Who teaches Jane more in Jane Eyre? Is it the minor characters or St. John and Rochester?

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accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

This is a very interesting question to consider, as in a sense, nearly all of the characters that feature in Jane's life and teach her valuable lessons lie on either side of a spectrum of two extremes between which Jane oscillates during the course of the novel, only by its end managing to attain a healthy tension between these two states. It is interesting that these two extremes are most clearly and succinctly described in Chapter Twenty-One, when Jane returns to Gateshead to say farewell to Mrs. Reed. Note how she describes her two cousins, Georgiana and Eliza:

True, generous feeling is made small account of by some; but here were two natures rendered, the one intolerably acrid, the other despicably savourless for the want of it. Feeling without judgement is a washy draught indeed; but judgement untempered by feeling is too bitter and husky a morsel for human deglutition.

Thus we can see that Georgiana represents an excess of "feeling without judgement," but Eliza represents an excess of "judgement without feeling." Both of these two classifications can be helpfully used to sort through the major characters of this novel, with their extremes being found in Rochester, who represents "feeling without judgement," as is shown by the way that so much imagery pertaining to fire and passion are related to him, and St. John Rivers, who represents "judgement without feeling," and the way that ice and snow and white are related to his character exemplifies this.

Thus in response to your question, it is correct to say that Jane "learns more" from St. John Rivers and Rochester, but these lessons are ones that are repeated throughout the novel through the different characters that Jane meets and talks with.

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Jane Eyre

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