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A daily record of what I'm thinking about what I'm reading

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Wednesday, April 8, 2015

What Jane Eyre learns by the end of the novel

After some ridiculous gothic plot mechanics of the sort that often derail even the best 19th-century novels - Jane discovers that the family that took her in when she was wondering penniless and starving across the moors - turns out to be - ta dah! - her first cousins and her only living relatives! - Jane Eyre gets down to some serious business: Jane's new-found cousin St. John, a dour priss who's intent on going as a missionary to India, asks her to accompany him on this mission - and she's willing, as she has few other alternatives, but she totally stops short when he asks her to come as his wife. It's obvious not only that she's not into him - but equally that he's not into her. He just wants a "helpmeet" - and fortunately Jane by this point in the novel, or in her life if you prefer, has matured enough to know that she must refuse this proposal: she would be signing on to a life of loveless misery and, for better or worse, she now knows what it is to be in love and she even, forfend!, makes some references to sexuality: her mind might be OK with becoming St. John's wife, but her body would suffer. That's about as close to discussion of female libido as a novelist in 1848 could get, I suppose. In any event, as noted in previous posts, I don't think Rochester is such as catch either - with his controlling and condescending attitude toward women in general and Jane in particular - but at least at this point Jane has learned what she wants and what she needs. Also, she now has inherited a sizable stake of money so, if (when) she does get back together with Rochester she can do so not out of desperation: she may still be in a far lower "class" than he, but she at least could walk away and live well on her own, not, as when she left him after the canceled wedding, wandering the moors half-starved.

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