Wednesday, April 25

Rochester v Rivers

I stayed up way too late last night finishing Jane Eyre. Although I knew the basic plot line, this was the first time I've read the book. I was left with one big question. What did Charlotte Bronte intend for readers to think about St John Rivers? He gave me the creeps. I didn't get the charisma, but he certainly had some sort of charismatic sway on Jane. It felt artificial though, since I didn't share in it. Is that just because the author didn't do that good a job portraying that creepy (psychopathic) charisma or that times have changed and her readers in 1847 would have been drawn in? I did get the insidiously creepy psychological abusiveness. Jane didn't. On one level she was able to hold her ground and continue to say no to Rivers, but it was a close call. She almost acquiesced to his demands even though she knew he would kill her. Those were her words. I don't think she meant he would physically kill her, but he would certainly kill her soul and lead her to an early physical death. But even throughout the psychological abuse, she defended him as a great man. What did Ms Bronte mean by this? Did she want us to see him as the twisted nasty guy apparent to my 21st century eyes? Or did she want her readers to accept him as Jane declared, honorable and worthy? Maybe she constructed him simply so Jane could experience the polar opposite proposition as what Rochester asked? And as a symbolic plot device, he doesn't come across as fully fleshed out, three dimensional?
I don't know enough about Victorian society to figure it out. Guess I better surf the net for clues.


kmkat said...

Okay. If Jane had succumbed to his entreaties, St. John Rivers would have carved out her heart and eaten it with some fava beans and a nice Chianti, whilst simultaneously entertaining his sisters with read-aloud versions of Pilgrim's Progress. (Was that written at that time? I think so, but I'm not sure.) Then he would have donned his hair shirt, sailed off to The Dark Continent, and never been heard from again. The ending to Jane Eyre would have been somewhat different than originally written -- although no less inspirational -- and it would not be the romantic classic that it has become.

Clearly I was neither an English nor a comparative literature major. They just don't teach that stuff in b-school :-)

Mecha said...

I have to admit, despite having an english lit degree, I've never been able to get more than a chapter into Jane Eyre. It's one of those books that just make my eyes glaze over.

But this does make me think that it might be fun to start a knitting blog reading group! I totally would have read it along with you, if I'd had the lead time.

P.S. I just now discovered that bloglines dropped your feed. So it's not that I've been ignoring your blog for the last two months. *sheepish*