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Jane Eyre | Chapters 14–15 | Summary

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Summary

Chapter 14

One evening Mr. Rochester invites Jane and Adèle to the dining room after dinner. After giving Adèle a present, he invites Mrs. Fairfax to join them and asks her to amuse Adèle while he talks with Jane. After he and Jane discuss beauty and appearance, Rochester mentions that "Fortune has knocked [him] about" so much that he's as "tough as an India-rubber ball," but he hopes to be transformed "back to flesh." They speak of class and equality, and the words command and subordinate appear in their conversation. Jane reminds him he pays her a salary, signaling the distance between them. He says he regrets having given in to a life of "dissipations." Something is preventing him from reforming his life, but he hopes to have the help of an "inspiration," something that "is no devil" but "has put on the robes of an angel of light." Jane, seeing in his face the idea troubles him, warns him to "distrust" the false angel. She advises him to simply become the person he would respect. Although Jane enjoys their conversation, she doesn't completely understand what troubles him. Jane tries to end the conversation by saying it is time to put Adèle to bed and is relieved when the girl becomes the center of attention by doing an impromptu brief dance in a new dress that Rochester has given her.

Chapter 15

Later on Rochester tells Jane "one afternoon" how Adèle came to be his ward. He'd had an affair with Céline Varens, a French opera-dancer, which he broke off when he discovered she'd been unfaithful. Céline claimed that Adèle was his child. He knew this was probably untrue—"I see no proofs of such grim paternity written in her countenance," he tells Jane—but he took Adèle in when Céline "abandoned" the girl in Paris.

Jane thinks about how she and Rochester have begun to have more frequent evening conversations and developed an ease with each other. Jane looks forward to the time they spend together. She sees a lot of good qualities in him, although he can sometimes be proud or harsh. He seems to be nursing a secret grief that prevents him from being completely happy.

At two in the morning, unable to sleep, Jane is disturbed by a "demoniac laugh" outside her door and hears footsteps going up the third-floor staircase. She cautiously opens her door and sees smoke coming from Rochester's room. He's asleep, with his bed curtains and sheets in flames. Jane douses the fire and tells him about the laugh. Rochester goes to the third floor and returns to explain that Grace Poole was responsible for the fire. He instructs Jane to "say nothing about" the fire: he will explain what happened to the servants. Rochester emotionally thanks Jane for saving his life with "strange energy ... in his voice, strange fire in his look."

Analysis

In Chapter 14 Jane can be seen as embodying the "inspiration" or "notion" of the "angel of light" that Rochester believes will transform his life, through her honesty and good character. Jane instinctively feels that Rochester's plans for his future are somehow outside the bounds of conventional morality. His mention of new "unheard-of rules" reinforces this feeling. His strange talk also adds to the sense of him as a gothic hero, a dark but attractive figure who has a mysterious past the heroine must uncover.

While many young women of the time would be shocked to hear about Rochester's affair with Céline Varens (described in Chapter 15), Jane takes it in stride. Rochester's rash actions are somewhat redeemed by his kind and responsible actions toward Adèle, and his contrition helps her swallow the news as well. She is glad that he feels comfortable enough with her to share the story, and her own passionate nature helps her to sympathize with Rochester's jealousy. Her growing comfort with him brings her some peace of mind: "so happy, so gratified did I become with this new interest added to life, that I ceased to pine after kindred."

The incident of the fire deepens the sense of gothic mystery about Thornfield, as well as foreshadowing the fire that eventually destroys the mansion and injures Rochester. Jane's physical rescue of him in this scene also foreshadows her emotional rescue of him in the book's resolution.

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