Jane Eyre Chapter 14 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

Lauren has taught English at the university level and has a master's degree in literature.

This lesson provides an overview of the 14th chapter of ''Jane Eyre,'' in which we learn more about Mr. Rochester and his relationship to Jane's pupil Adele. We also see more evidence of Jane's strong character and assertiveness.

Thornfield with Mr. Rochester at Home

Thornfield remains a busier, livelier place with Mr. Rochester in residence, though Jane does not see him for several days after their initial conversation over tea. They occasionally pass in the hallway, where Mr. Rochester is sometimes cold and haughty, showing her 'gentleman-like affability.' One evening, Mr. Rochester asks for Jane's art portfolio to share with friends at dinner. Later that night he summons Jane and Adele to his presence once again.

A Second Meeting

Having waited patiently for the gift Mr. Rochester promised her, Adele pounces on it with alacrity as she and Jane enter the room. Mr. Rochester sends her off to the couch, asking her to enjoy her gift in silence, saying, 'don't bother me with any details.' As an afterthought, Mr. Rochester sends for Mrs. Fairfax and charges her with listening to Adele talk about her presents. 'I am not fond of the prattle of children,' he tells Jane, 'Nor do I particularly affect simpleminded old ladies.' He does, however, want to speak with Jane and directs her to sit near him by the fire.

Beauty and Character

After he sees her studying his face, Mr. Rochester demands to know if Jane finds him attractive. Caught off guard, Jane answers honestly, 'No, Sir,' which she quickly wishes to retract. He is intrigued by her frankness, though, and wants her to explain further. At this point they discuss the shape of Mr. Rochester's skull in relation to his character. That might strike a modern reader as odd, but it was totally normal in the 19th century. Phrenology was believed to be a 'scientific' study of skulls, their measurements, and their correlation to character and personality. Different areas of a skull were said to correspond to different character traits, as is shown in charts such as this one:


According to this rather absurd analysis, Jane determines that Mr. Rochester is likely very smart but maybe not terribly kind.

Jane Asserts Herself to Mr. Rochester

'It would please me now to draw you out--to learn more of you,' Mr. Rochester tells Jane, and then he attempts to command her: 'therefore speak.' Considering what we have learned about Jane's character thus far in the novel, it comes as no surprise when Jane tells us her response to this command: 'Instead of speaking, I smiled; and not a very complacent or submissive smile either.'

Failing to elicit conversation by command, Mr. Rochester attempts to extract it by establishing his superiority, suggesting that he has a right 'to be a little masterful, abrupt; perhaps exacting' because he is older and more experienced than Jane. Again in keeping with her character, Jane responds, 'I don't think, sir, you have a right to command me, merely because you are older than I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have.'

Sufficiently responsive to Jane's retorts, Mr. Rochester ends the conversation by asking Jane if she will continue to obey his orders 'now and then,' regardless of their commanding tone. This comment wins him some respect from Jane.

Mr. Rochester's Darker Side

After earning enough respect from Jane to ensure her participation in conversation, Mr. Rochester launches into a philosophical discussion of good vs. bad and right vs. wrong, which is tied heavily to his own experience. He is unusually talkative this evening (perhaps because of the wine, Jane observes), explaining 'When fate wronged me, I had not the wisdom to remain cool: I turned desperate; then I degenerated.' He reveals here that he has experienced misfortune in his life and afterward has made some regrettable decisions. He speaks also quite candidly of the remorse which follows him because of these choices, telling Jane, 'remorse is the poison of life.'

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