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Edward Rochester and St. John Rivers are both extremely interesting characters. They have deep personalities so that it requires some thought to fully understand their actions. They can both do the same thing, under the same circumstances, with different motivations and in different ways. Rochester was born into a wealthy family, of high rank. The Rivers name was also well spoken of and highly respected.
Both men had highly intellectual minds which they sought to cultivate and nurture. Each, in their own way, thought themselves superior over other people.
Rochester bluntly behaved in a proud manner, whereas St. John quietly held himself above others Rochester is an unkempt bachelor, owner of several estates. He is a globetrotter who rarely stays in one place long. He has a tendency to be loud and demanding. St. John Rivers is a handsome and well-kept minister in a small town who feels called to work as a missionary in India.
He is quiet, if he says anything it is to the point and very clear. He is studious and very active in his parish. Rochester seems to go about doing things fairly spontaneously and very boldly, in an abrupt and selfish manner, without much thought as to religion.
St. John does everything very quietly in a well-planned way, under the pretence of religion and his calling.
Everything that he does is said to be done for the benefit of his mission. Mr. Rochester’s ways were manipulative and leading at times and St John appeared to be on the exterior a saint compared to him, but in reality, St. John never had the inclination or will to learn from his mistakes the way Mr. Rochester did and he never would admit to his wrongdoings.
He justified himself by words from the Bible which he used out of context at times when it suited his case: “No fear of death will darken St. John’s last hour, his mind will be unclouded, his heart will be undaunted, his hope will be sure, his faith will be steadfast. His own words are a pledge of this. ” It is right to say that both Rochester and St. John shape Jane’s life in some way or another. They are both very strong male models in her life who teach her things about herself that she didn’t know. The similarity that appears to be the most obvious is how they acted towards Jane. They both were extremely selfish about how they treated her and neither of them showed much, if any, compassion for her feelings.
We meet Mr. Rochester first when Jane is on her way to Thornfield and he has an accident on his horse. Jane feels quite comfortable lending her shoulder to help the stranger, (which she eventually does for the rest of his life), as she does not find him attractive and therefore not in the slightest intimidating. “Had he been a handsome, heroic-looking young gentleman, I should not have dared to stand and question him against his will, and offering my services unasked”. He proves to be a very abrupt and mysterious employer, who talks to Jane about his mistresses, telling her he needs her to reform him.
Mr. Rochester played with Jane’s mind and emotions, to find out if she was really in love with him. He was manipulative, selfish, and deceitful. He had a wife, but he wanted Jane so badly he was willing to do what ever it took to get her. Mr. Rochester loved her, but it had to do with desire, not life-long love. In contrast to her first meeting with Rochester when she was the one giving assistance, it is Jane who is weak and in need of the help Rivers provides when she first meets him, after running away from Rochester. St.
John is an attractive man who proves to be singularly unromantic when he wishes for Jane to give up any plans that she may have and marry him and go to India to help him in the mission field. St. John singled Jane out because he respected her self-sacrificing nature, after she shared her inheritance. He does not care that Jane has no feelings for him, or that she does not want to marry him, he says that love does not matter, that it is Jane’s calling to come with him to India as his wife; telling her: “You were not made for love, but labour.
He informed her it was God’s will that she come, and against what he stood for, used the Bible and prayer to try and manipulate Jane into going. Jane’s first description of Rochester makes an interesting use of the concept of ‘squareness’. She describes him as having a “square forehead, made squarer by the horizontal sweep of his black hair”. Then ” I perceived harmonised in squareness with his physiognomy”. She perceives his nose to be a, ” decisive nose more remarkable for character than beauty”, which very much sums up Mr. Rochester as a person because he is not an attractive man, “very grim” but under his ugly outer layer he has a remarkable character.
However, Rochester is not just a realistic character, he is also symbolic of the part of Jane that is fiery and passionate, rather than icy and self-controlled, and as such he is St John River’s opposite. They look and act like opposites; Rochester is heavy and dark, whereas St John is handsome and fair; Rochester is a man of passion and fire, whereas St John is ambitious, hard and cold.
Where Rochester brings Jane alive, she finds St John’s passion quite deadly. Unlike Rochester, St John is not a sympathetic character, but he is still fairly reliable – he is quite honest about his limitations – and convincing. St. John, a strict Clergyman, lives up to the principles advocated by the Evangelical school proprietor, Mr Brocklehurst. St John is “marble” to Brocklehurst’s “black pillar”. St John is ruthlessly moral, to the point of using the Bible in his manipulations, but unlike Brocklehurst, not a hypocrite. St.
John always acts consistently but unnaturally, as suggested by the fact that he will not follow his nature and marry the woman he loves. Both men represent one half of Jane’s personality and character and St John symbolises that side of Jane’s character which wishes to conform, to obey the rules and suppress her instincts. However, Jane recognizes that if she accepts him as her husband she will be crushed, she will lose her identity just as surely as if she had become Rochester’s mistress and this is why she runs away from St John, back to Thornfield.
Both men proposed to Jane knowing that they couldn’t really marry her. St. John was related to her, although this was not a huge problem, but he did not love her like a man should love his wife, because he was in love with Miss Oliver. Rochester knew he could not marry Jane because he already had a wife. They both promised Jane things but could not see their mistakes. This led to Jane running away on both occasions. Their view of marriage was also distorted. Rochester, although he loved intensely and with much passion, had an immoral love. He didn’t honour the covenant of marriage.
St. John didn’t love at all and yet he wanted to enter into the covenant of marriage. He held marriage in a higher manner than Rochester did, but then there was still the issue of love that plagued St. John. Rochester and St. John both used manipulation to try to get what they wanted. When Jane comes back to Mr. Rochester, she finds a transformed man who has been “charred and scorched” by the fire of Thornfield. After his wife’s death and his own disfigurement, his character has undergone a major change and we see him in a penitent mood at the end of the chapter.
His stiff-necked rebellion” has been humbled and subdued. His arrogance has given way to humility. His pride in his strength has been softened. In his own words he has turned to God and asks Him to give him the “strength to lead henceforth a purer life” than he has led so far. In the creation of the characters of Mr. Rochester and St. John, Charlotte Bronte uses a dark and light comparison to show that a person’s appearance does not always match their character. When looking at St. John’s appearance, you see the ideal, fair-complexioned man. He is gorgeous, tall, decently-dressed, and a parson.
Then when you compare that to Mr. Rochester, you find they are the direct opposites. Mr. Rochester has, as Bronte says, “a dark face, with stern features and a heavy brow;” he is plain, outspoken, and very worldly. When they are compared and contrasted, they are like, as Mr. Rochester says, “Apollo and a Vulcan”. In Bronte’s comparison Mr. Rochester was the dark, selfish and manipulative character who completely wronged Jane. St. John was the light character who was the man of God, saving Jane from death and taking care of her.
We find out that he was also selfish and manipulative but unlike Mr. Rochester, he was not willing to change and admit he was wrong. In the end Mr. Rochester was the hero, and in personality, he turned out to be the light character by repenting his sins and changing. Bronte showed through her comparisons the age-old lesson of not judging someone by his appearance. Both men had great spiritual problems in their lives; Rochester putting himself and his own happiness above obedience to God and St John putting himself in God’s place, declaring that his will was also the will of God and giving himself great power in stating this.
Their lives ended quite differently but both men seemed to have made peace with God. Rochester’s life ended very happily for him after all things worked out for his own good, even all his physical ailments. The final passage in the novel are devoted to St John, who never married and Jane cries when she thinks how his path has led to death, in contrast to her own which has led to life-giving happiness.