Ending with St John
Posted by Cheryl on October 16, 1997 at 11:00:12:
As promised, here is what Michael Mason worte in the introduction of the Penguin Classics edition about the ending of Jane Eyre. Anyone care to agree, disagree, argue? ;-)
Our tendency to delete the ending of Jane Eyre from our memory of the novel might be condoned accordingly. But would it really be proper to think of this ending as a subordinate bit of text, which we are entitled to treat inattentively? The unfamilair sentence I quoted above ("Amen; even so come, Lord Jesus!") is the climax of two ringing paragraphs about the mission of St John Rivers among the Indians: so the problem posed by the fact that this is an ending (in other words, a point in the text important in itself) is compounded by the sheer weight of attention given to St John here. And on top of that comes the consideration that St John has been Jane's suitor. "Reader, I married him" is thus not only displaced, it is perhaps challenged in emotional significance. How would it be if Mansfield Park ended with two paragraphs on Henry Crawford, or Middlemarch with two paragraphs on Mr. Cassaubon?
Because of these two paragraphs, Jane Eyre also closes on a religious note. There is religious fervor at this point, but mainly as atttributed to St John Rivers, and we are not required to suppose that religion is a dominate influence in Jane's life as she winds up the telling of her story. However she does believe that St John's missionary work will enormously benefit heathen India, and she reports that his last letter "filled my heart with Divine joy." So the novel ends with, at the least, an expression of strong assent to Christianity as the only true creed, and to the consequent necessity of Christian evangelizing.
When Charlotte Bronte had the opportunity to return to the printed text of her novel, on its reissue...she was concerned that the book's suport for active Christianity may have bene missed by her readers. She wrote a preface for the second edition, of 1848, in which she hastened to deny that the "piety" of St John is tarred with the brush of Mr. Brocklehurst's "bigotry": piety is the "regent of God on earth," she wrote, and bigotry should not be confused with "the world-redeeming creed of Christ." From 1848 onwards Jane Eyre, with its new preface and its peroration on St John Rivers, has a certain appearance of being framed by statements of evangical Christianity.
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