Summary and Analysis
While a snowstorm whirls outside, Jane sits reading Marmion. Suddenly, she hears a noise at the door: it's St. John. After a long delay, he tells Jane's own story, ending by saying that finding Jane Eyre has become a matter of serious urgency. St. John explains that he discovered her true identity from the paper he tore from her art supplies, which had the name Jane Eyre inscribed on it. The reason everyone has been looking for Jane is that her uncle, Mr. Eyre of Madeira, is dead and has left his entire fortune to her, so she is now rich. Jane is astonished to learn she has inherited twenty thousand pounds and wishes she had a family to share it with.
As St. John prepares to leave, Jane asks why Mr. Briggs, Eyre's attorney, sent him a letter inquiring about Jane's whereabouts. St. John completes the story: his full name is St. John Eyre Rivers, so the Rivers are Jane's cousins. Jane feels she's found a brother and two sisters to love and admire; relatives, in her opinion, are real wealth, "wealth to the heart." Now she has the opportunity to benefit those who saved her life. She decides to share her legacy with them, to divide it into four pieces, making five thousand pounds each. That way, justice will be done, and Jane will have a home and family. St. John reminds her of the lofty place should could take in society with twenty thousand pounds, but Jane insists that she'd rather have love.
This chapter highlights the differences in personality between Jane and St. John; while he is so cold "no fervour infects" him, Jane is "hot, and fire dissolves ice." For icy St. John, reason is more important than feeling, but for fiery Jane, feeling predominates. Relating her story, St. John expects Jane's primary concern will be to know why Briggs has been searching for her; instead, she's more interested in Rochester's fate, worrying that he has returned to his life of dissipation in Europe. After learning of the inheritance, Jane is sorry to hear her uncle, a man she's never met, is dead, and wishes she had a "rejoicing family" to share the money with, rather than her isolated self. So discovering she has three cousins is heavenly for Jane. In fact, the blessing of relatives is "exhilarating — not like the ponderous gift of gold: rich and welcome enough in its way, but sobering from its weight." St. John believes Jane is neglecting the essential points (the money) for the trifles (family). For a clergyman, St. John's lack of understanding of or caring for people is shocking. Sharing the wealth, Jane will transform it from an unwanted weight into a "legacy of life, hope, enjoyment," but her comment that the money will help her win "to myself lifelong friends," sounds as if she is planning to buy friendship with the legacy. Jane says she is happy to indulge her feelings, something she seldom has the opportunity to do. Jane values family and feeling above all else, while St. John thinks only of the opportunities, if she keeps the inheritance, that Jane will have to take her place in society.
Describing his love for his sisters at the end of the chapter, St. John says his affection for them is based on "respect for their worth, and admiration of their talents," and he believes he'll be able to love Jane because she also has "principle and mind." How cold his description of love is compared with Jane's passionate connection to Rochester, with her heartfelt "craving" for love and family. Her inheritance may lead Jane back to her relationship with Rochester. Earlier in the novel, as she planned her wedding, Jane worried because she couldn't offer Rochester beauty, money, or connections; now she has at least two of the three — relatives she's proud of and plenty of cash! Slowly, she is moving into a position of equality with Rochester.