Barbara's Random Thoughts

Sunday, February 04, 2007

A rant on Jane Eyre

I wrote this just after Christmas and never posted it. I cleaned it up a bit two weeks ago, and went to post it, and then Pangani's wireless decided to quit. Then there was this whole lightning storm thing last Here is a much-belated post. (I told you I'd be updating this really infrequently...)

I listened to a good portion of Jane Eyre on my drive down to LA and back at Thanksgiving. I just dug out the book and finished it this weekend. After listening to the early part of the book, I mentioned to some friends that I’d forgotten what an ass Mr. Rochester is. Well, this weekend I was reminded of how absolutely insufferable St. John is. How’s this for a 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 labor, not for 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.”

There are just so many things wrong with this that I don’t know where to begin.

Part of my indignation at this passage in particular is due to my small feminist tendencies and the underlying implication here that female vocation is primarily dependent on a husband’s vocation. Ugh. (Now you can see why I so love the sarcastic irony of the “I want to be a pastor’s wife” t-shirts at Lark News.)

But a larger part of my indignation at the whole St. John/missionary section of Jane Eyre is the way St. John approaches the whole idea of mission and calling when it comes to Jane. The idea that his impression of who she is and what she is fitted for is subsequently God’s idea for her life--that he knows best how she should spend her life--the presumption that one person can dictate to another what is God’s calling on their life--is absolutely repugnant to me. And his subsequent self-righteous judgment of her when she questions these conclusions that he has come to...aaaaa.

Maybe I should stop before I get too worked up. These are fictional characters, after all. But I think what irks me the most is that this is a topic I get passionate about in the first place (missions), and when you start adding in dangerous and erroneous notions of gender roles and Barbara go off.

And then, I’m also just annoyed that the guy’s name is “St. John” and that it's supposed to be pronounced in such a ridiculous manner. This is akin to my annoyance at how Byron’s “Don Juan” is to be pronounced. Sigh. I’ll stop now.


| posted by Barbara | 8:37 AM