Character Analysis St. John Rivers


While Rochester is a prototype of the fiery, passionate man, St. John Rivers is his opposite: cold, hard-hearted, and repressed. His handsome appearance indicates moral and intellectual superiority — he has "a straight, classic nose; quite an Athenian mouth and chin" — and contrasts with Rochester's more rugged features. Although St. John initially appears perfect, Jane soon detects a restlessness or hardness under his seemingly placid features; he is "no longer flesh, but marble" and his heart seems made of "stone or metal." His reserve and brooding suggest a troubled nature, and his zealous Christianity offers him neither serenity nor solace. St. John's feelings about Christianity are revealed in his sermons, which have a "strictly restrained zeal" that shows his bitterness and hardness. While Rochester vents his passions, St. John represses his. The iciness of St. John's character is most pronounced in his relationship with Rosamond Oliver. Although he "flushes" and "kindles" at the sight of her, St. John would rather turn himself into "an automaton" than succumb to Rosamond's beauty or fortune. His ambition cuts St. John off from all deep human emotions. For Jane, this coldness is more terrible than Rochester's raging; she asks if readers know the "terror those cold people can put into the ice of their questions"?

Not content with his humble local ministry, St. John would like to have been a politician, a poet, or anything that could have offered him glory, fame, and power. His solution is to become a missionary, a position that will require all of these skills. The weakness of his supposed Christianity is his lack of compassion for or interest in the people he is supposedly helping. For him, missionary work isn't about joy, but a form of "warfare" against the prejudices of the natives, just as he "wars" against Jane's rejection of his marriage proposal. Instead of asking her to help him in a mission of love in India, St. John "enlists" Jane to join his band of Christian mercenaries. He wants a wife he can "influence efficiently" and "retain absolutely," rather than someone he loves. Marriage to St. John would traumatically erase Jane's identity and douse her passions for life. St. John achieves his goal and conducts a "warrior-march trample" through India, ultimately dying young following ten hard years of missionary work.