St. John Rivers in Jane Eyre picks his vocation over love. He is considered cold cause he won’t accept his love Rosamond. But had he done so would they have been happy?
Consider the doctor Lydgate in Middlemarch (incidentally his love interest is also called Rosamond) that apart, he accepted his love. Despite being a person with an aim, he set it aside for “true love”. Was he happy? He considered himself a failure for life. Can anybody be more miserable than that?
He tells Rosy don’t ever say that you don’t like my research, that’s like saying you don’t love me. Isn’t that true? How can one love half the person? One can love a person and hate certain habits, even endevour to alter them. But how can one love a person but not his/her defining trait?
Both St. John and Lydgate are defined by their work. If they are to be happy in love, their love interest will have to love them as a whole. St. John can’t be asked to give up his missionary zeal to marry Rosamond. He understood that. It would make them both miserable. Just as it did in Middlemarch. When they lived life the way Lydgate desired Rosamond was miserable. So was he, he needed a partner to share his miseries but Rosamond couldn’t offer that support. And then he changed course to live her way and remained miserable forever.
I don’t find anything amiss in either Rosamond. They have a dream for their life, but the person they choose doesn’t fit in it. An attempt to mould a person into the person of your dream can not beget true happiness. People can alter habits, not defining characteristics. And if such tremendous change is required then it is as Lydgate put it you don’t love that person.
And so I consider Rivers decision to not marry Rosamond just.
He may come across as cold. But he is right in this. Neither could he give up missionary work nor could Rosamond sacrifice her comfortable life.
And if their minds are so opposed, this cannot be “true love”.