Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapter 34

Summary

Christmas has arrived and Jane is closing the Morton school. She is happy to discover that she is beloved by the girls and promises to visit the school for an hour each week. St. John asks Jane if she wouldn't like to dedicate her life to working with the poor, but she wants to enjoy herself, as well as cultivating others. Jane sets off for Moor House to prepare for the arrival of Diana and Mary.

St. John shows a disappointing lack of interest in the renovations Jane has done at Moor House, but Diana and Mary ungrudgingly appreciate Jane's hard work. The women spend the week in "merry domestic dissipation," a pleasure St. John can't enjoy. He tells them Rosamond Oliver is to be married to a Mr. Granby, but the news doesn't seem to upset him. To Jane, St. John seems more distant than before they knew they were cousins.

One day when Jane sits home with a cold, St. John suddenly asks her to give up German lessons and learn Hindustani, the language he is studying in preparation for his missionary work. Slowly, St. John takes more control over Jane, sucking away her freedom; she doesn't enjoy her new servitude. She is also stricken with sadness, because she is unable to discover what has happened to Rochester since she left him. Then St. John surprises her. In six weeks, St. John will leave for India, and he wants Jane to accompany him, as his wife. If she goes to India, Jane knows she'll die prematurely, but she agrees to go anyway — if she can go as his sister, not his wife, because they don't love each other as husband and wife should. St. John insists on the marriage. After much discussion, they are unable to overcome the obstacle of the marriage issue, so St. John asks Jane to think about his proposal for a couple of weeks. He warns her that rejecting his proposal means rejecting God.

Analysis

St. John's absolute, God-sanctioned despotism becomes apparent in this chapter. Just as Brocklehurst was a "black pillar," St. John is "a white stone" and a "cold cumbrous column"; Brocklehurst was evil and St. John is good, but both men are equally stony. Even St. John's kisses are "marble" or "ice" kisses: No warmth or affection warms them.

St. John's God is an infallible, warrior deity: king, captain, and lawgiver. Similarly, Jane says she would accompany St. John as "comrade" or "fellow-soldier." He uses imagery of war to describe his devotion to this God: He will "enlist" under the Christian "banner," Jane says he prizes her like a soldier would an effective weapon, under God's "standard" St. John "enlists" Jane, and she should "wrench" her heart from humanity to fix it upon God. All of these quotes suggest the violence and severity that underlies St. John's views of Christianity. Like Helen Burns, he has his eyes turned on heaven, but while her spirituality emphasized a martyred compassion, his makes God into a warrior tyrant who demands absolute submission. While Helen sought solace in heaven to compensate for her unhappy life on earth, St. John seeks glory in heaven to make up for his obscurity on earth.

The representation of marriage in this chapter suggests its inherently oppressive nature. St. John argues that a wife would be "the sole helpmeet I can influence efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till death"; thus, he wants a wife he can control completely. Jane recognizes the imperialism in his statement. As his "curate" or "comrade," Jane could preserve her "unblighted" self, but as his wife, she would become "part of" him and, therefore, "always restrained," her flame "imprisoned," perhaps leading to the madness that afflicts Bertha Mason. As husband, St. John would invade the private places in her mind, trample her with his "warrior-march," ultimately erasing her identity and dousing her passions for life. Rather than resisting like the madwoman in the attic, Jane would become a mere husk. Both Rochester and St. John value Jane for her seeming submissiveness, thinking they can shape her into their ideal versions of woman, but her strength surprises them both.

Glossary

paysannes peasant women.

Bäuerinnen peasant women.

beau ideal the perfect type.

carte blanche complete authority.

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