Jane Eyre By Charlotte Brontë Summary and Analysis Chapter 35

Summary

Rather than leaving for Cambridge the next day, St. John delays his trip for a week. During that time, he subtly punishes Jane for not obeying him. Remembering that he once saved her life, Jane tries to reconcile with him, asking him to treat her as a kinswoman, rather than a stranger. She tells him she retains her resolution not to marry him, and adds that he is literally killing her with his icy chill. But her words don't help; instead, they make him hate her. St. John accuses her of breaking her promise of going to India, and Jane invokes the reader's memory, asking us to confirm that she never gave him a formal promise. Before going to India, Jane wants to be certain she couldn't be of greater use in England. St. John recognizes that she refers to Rochester, and tells her she should crush this "lawless and unconsecrated" attachment. He then leaves for a walk.

Recognizing that St. John and Jane have quarreled, Diana discusses the situation with Jane. Diana doesn't think Jane would live three months in India, and urges her to reject St. John's proposal. Like Jane, Diana feels it would be crazy for Jane to chain herself to a man who sees her as nothing but a useful tool. Following dinner that evening, St. John prays for Jane and she feels veneration for his talent and oratorical powers. At this moment, Jane is tempted to yield to his influences and marry him. All the house is quiet, except for St. John and Jane. Suddenly, she feels an electric shock pass through her body, and the words, "Jane! Jane! Jane!" repeated in Rochester's voice. For Jane, this is not superstition, but nature, saving her from a grave error. Now she is able to resist St. John's power.

Analysis

Notice that the imagery in this chapter continues to develop St. John's inhumanity: he is "no longer flesh, but marble"; his eye is "a cold, bright, blue gem"; and his heart seems made of "stone or metal." For Jane, his coldness is more terrible that Rochester's raging; she asks if her readers know the "terror those cold people can put into the ice of their questions? how much of the fall of the avalanche is in their anger? of the breaking up of the frozen sea in their displeasure?" St. John is associated with falling avalanches and the breaking up of frozen seas, natural events that are unpredictable and uncontrollable. Despite St. John's obvious flaws, Diana and Jane continually remind the reader that he is a "good man." This goodness isn't obvious in Jane's depiction of him. For a twenty-first-century reader, even his missionary zeal is morally suspect, because it shows his participation in the colonialist project, which resulted in violence and the violation of native peoples. The goal of this project was to represent native peoples as "savages," in need of British guidance and enlightenment. St. John's coldheartedness suggests the brutality and self-serving function of colonialism. Jane claims St. John "forgets, pitilessly, the feelings and claims of little people, in pursuing his own large views": imagine the damage he will inflict on any native people who resist him; like Jane, they will be "blighted" by his merciless egotism.

Yet Jane is drawn to this merciless man, as if she wants to lose herself. By the end of the chapter, she is tempted to stop struggling with him, and "rush down the torrent of his will into the gulf of his existence, and there lose my own." She is saved, not by her own powers, but by the supernatural. A major change in Jane's life is once again signaled by a psychic event. As she is about to accept St. John's wishes, Jane experiences a sensation as "sharp, as strange, as shocking" as an electric shock. Then she hears Rochester's voice calling her name. So powerful is this voice that Jane cries, "I am coming," and runs out the door into the garden, but she discovers no sign of Rochester. She rejects the notion that this is the devilish voice of witchcraft, but feels it comes from benevolent nature, not a miracle, but nature's best effort to help her — the "universal mother" nurtures Jane again. As during her dark night on the heath, Jane feels the solace of a comforting nature helping and guiding her. She gathers enough force and energy to finally assert her independence from St. John: It is her time to "assume ascendancy." Following this experience, Jane returns to her room to pray in her own way, a way that's different from St. John's, but effective. Jane has already rejected St. John's approach to love, and now she also rejects his way of spirituality. While St. John maintains distance from God, who is always his superior, Jane penetrates "very near a Mighty Spirit; and my soul rushed out in gratitude at His feel" — this spirit, not necessarily the Christian God, provides her with the comfort and peace that St. John never feels.

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