Monday, April 4, 2011

Chapter 34: Jane receives a second proposal

Which is not the only thing that happens in this chapter. Everyone comes home and they all move back into Moor House. Jane quits teaching. Jane starts learning Hindi because St. John doesn't want to study alone. Jane writes to ask Mrs. Fairfax what's up with Rochester, and is despondent when six months go by without an answer.

And early on, Jane reaches this conclusion:
As I looked at his lofty forehead, still and pale as a white stone—at his fine lineaments fixed in study—I comprehended all at once that he would hardly make a good husband: that it would be a trying thing to be his wife.
So are we at all surprised when St. John, still in Edward Cullen mode ("There are no such things as marble kisses or ice kisses, or I should say my ecclesiastical cousin’s salute belonged to one of these classes"), asks Jane to marry him?

Well, sort of. He wants her to go to India with him as a fellow missionary, and his sense of morality demands that they be married before traveling together.

St. John's proposal is the emotional opposite of Rochester's earlier in the book. It's closer to that of Mr. Collins in Pride and Prejudice, minus the absurdities. He spends paragraphs laying out all the reasons Jane would make a decent missionary.

Jane takes some time to think it over, soliloquizing all the while. There are a load of reasons for her not to accept:
  • "If I join St. John, I abandon half myself"
  • "He will never love me; but he shall approve me"
  • "He prizes me as a soldier would a good weapon; and that is all."
  • "Can I receive from him the bridal ring, endure all the forms of love (which I doubt not he would scrupulously observe) and know that the spirit was quite absent? Can I bear the consciousness that every endearment he bestows is a sacrifice made on principle? No: such a martyrdom would be monstrous."
Her alternative: she'll go to India as his helper, but not his wife.

St. John's response to that: yes to the first, no to the second, and oh, by the way, let me demonstrate my utter unreasonableness and abusive potential.

The way he sees it, Jane's agreed to go to India with him. And he'll repeat that as many times as necessary. Never mind that she hasn't actually committed to going, or that she's absolutely refused to marry him, or that he's just a touch unyielding about his version.
"To do so, you must have a coadjutor: not a brother—that is a loose tie—but a husband. I, too, do not want a sister: a sister might any day be taken from me. I want a wife: the sole helpmeet I can influence efficiently in life, and retain absolutely till death."
What every girl wants to hear, let me tell you.

Jane's answer: "Oh! I will give my heart to God," I said. "You do not want it."

Bah, says St. John. You'll love me eventually, more or less.
"I scorn your idea of love," I could not help saying, as I rose up and stood before him, leaning my back against the rock. "I scorn the counterfeit sentiment you offer: yes, St. John, and I scorn you when you offer it."
We have reached, as I believe it is termed, an impasse.

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