Volume 3, Chapter 8 / 34

Synopsis of Volume 3, Chapter 8 / 34

Jane leaves her post as schoolmistress and plans to live at Moor House with Diana and Mary, but St John hopes that she will soon find a new outlet for her energies. The sisters return home and Jane enjoys Christmas with her new-found cousins. St John tells them that Rosamond Oliver is engaged to be married.  He asks Jane to help him as he struggles to learn Hindustani. She tries, without St John and Janesuccess, to find news of Mr Rochester and begins to feel frustrated and restless.

When there are only six weeks until St John's departure for India, he unexpectedly asks Jane if she will go with him as his wife. Jane feels that she has no vocation for missionary work and she has no desire to marry St John. She tells him that she will go as his companion, but not as his wife, and he can say nothing that will change her mind.

Commentary on Volume 3, Chapter 8 / 34

the material from which nature hews her heroes … out of place See Characterisation: St John Rivers.

Himalayan ridge … Caffre bush … Guinea Coast swamp These references to India, South Africa (Caffre is another spelling of Kaffir, an Afrikaans name for a native South African) and South America, suggest that St John thinks only of remote and dangerous places for his missionary work. See Critical approaches to Jane Eyre: Post-colonial criticism.

Jesus heals the centurion's servantHindustani One of the main languages spoken on the Indian sub-continent.

When he said ‘go' … I did it This echoes the words of the Roman centurion who asks Christ to cure his servant, and has faith in Christ's power to do so without entering his house. He says he understands himself to be unworthy because he has military authority. See Matthew 8:9.

the shore of a darker stream The change from life to death is often represented as crossing a river, in Christianity and in other religions.

a place in ranks of his chosen This remark is a reflection of St John's Calvinist beliefs.

Rock of ages A phrase often used in the Bible to describe the security of God's protection and love (e.g. Psalms 18:2). See Big ideas: Rock and stone. The idea is expressed in a well-known hymn by A. M. Toplady, first published in 1775:

Rock of Ages, cleft for me,
Let me hide myself in thee

a visionary messenger, like him of Macedonia In Acts 16:9-10, Paul responds to a message received in a supernatural manner: this anticipates Jane's response to Rochester's call in the following chapter.

the chiefest of sinners This is how Paul describes himself in 1 Timothy1:15.

the vice of Demas In 2 Timothy 4:10 Paul recounts how he was deserted by his follower Demas who ‘loved this present world'.

put your hand to the plough ‘No man, having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God': see Luke 9:62.

half an oblation … mutilated sacrifice An oblation is an act of offering something in sacrifice. St John suggests that what Jane is offering is less than whole-hearted and would not be sufficient for God's purposes. As always, he is very persuasive and very sure that he is right.

wrench your heart from man … that Maker's spiritual kingdom St John is more concerned with life after death than with his earthly existence.

have denied the faith and are worse than infidels St John is quoting the Bible out of context here. In fact the passage from 1 Timothy 5:8 concerns the importance of providing for the practical needs of family and household members, as a characteristic of Christian lifestyle (readers will have their own opinions as to how effectively St John is looking after Jane's needs).

‘Looked to river, looked to hill' Walter Scott, The Lay of the Last Minstrel 5.26.1. See Imagery, metaphor and symbolism in Jane Eyre: Biblical, mythological and literary references.

Investigating Volume 3, Chapter 8 / 34
  • St John alludes to the words of New Testament writer, Paul several times in this chapter
    • What might this tell us about how he thinks of himself and the nature of his religious vocation? See Characterisation: St John Rivers.
    • How does how St John thinks of himself and the nature of his religious vocation compare with the way in which Rochester presents himself?
    • To what other texts does St John allude?
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