Yea, I got more to say on this book.
In my last discussion on Jane Eyre, I spoke about how Rochester was disabled to atone for his sins and to be humbled and tamed for Jane. This time I want to focus on St. John who, despite his piousness, is one of the most horrible characters in the story.
I think this because he tries to control Jane. I was so angry and uncomfortable while reading the sections where he teaches her Hindostanee and later proposes to her that I had to take breaks in reading it. It was unsettling to read those parts because it was obvious that he was trying to dominate her, control her thoughts and actions.
“By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind.”
And he’s creepy about it too, watching her closely and even running experiments to see how she approaches certain tasks in comparison to his sisters. He then starts to teach her Hindostanee to initiate his control and see how docile she is and later reverts to emotional abuse when Jane denies his proposal, which surprised him. In that way, he reminds me of the European oppressors in Africa, the Americas, and Asia.
Like those oppressors, St. John takes away Jane’s agency. He makes her reliant on him before stating what he wants of her. He takes away her language and gives her a new one that is difficult to learn (she initially started learning German from one of St. John’s sisters but switched to Hindostanee to help St. John prepare for his missionary trip to India). Thinking her pliable, he believes she will follow along with whatever he suggests so he tries to make a deal with her (marriage proposal), which she turns down. Because of this, he switches tactics, reverting to emotional abuse by withholding his minimal affections to her and later when that didn’t make Jane change her mind, he uses religion to shame her into accepting by telling Jane that she is not a pious woman and has no place in heaven.
“You are formed for labour, not love.”
Control is what St. John desires. He sees vulnerability and emotion as a weakness, which is probably why he thought Jane an easy prey for his marriage proposal. He made me fearful of how he would minister to the masses on his trip to India. The fact that he reminds me of European oppressors in other countries at the time makes me wonder if that similarity was intentionally included by Brontë as a sort of comment on colonialism and how religion was used then to control. She alludes to slavery and even jests with Rochester once about revolts, but it’s hard to tell if she was strictly focused on women’s issues at the time or was also critical of other practices then as well.
There’s so much going on in the story. It really is a good read. I guess I should bump it up a star. I’ll give it 4 on Goodreads.
What I’m reading this weekend:
I have no idea. I’m between books and can’t decide on what to read next so I might do the Try a Chapter tag to help me decide.