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Free Study Guide-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 31


Jane starts her work in the village school at Morton. She contemplates her future. She has already become aware of the ignorance and lack of refinement in her pupils. Although she is aware of her own feelings of isolation and depression, she is sure that in time she will learn to love her work. She thanks God that she left Thornfield, but she cannot help shedding tears when she thinks of Mr. Rochester. However, she concludes that the life of a humble schoolmistress is more respectable than a life of a mistress.

One day at the school Jane suddenly becomes conscious of St. John's presence. He has come to deliver to her a parcel from his sisters. St. John admonishes Jane to look to the future to compensate for the losses of the past. He confesses to her something of his own struggle to accept the fate of a clergyman. He relates that he had wanted to pursue literature, but then yielded to a life of selfless devotion to others. (His father, however, was opposed to the idea of his becoming a missionary.) St. John believes that God called him to take this difficult path, and he is now determined to become a missionary in the East.

While they are engaged in conversation, Miss Rosamond Oliver, the beautiful daughter of the local landowner and industrialist, pays them a visit. She is also the benefactress of the school and has come to find out how Jane likes her new home and assistant. Jane senses that Miss Oliver is attracted to St. John Rivers, but he seems to curb his desires, as they may clash with his career plans.


The author now presents Jane's lack of a sense of fulfillment in her present life and work. Although she acknowledges all the advantages of her new post, she cannot help feeling desolate. This indicates the conflict in her life, as well as her growing depression. She cannot reconcile herself to a life without love, St. John's emphatic arguments notwithstanding.

In this chapter Bronte introduces the reader to another type of beauty in the person of Rosamond Oliver. Like Adèle, Rosamond has the miniature charm of a doll. She is described in flat and trite terms, which indicate that she cannot offer much beyond her good looks: "Perfect beauty is a strong expression; but I do not retrace or qualify it . . . No charm was wanting, no defect was perceptible; the young girl had regular and delicate lineaments; eyes shaped and coloured as we see them in lovely pictures, large, and dark, and full . . . the even and gleaming teeth without flaw; the small dimpled chin; the ornament of rich, plenteous tresses,--all advantages, in short, which, combined, realize the ideal of beauty, were fully hers." Her lack of emotional or intellectual maturity is indicated by her voice, which has "a direct and naïve simplicity of tone and manner, pleasing, if child-like." Even her name is carefully chosen. Rosamond means "the rose of the world."

Charlotte Bronte handles Rosamond's relationship with St. John in a skillful manner. Jane notices his response to Rosamond's presence. She sees "his solemn eye melt with sudden fire, and flicker with resistless emotion." However, Rosamond is an earthly beauty, and St. John refuses to follow nature by marrying this delightful girl who loves him. In fact, he despises himself for loving because such love represents self-indulgence and would conflict with his plan of going to India as a missionary. This particular self-denying attitude would have been acclaimed as noble and right by some people in the Victorian age.

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