1. St. John refers to Jane as “unfeminine.” On what grounds does he make this statement? How fair is his comment?  

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lynnebh eNotes educator| Certified Educator

St. John is angry at Jane because she refuses to marry him and accompany him to India. She is willing to accompany him to India, but she does not want to marry him because she believes he does not love her. She accuses him of actually hating her and says "You are killing me." At this comment, he grows even angrier and tells her that her words are "violent, unfeminine and untrue." He states that if the Bible didn't command that he is to forgive 70 times 7, he would find these words even unforgivable. In Victorian society, it would be considered unfeminine for a woman to speak to anyone in such a way, let alone a man that has recently proposed. These are the grounds on which he makes the statement. How fair is his comment? It depends on your viewpoint. If you were a Victorian male, you would probably say that his comment is valid. Perhaps most Victorian females would agree that Jane is acting "unfeminine and violent" as well. For example, not too many of Jane Austen's characters would have replied in this way. Charlotte Bronte was herself an unmarried woman who had to write under a pen name. Some contemporary critics considered the novel itself "unfeminine". From our modern perspective, however, we would consider Jane assertive. Charlotte Bronte revealed much of herself in Jane's character - an assertive woman at heart forced to live in a repressive society that found women who defended themselves to be "unfeminine."

coachingcorner eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In the time when the Brontes pursued their writing, it was certainly thought 'unfeminine' for 'gentlewomen' to write books, and certainly all the more so if they were actually trying to earn a bit of money or make a living - even as a hobby. Other female writers such as Mrs Gaskell 'got away with it' by writing 'as a hobby' or to 'do good works' and because all the while they wrote in a fashion which upheld the status quo as it was at that time for women. Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre spoke as honestly as the Bronte girls wrote - which at times must have seemed very abrupt and candid to onlookers. The 'feminine' thing to do (according to many in society at that time, including male suitors!) may have been to blush sweetly, agree to marry someone who did not love you and only wanted an adventure in dangerous overseas climes if he wasn't on his own, agree to the proposal because you were poor and should be grateful for any little scrap of a proposal you could get and thank God for the chance to be an obedient wife to a bullying man. Jane was having none of it, so was perhaps 'unfeminine' in her refusal to be passive.