St John Rivers in Jane Eyre

St John Rivers

St John is protective of his family, religious, cold-hearted and always striving to do the right thing, whether it is personally right for him or not. His cold nature is the complete opposite of the fiery-tempered Rochester.

St John Rivers and his sisters find Jane outside of their home, hungry and feverish. They take her in and nurse her back to health. St John finds Jane a position as schoolmistress at the local village. It is here that Jane witnesses St John's true feelings for Miss Rosamund Oliver, the local wealthy beauty in the village. St John loves Miss Rosamund but will not marry her, as he believes she will not make a good missionary's wife. St John isolates himself from Miss Rosamund by being cold-hearted and distant. He does this, as he believes God has called him to become a missionary. He is extremely pious and determined in his goal to become a missionary in India. He proposes to Jane, as he believes Jane will be a good missionary's wife. Jane refuses and St John is confused, oblivious to Jane's argument that she cannot marry without love.

How is St John like this?EvidenceAnalysis
DeterminedSt John believes that God wants him to become a missionary and serve the people of India. He is willing to sacrifice his feelings for Rosamund and his happiness to do this.His chest heaved once, as if his large heart, weary of despotic constriction, had expanded, despite the will, and made a vigorous bound for the attainment of liberty. But he curbed it, I think, as a resolute rider would curb a riding steed.St John loves Miss Oliver dearly, as his 'large heart' moves when she is in his presence. The use of the verb 'heaved' suggests two things. Firstly, it suggests that St John loves Miss Oliver very much. However, it also suggests that he is going against the love he feels, as his heart 'heaves' against his mind.
ColdSt John becomes cold and distant towards Jane when he proposes to her and she declines. He cannot understand why Jane would decline his marriage proposal."God and nature intended you for a missionary's wife. It is not personal, but mental endowments they have given you: you are formed for labour, not love. A missionary's wife you must - shall be. You shall be mine: I claim you - not for my pleasure, but for my Sovereign's service."St John's marriage proposal to Jane is made without love and passion - he presents it as a job, not as a relationship. He is very cold when he describes how he feels about Jane, suggesting that she was formed for God's work and not for love, implying that no one will love her.

St John proposes to Jane so they can become married missionaries. Jane nearly accepts his marriage proposal but she changes her mind. What does St John's marriage proposal make Jane realise?

  • That she cannot marry someone that she does not love.
  • That she cannot be distant and cold-hearted in a relationship.
  • She will not be happy in her marriage to St John.
  • She cannot alter her personality and opinions for another - she must be independent and who she wants to be.
  • She loves Rochester and wants to find him again.