Jane Eyre Chapter 15 Summary

Instructor: Lauren Boivin

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

This lesson will provide a summary of Chapter 15 of ''Jane Eyre.'' In this chapter, we find out more about Mr. Rochester's past and his connection to Adele. Things heat up at the end of the chapter as the story's plot takes a major turn.

Mr. Rochester Explains

At the start of the chapter, Mr. Rochester explains more about his connection to Adele and her mother, Celine Varens. He tells Jane that Celine was a beautiful French dancer with whom he had an affair. He fell in love with her and she persuaded him that she returned his affection. He provided her with a luxurious apartment, a carriage, silks, furs, and jewels. In his recounting to Jane, Mr. Rochester curses himself for being an idiot for following such an unoriginal pattern of stupidity because, as is often the case, Celine loved only his money. He discovers her one evening with a lover, which ends their affair.

Adele was six months old when Mr. Rochester breaks his relationship with Celine. He had believed Adele to be his daughter, but of course now he can't be sure. She looks nothing like him, which increases his suspicions. (Indeed, he declares that his dog looks more like him than she does!) Celine eventually abandons the child, at which point Mr. Rochester takes her to live with him even though Adele reminds him of the pain of his relationship and its ugly end. This may explain his lack of affection for the child.

More than Meets the Eye

Despite all he tells Jane about his past, it seems there is still more lurking within Mr. Rochester's mind. In the midst of recounting this tale of woe, he pauses and looks up at Thornfield Hall. In his face at this moment, Jane sees internal conflict and strife. Afterward, Mr. Rochester declares with energy, 'I will break obstacles to happiness, to goodness - yes, goodness; I wish to be a better man than I have been; than I am.' What could it be that haunts him so? Will we find out soon?

Thornfield Hall

Romance Brewing??

No Victorian novel would be complete without some romantic element to its plot, and Jane Eyre is no exception. Mr. Rochester has been at Thornfield now for some weeks, and Jane is beginning to say things about him like 'his presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire.' It is even suggested that Mr. Rochester may share in these warm feelings, as he seems always happy to meet her in the hall and is glad to speak with her and offer a smile.

The Conflagration

Conflagration is an excellent word that refers to a particularly big fire that causes much damage, which is precisely what happens in this chapter. Late one night, Jane hears movement near her bedroom door. At first she thinks it might just be the dog, Pilot, but then she hears very loud, very clear, and very close the eerie laughter that she had heard before in the third floor hall. Alarmed, Jane decides she must find Mrs. Fairfax. Upon entering the hallway, however, she finds it filled with smoke, which is coming from Mr. Rochester's room. Running there, she finds him fast asleep on his bed while his bed curtains burn all around him. She shakes him and shouts but is unable to wake him. Thinking quickly, she dumps all the water from his washbasin on the flames and then runs to her room to get that washbasin too.


The timely dousing succeeds in both extinguishing the flames and reviving Mr. Rochester. Despite the darkness, Jane could tell he was awake because she hears him 'fulminating strange anathemas at finding himself lying in a pool of water.' In other words, he is swearing up a storm again. Jane, as ever, remains cool and sensible as she reports: 'There has been a fire: get up, do, you are drenched now. I will fetch you a candle.'

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