But then St. John decided to skulk around being grim and gruff and positively unpleasant. Here's the thing: I hate being forced to do things, even if they're good things, or things I would otherwise want to do. Tell me I must do them, and I won't. Or I'll do them only under bitter protest. Similarly, I detest it when people try to force others to do things. No, and no, and no. And when someone tries to change another person to suit their own needs or desires, I get angry. So nope, turns out I do not like St. John better this time through. I tried to like him, I started to like him a little, but nope, not gonna happen. He's too much of what I dislike.
Besides, this chapter is creepy! "By degrees, he acquired a certain influence over me that took away my liberty of mind... I fell under a freezing spell" (p. 461). Oh my goodness. Danger, Will Robinson! That is creepy and controlling and awful. St. John is forcing Jane to change because he wants her to change, and the fact that he shows no sexual interest in her does not make it better, it makes it weirder. To me, anyway.
We've brought up the idea of Jane being caged a few times. It's here again, I think, when she says, "my mind is at this moment like a rayless dungeon" (p. 467). And St. John refuses to accept that she is not what he wants her to be, and that he cannot force her to become what she is not. Jane insists, "I have no vocation" (p. 466), and I believe her. 'Vocation' doesn't just mean 'occupation' in this sense, but 'calling.' Properly understood, the idea of Christian Vocation is that anything we do that serves God and our neighbor is a good vocation. Mothering, teaching, nursing, cooking, stocking shelves, fixing cars -- these are all worthy vocations for Christians. Jane realizes that homemaking provides opportunities to serve God and others, just as mission work does. St. John doesn't. He's too focused on earning his way to heaven with sweeping acts of piety and sacrifice, and can't believe anything else is worth doing. Hard, stubborn, wrong-headed man. Blech.
"I am disposed to be as content as a queen, and you try to stir me up to restlessness" (p. 453).
I would always rather be happy than dignified (p. 474) (Of late, this has been my favorite line in the whole book.)
Possible Discussion Questions:
Why do you think that understanding St. John gives Jane the power to refuse him?