One of the things I have had the hardest time reconciling myself with, when I read books from the 1800s, is how often they rely on coincidence and convenience. Faint with hunger and desperation, Jane just happens to fall in with people she likes! And not just likes, but with whom she shares "perfect congeniality of tastes, sentiments, and principles" (p. 405). I'm happy for her, but wow, how convenient, huh? And the coincidence will come into play in a couple of chapters, but we'll get to that later.
The one thing that makes the happy, instant, blissful life for Jane at least a bit believable is exasperating, restless St. John, with his "reserved... abstracted, and even brooding nature" (p. 407). I've been trying to figure out why I don't like St. John as much as Rochester, because really, he's a much better person. Maybe it's that lack of "mental serenity" and "inward content" (p. 407) -- he seems to enjoy being discontented. And he's so, I don't know, bound up and closed off, like he's closed and locked himself and tied himself all up so no one can ever get close to him. It's not a healthy way to be, certainly, and it makes me tired just thinking about what being around him would be like. I have a great need to make people happy, to help them out of unhappiness, but when someone like St. John steadfastly insists on being miserable, then my instincts are thwarted, I get annoyed, and eventually I give up on them. And I think that's what makes me not simply like St. John Rivers less than Rochester, but actively dislike him at times.
And then there's the lack of Gospel in his sermon. And in his life! He's all Law, insisting on denying himself everything so he can earn his way to heaven. Not how it works, buddy.
Plus, dude, what even are you trying to do by taking page upon page to tell Jane you've got a teaching job for her? It smacks of teasing.
Possible Discussion Questions:
Why does Jane say, "compared with that of a governess in a rich house, it was independent; and the fear of servitude with strangers entered my soul like iron" (p. 411)? When she left Lowood, she was more than happy to take a position as governess working for strangers. What has changed?