Summary and Analysis
After a few days, Jane has recovered her health enough to sit up and walk outdoors. Her conversations with Diana and Mary revive and refresh Jane, because their values and interests are so perfectly aligned with hers. Diana and Mary are better read than Jane, and Jane eagerly devours all the books they lend her. Drawing is the only area in which Jane's skill surpasses theirs. The intimacy Jane feels with the women doesn't extend to St. John, partly because he is often away from home, visiting the sick, and partly because his nature is so reserved and brooding.
A month passes. Diana and Mary prepare to return to their positions as governesses in a large, fashionable city in the south of England. Jane wonders if St. John has found any employment for her? Since he is "poor and obscure," he says he has only been able to devise an insignificant post for Jane — if she wants it, she can run a school for poor girls in Morton. Her salary would be thirty pounds, and she would have a furnished cottage to live in, provided by Miss Oliver, the only daughter of the rich owner of a needle factory and iron foundry. Although humble, the position's independence and safety appeal to Jane. St. John guesses that Jane won't remain long in Morton, because she'll soon long for society and stimulus. But St. John has a similar "fever in his vitals," as Diana reveals, and they know he will soon leave England. As the women sit talking, St. John enters the room, and announces their Uncle John has died, leaving all of his fortune to another relative. Their uncle and father had quarreled, and it was John's fault that Mr. Rivers lost most of his property and money.
The "dark and hoary" appearance of Moor House seems to match Jane's psychology at this point of the novel; she has moved from Thornfield's luxury to Marsh End's natural and rugged beauty. Describing the environment around the house, Jane emphasizes its rustic, hardy feel: The fierce mountain winds have caused the trees to grow "aslant"; only the hardiest flowers bloom near it; and it is surrounded by some the "wildest little pasture-fields that ever bordered a wilderness of heath."
In this chapter, Jane emphasizes her intellectual affinity for the Rivers sisters. Being in their presence rekindles Jane's joy in learning, and the three women mutually share and bolster each other's skills; Diana teaches Jane German, while Jane offers Mary drawing lessons. As in earlier chapters, Jane here emphasizes the incongruity of the position of governesses. Although the Rivers sisters are members of an ancient and esteemed family that has fallen on hard times, they must spend their lives as the "humble dependents" of wealthy and haughty families who cannot fully appreciate their talents. For these families, Diana's and Mary's skills are comparable to those of their cook or waiting-woman. Brontë's depiction of the Rivers is probably based on personal experience. Like them, she was forced to work as a governess for a family she despised; like them, she took time to learn new languages so that she could increase her wages and open up a school of her own. Sadly, her attempt to open a school failed miserably, as not a single student applied for admittance.
While the Rivers girls are depicted favorably, Jane's feelings for St. John are more conflicted. His reserve and brooding suggest a troubled nature, and his zealous Christianity offers him neither serenity nor contentment. St. John's real nature is revealed in his sermon — Jane is unable to render accurately its effect on her. While St. John's tone is calm throughout, his nervous words have a "strictly restrained zeal" that reflects his bitterness and lack of "consolatory gentleness." His doom and gloom leave Jane feeling inexpressibly sad, because she feels his eloquence is born of disappointment. Jane compares his despair to her own regrets at the loss of her heaven with Rochester. Despite St. John's strictness, or perhaps because of it, he has not found the peace in God that reassured Jane during her awful night on the moors. Instead, St. John dwells on his poverty and obscurity, always looking for a way to become the hero he longs to be. Again, his difference from Rochester is apparent; while Rochester vents his passions, St. John hides his in "a fever in his vitals."
The death of their Uncle John is also significant. The astute reader will remember that Jane also had an uncle named John, one who was too ill to save her from Rochester's bigamous plot. The connections between the families will grow in the remainder of the novel.