Volume 1, Chapter 14

Synopsis of Volume 1, Chapter 14

Jane talks with RochesterRochester seems an odd and moody man, sometimes interested in Jane, but often preoccupied with business and entertaining guests. On the evening when Adèle's presents arrive, he puts Adèle in the care of Mrs Fairfax and again talks to Jane. He is clearly fascinated by her and tempts her into an enigmatic and challenging conversation about good and evil and his own behaviour, particularly his relationship with Adèle's mother.

Commentary on Volume 1, Chapter 14

Hannah Whitall Smith, a QuakerMy usual Quaker trim Quakers were members of the religious sect, the Society of Friends, who dressed plainly in dull colours.

a little nonnette A small nun: another of the ways in which Rochester tries to define Jane, whose appearance and manner he finds intriguing and unexpected.

the prominences … were sufficiently conspicuous Another reference to phrenology: see Volume 1, Chapter 5.

nothing free-born The opposite of ‘free-born' is to be born a slave, and Jane is here asserting her sense of liberty and independence and her refusal to be defined solely by her employment.

bad eminence From John Milton's description of Satan Paradise Lost 2. 6.

hampered, burdened, cursed as I am See Characterisation: Rochester.

an angel of light … a fallen seraph from the abyss and a messenger from the eternal throne … a guide and a seducer The fallen seraph is a reference to Satan in John Milton's Paradise Lost, a character to whom Rochester often compares himself. See Characterisation: Rochester. His suggestion – that it is difficult to detect the difference between good and bad visitors – shows how he plays with theological ideas.

pilgrim – a disguised deity Rochester is referring to Jane's arrival at Thornfield. His comparison of a human being to a deity is another indication of the rather daring and unorthodox, almost sacrilegious, nature of the conversation in this scene.

charnel … shrine A strong hint of Rochester's belief that he needs moral improvement. He compares his heart to a charnel-house, used for burials, but hopes that it will become a shrine, a place of worship.

a perpetual bane Once again these are references to Milton's Satan.

paving hell … good intention ‘Hell is paved with good intentions' is a proverbial saying, meaning that it is full of sinners who failed to live up to the good things they hoped or promised to do.

pure ore … foul dross A reference to mining for minerals, which need to be separated from the less valuable matter in which they are embedded.

a law, unalterable as that of the Medes and Persians' The laws of these two ancient civilisations were proverbially regarded as fixed and unchangeable. See Daniel 6:8:

‘Now, O king, establish the decree, and sign the writing, that it be not changed, according to the law of the Medes and Persians, which altereth not.'

Sphinx at Belvedere Palace, Vienna. Photo copyright to David Monniaux available through Creative Commonstalk like a Sphynx In Greek mythology the Sphinx was a monster with a woman's head and breasts, a lion's body, a bird's wing and a serpent's tail. She set riddles for the inhabitants of Thebes, killing and eating those who could not solve them. Rochester is suggesting that Jane finds their conversation difficult because he speaks in riddles.

the Roman Catholic principle A reference to the Roman Catholic practice of confession, repentance and expiation of sins.

Investigating Volume 1, Chapter 14
  • A number of times in this chapter Rochester associates himself with Satan
    • What kind of image of himself is he trying to create?
  • How does the image of Rochester as Satan compare with
    • The ways in which Jane describes herself?
    • The ways in which Rochester refers to her?
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