I think this is such a telling sentence, regarding St. John Rivers: "To me, he was in reality become no longer flesh, but marble" (p. 475). That is one cold, unyielding dude. Jane isn't being mean there -- she also says that he did not have "a spirit of unchristian vindictiveness" (p. 475). But he is so inflexible and untouchable as to be inhuman.
And yet, Jane does not hate or fear him. She still values his friendship, even wishes she could recover it. So she speaks to him again, and we learn what I think is really the reason St. John is displeased with Jane: she's unfeminine. When Jane says that his coldness is killing her, he says her words are "violent, unfeminine, and untrue" (p. 477). When she tells him she would be his curate, but not his wife, he says, "With me, then, it seems you cannot go" (p. 478). Women were not curates. Jane's desire to serve the way a man would and not as his wife really seems to me to be a big problem for St. John. Not simply that she has refused to marry him, but that she has refused to behave the way he thinks a female should. I don't know, do you think I'm off base here? That can be our Possible Discussion Question.
Anyway, I LOVE how Jane answers him: "God did not give me my life to throw away" (p. 479). We're not talking about dying a martyr's death here, we're talking about someone who has not been called to be a missionary trying to assume those duties, someone who knows she is unsuited to them. But St. John won't see it -- he basically says that by rejecting him, she's rejecting God.
The insufferable conceit!
And then he goes on, a bit later, to equate marrying him with salvation. If she refuses to marry him, he insists she will be damned.
Whatever, dude. You're not God. Marrying you won't get Jane into heaven. Refusing you won't send her to hell. I get that you're devoted to spreading... something. I don't hear any Gospel from you, but you're devoted to serving God as you believe will be best, and I do respect that determination.
I, like Jane, have little suitability for mission work, but my father-in-law is a missionary, and I respect and admire that kind of devotion and sacrifice. So please don't think that I am down on St. John because he is zealous. Not at all. It's because he has decided he is not just supposed to spread God's word, he's supposed to decide who gets saved and who doesn't. And God doesn't work that way.
Happily, Jane knows that. And she prays that God would show her the right path. What is her answer only moments later? She hears Rochester's voice calling her name. And when she hears that, she doesn't cry out, "Oh, Edward!" She cries out, "Oh, God!" (p. 485). She sees this as a direct answer to her prayer for guidance in this whole matter, so we readers should too. Once before, waaaaaay back in Chapter 21, Jane discussed presentiments, sympathies, and signs that she said were "the sympathies of nature with man" (p. 259). Now she says that this summons is not witchcraft, but "the work of nature" (p. 485), earthly things serving God to answer Jane's prayer, I think.
Anyway, whew. Glad we're through with this St.-John-thinks-he's-God-on-earth business. We'll be with Rochester again soon, and you know, he is starting to seem downright well-adjusted and cuddly by comparison, isn't he?
Reader, do you know, as I do, what terror those cold people can put into the ice of their questions? How much of the fall of the avalanche is in their anger? of the breaking up of the frozen sea in their displeasure? (p. 477).