Chapter 34–35 Summary and Analysis
At Christmas, Jane leaves the school, though she promises to return to teach once a week. She takes great pains to clean and fix up Moor House before Diana and Mary arrive. Though Jane enjoys taking a break to focus on domestic life, St. John clearly considers her efforts to be a form of leisure and disapproves. Diana and Mary arrive and are delighted with the changes Jane has made to the house. The three of them quickly resume their close friendship and enjoy the holidays together, though St. John keeps his distance. St. John remains committed to his plan to travel to India as a missionary and confides in Jane that Miss Oliver is now engaged to another man. St. John recruits Jane to aid him in his study of Hindostanee, since he will be leaving for India in a matter of weeks. The more Jane interacts with St. John, the more he influences her personality; she takes care to never appear vivacious in his presence or complain about his exacting expectations, though she realizes that their closeness is making her miserable. Jane’s depression is only worsened when she inquires about Mr. Rochester’s well-being. Mr. Briggs proves ignorant of Mr. Rochester’s affairs, and Jane’s two letters to Mrs. Fairfax go unanswered. One day, St. John takes a walk with Jane and asks her to marry him and accompany him to India as a missionary’s wife. Knowing that he does not and will never love her, Jane tells him that she will accompany him to India as his sister but resolves that she will not marry him. St. John reacts poorly to her response and tells her that because he is asking her to join him in God’s mission, to refuse his proposal is to refuse God. Later that night, St. John treats Jane coldly and refuses to kiss her goodnight like his sisters.
Over the next week, St. John treats Jane with deliberate coolness. When Jane tries to make amends and repair the friendship, St. John once again asks why Jane will not marry him. When Jane tells him that to marry him would kill her, St. John angrily calls her response “unfeminine and untrue.” St. John tells Jane that he cannot travel to India with her if they are unmarried but says that she may be “spared the dishonor of breaking [her] promise” to go to India by accompanying the wife of a fellow missionary instead. Indignant, Jane tells him that she made no unconditional promise to go to India and that she is certainly not obligated to travel there with strangers, especially since she is convinced that she would not live long in such a harsh climate. St. John asks her whether she still thinks of Mr. Rochester, and Jane remains silent, causing him to angrily walk away. Diana, having watched their quarrel from afar, urges Jane not to go to India for fear that she would soon die in such a harsh environment. Diana also agrees that St. John’s expectation that Jane knowingly accept a marriage without love is unreasonable. Later that night, St. John reads aloud from the Bible, and Jane, awed by his forceful and persuasive speech, feels her resolve begin to soften. Just as Jane is considering giving in and accepting his proposal, an “inexpressible feeling” sweeps through her whole body. She hears Mr. Rochester’s voice calling her name, though his body is not there. Jane returns to her chamber and prays in “a different way to St. John’s, but effective in its own fashion.”
In these chapters, Jane must once again redefine her relationship with herself. The more time she spends with St. John, the more she realizes that he has the potential to be a powerful and destructive force in her life. Her desire for his hard-won approval leads her to stop laughing, speaking freely, and taking small pleasures in life. In short, Jane makes herself miserable in order to satisfy St. John’s exacting expectations. Unfortunately, it appears that Jane’s willingness to suffer at St. John’s side is the very quality that encourages him to seek her as his wife:
(The entire section is 1,238 words.)