery, it’s Jane Eyre. I’m not even mad that it is extremely convenient for the plot – SHE DESERVES IT, OKAY, FIGHT ME. The coincidence that her uncle is also the Rivers’ uncle, and that she turns out to be related to the family that took her in when she was starving, doesn’t bother me, either. It’S FATE IT’S PROVIDENCE, GOD WILLS THEM TO BE TOGETHER BECAUSE JANE NEEDS A FAMILY.
Okay I really need to calm down. I’ve lasted 600 pages, I can find my chill again. Can’t I? Can’t I?
But Jane is so HAPPY to find out she has family! I could cry. I like how St. John calls her Medusa because she isn’t emoting, but then when she DOES emote and decides to share her money with her new cousins, he’s all like “hey now, wait, don’t be so emotional about this, think about your choices.” Ugh. That guy.
“And you,” [Jane] interrupted, “cannot at all imagine the craving I have for fraternal and sisterly love. I never had a home, I never had brother or sisters; I must and will have them now.”
DISCUSS – is there too many coincidences and conveniences here to satisfy you? Or is it just another sign of a well-crafted story? Or is it convenient but HONEY BADGER JUST DON’T CARE?
“I trust that when the first flush of vivacity is over, you will look a little higher than domestic endearments and household joys.”
“The best things the world has!”
Do you agree with Jane or St. John here? Or neither? I personally think it’s a false dichotomy. DISCUSS.
Remember that one time when Jane got something happy for once, and St. John immediately tries to put limits on it?
Remember that one time Jane shared how happy she was to have siblings, and her new brother immediately starts planning to make her his wife instead?
I hate how St. John manipulates her affection so that Jane will do whatever he wants and try to earn his admiration.
I hate how St. John admits that Jane isn’t fully committed to God since she won’t marry St. John.
I hate how he pushes and pulls her constantly, using his religiosity as a weapon and as an argument. YOU NEED JESUS, ST. JOHN.
I hate this chapter so much. Please, someone, share something good about it.
I mean, at least Jane sticks to her guns and doesn’t give in. Of course, St. John is a complete sulky brat about it immediately afterwards. I like that Jane is finally able to see St. John clearly, and while he does have some very good, noble qualities, they’re drowned by his single-minded, ambitious ruthlessness.
I know Rochester has his problems, but which of these guys is worse is hard to say at this point. Am I being too harsh? DISCUSS.