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Free Study Guide-Jane Eyre by Charlotte Bronte-Free Booknotes Summary
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Chapter 15

Summary

One afternoon Mr. Rochester happens to meet Jane and Adèle on the grounds. He asks Jane to walk down a long avenue of beech trees with him. He tells her of his affair with Céline Varens, Adèle's mother. He indulged in an overwhelming, passionate affair with Céline, but she deceived him. She had an affair with a young viscount, and Mr. Rochester once overheard her speak of himself with contempt. This made Mr. Rochester end their affair. At that time, Adèle was a child of six months. Céline had tried to assure him that Adèle was his child, but Mr. Rochester did not believe her. In any case, he decided to bring up Adèle when Céline abandoned her to elope with a musician.

Mr. Rochester feels that this information about Adèle will cause Jane to look for employment elsewhere. However, Jane assures him that she will never hold Adèle responsible for her parents' faults. She claims that she will love the "lonely little orphan" all the more.

Jane goes to bed thinking about Mr. Rochester and finds that she is unable to sleep. She is woken up by a murmur, followed by a demonic laugh and the sound of steps retreating towards the third floor. She opens her door and finds a candle burning in the gallery. On finding Mr. Rochester's door open, she goes in and discovers the curtains on fire and the flames enveloping the master's bed. She makes frantic attempts to wake him up and succeeds with much difficulty. Pouring water all over the bed, she extinguishes the fire. On waking, Mr. Rochester tries to extract all the information that Jane can give. He goes to the third floor to investigate and returns after a long time. He confirms Jane's suspicion that Grace Poole is responsible for this mischief. He insists that they keep the whole incident a secret. While bidding goodnight to Jane, he affectionately takes her hands and conveys his gratitude to her for having saved his life. Jane spends a disturbed night thinking of the turn her life has taken.


Notes

In this chapter the reader learns more about what alienates Mr. Rochester from the rest of the household. Victorian readers must have been shocked by Mr. Rochester's telling the story of his French mistress to the innocent governess. Girls in those days were not supposed to be aware of such relationships. Throughout his narration Mr. Rochester shows an awareness of what he takes to be Jane's ignorance and lack of experience in these matters. He believes that hers is a mind "unacquainted with the world, . . . its scenes and ways." Her sympathy for Adèle speaks volumes for her admirable character.

Mr. Rochester's ability to trust Jane gives her confidence in his presence. His friendly frankness draws her to him. Suddenly Jane realizes that the emptiness of her existence has been filled up by him. Consequently her bodily health improves. The novelist uses the image of fire to communicate Jane's perception of Mr. Rochester. The fire becomes a symbol of cheerfulness, warmth and the comfort it brings: "his presence in a room was more cheering than the brightest fire." Fire, of course, will acquire other important meanings within the symbolic structure of the novel.

When Jane extinguishes the flame surrounding the sleeping Rochester with a "shower-bath . . . liberally bestowed," her action ensures his safety. Jane's presence of mind and courage in the face of physical danger, such as the bedroom fire, are unusual qualities in a Victorian heroine. It should be noted that this is the second time Jane has had to "rescue" her master, the first time being their very first meeting. Her dream of "a buoyant but unquiet sea, whose billows of trouble rolled under surges of joy" indicates the shape of things to come. She is likely to encounter problems in her relationship with Mr. Rochester.

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