The Lake Which Burneth with Fire and Brimstone; or, How I Learned to Love Mr. Rochester

I finally had a chance to watch Cary Fukunaga’s gorgeous and perfectly moody Jane Eyre, which of course lead me to an urgent re-read of same. It’s funny: in all the readerly angst over whether Edward Rochester is Hot or Not (or, more often, Oppressive Patriarchal Douche-Canoe or Not), it’s easy to forget the fact that St. John Rivers is totally and completely gross. Dude basically tells Jane she is literally going to hell if she doesn’t marry him:

For the evening reading before prayers, he selected the twenty-first chapter of Revelation…

“He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But,” was slowly, distinctly read, “the fearful, the unbelieving, etc., shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstyone, which is the second death.”

Henceforward, I knew what fate St. John feared for me.

Brontë spends a lot of time reassuring us that St. John is super noble and sacrificing and upright, but honestly, there is no better way to get me to forget that Rochester is basically a stand-in for a fairy-tale serial killer emblematic of patriarchal control than to have another guy coolly inform our heroine she’s got to marry him under some kind of divine ordinance. Maybe it’s just that his argument reminds me a bit of those Men’s Rights Activists who claim all the promiscuous harpies that reject them now will be sorry when they’re old and lonely (or, in St. John’s case, dead and being taunted by little men with pitchforks). So I guess the moral of this story is I would prefer the man who keeps a woman literally chained in a windowless room to the smug manipulations of a guy who thinks he’s entitled to my love.

Huh. They’re right. We promiscuous harpies do like bad boys, after all.

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