October 17, 2007
Making Use of Yourself
"Summer approached; Diana tried to cheer me: she said I looked ill, and wished to accompany me to the sea-side. This St John opposed; he said I did not want dissipation, I wanted employment; my present life was too purposeless, I required an aim; and, I suppose by way of supplying deficiencies, he prolonged still further my lessons in Hindostanee, and grew more urgent in requiring their accomplishment: and I, like a fool, never thought of resisting him - I could not resist him."
Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre
I am not usually the type to throw myself into my work when depressed. Jane doesn't seem to be either. What baffles me is how Jane portrays St John as so vile for suggesting that she do so.
Throwing yourself into your work is a method to avoiding the emotions that are plaguing you, but it isn't always a bad thing. In fact, it can be very good to throw yourself into your work - sometimes your mind does need a break from whatever is nagging it. (For example, me, writing this blog entry, instead of worrying over the fact that I missed a week of classes because of illness - a VERY depressing thought.)
I guess I just wasn't fond of the idea that St John wasn't trying to look after Jane, as seems to be portrayed here. He was taking care of her in his own way, it just didn't happen to be a way that worked for Jane.
I understand Jane's desire for love and its haunting reverberations, but honestly, enough is enough. I'm with St John on this one. It doesn't matter what he was trying to get Jane to learn (though he wants it to be schooling for his future wife) he mainly is trying to help her.
Posted by Diana Geleskie at October 17, 2007 11:06 AM
I agree in the sense that St. John was trying to help, and that Jane was a little too harsh with him. I do think, however, that she had every right to be upset with him about the marriage idea. If he had just suggested it once and let it drop, that would be one thing. However, he just could not take no for an answer. It wasn't even like he wanted to marry her because he liked her. He wanted to marry her, because it would be a good career move. If he truly wanted to help her, he should have agreed to the compromise Jane proposed.
Yes, St John would have agreed to the compromise Jane suggested if he truly just wanted to help her.
At the same time however, does it really hurt to help yourself while helping someone else? When St John suggested Jane throw herself into her lessons he hadn't proposed the idea of marriage at all. I think that it was more of a gauge to see whether she would indeed be right to marry.
I do think he wanted to help Jane and was doing so by the way he knew how. He stopped helping her once he proposed and forced the issue, but until that point, I really think his thoughts were on her.
I agree with Jen. St John should not have kept pursuing her. What made him think that she would say yes eventually? Let me point out that he only proposed to her after he knew that she had just inherited 20,000 pounds. St john wanted a marriage of convienience. Jane had never had wealth, therefore she only looked to lobe as the factor for marriage. And Jane never loved St John. Mr Rochester was the only man she has ever loved, and ever will.
Note that, while St. John is notable for treating Jane as his intellectual equal -- something that also made Rochester attractive to Jane -- being treated as an intellectual equal is not enough for Jane.
In a similar vein, if St. John really had been first and foremost interested in preaching the gospel, Jane's willingness to go with him, on a purely professional, intellectual terms, was not enough for him.
Recall that Jane left Rochester because a vision told her to flee temptation.
I had imagined that St. John, even though he is presented as cool and in control, obviously had some thoughts for Jane that extended beyond her being his intellectual equal. But as Dani points out, he might have been thinking about money instead.
Still, Dani, St. John could have gotten far more money by marring the silly daughter of the factory owner. And he did start language lessons with Jane before anyone knew of the inheritance (update -- no, in class while were were talking about this I realized that part isn't true), and he did make a habit of stopping by to talk with her in the school, so I don't know that it's fair to say St. John was ONLY interested in money.
Bronte wants us to believe that St. John is a man of heroic action, not a greedy social climber, and I don't think there's enough evidence in the novel to discredit that interpretation -- Bronte and Jane both see St. John that way.