St John Rivers and the language of war

This chapter examines Charlotte Brontë’s application of military language and activity in the scenes featuring Jane and St John Rivers in Jane Eyre (1847). I argue that Brontë constructs the relationship between the characters as a war, revealing an astute knowledge of military theory. At the same time, she develops an alternative Christian masculinity in her creation of Rivers as ‘warrior priest’. My reading of the novel is informed by the work of Carl von Clausewitz, and I suggest that Brontë’s understanding of historic military strategy is instrumental to the resolution of the novel’s tensions. Finally, I discuss how Brontë anticipates later nineteenth-century movements that combine faith with the language of combat.

in Martial masculinities