St John Rivers

The characters of St John Rivers and Rochester are developed in terms of contrasts:

  • Appearance – Whereas Rochester is rugged and has irregular features, St John is seen as a man of classical good looks
  • Expression / repression – Rochester is more readily associated with the natural expression of feelings and desires, St John's life is one of repression and emotional self-control. This is especially clear in the ways in which each of them behaves towards Jane, particularly when they are proposing marriage to her
  • Motivation – As his name suggests, St John has a strong religious faith and an equally powerful sense of duty and mission in spreading the word of Christianity; he often uses the stern vocabulary of Christian militancy: he sees himself as a soldier of Christ, who has to defeat the forces of paganism. Rochester's faith is never questioned, but it is only in the later part of the novel, after he has been chastened by his experience of the fire at Thornfield, that he overtly expresses it
  • Power – both are very powerful and persuasive men, who are able to exert influence over Jane – who is presented as a strong-minded, determined, independent and principled person. Rochester has a striking physical presence and can make use of his wealth; he also uses language and physical contact very persuasively. St John's charisma derives from his equal linguistic fluency, but in the service of moral and spiritual authority. His apparent gentleness conceals a coercive and controlling element in his character.

St John is a more conventional character than Rochester. Although Jane can admire him and is strongly tempted to join him in his missionary work, she knows that they have little in common intellectually and that she is not at all attracted to him sexually. She would accompany him to India largely out of a sense of duty and in an attempt to forget Rochester.

  • Locate the passages where Rochester and St John first appear in the novel
    • Make notes on how each of them is represented
  • Locate the passages in which each man proposes to Jane
    • Make notes on what these scenes tell us about the differences between the two men.
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