Vocabulary in Jane Eyre
According to the Bible, God punished the people of Babel for trying to build a tower to heaven by confusing their language abilities and scattering them across the Earth. This is one of the many biblical allusions in Jane Eyre, contributing to the theme of religion and Jane’s changing relationship with faith.
Julius Caesar famously crossed the Rubicon (a river), initiating a civil war. Passing the Rubicon is understood as passing the point of no return. Up to this point, Jane has been hesitant to commit to her situation or her beliefs, as shown by her fascination with birds and her identification with Felix. Her confrontation with Brocklehurst is imminent, and the idea of a fixed event that she cannot turn back or escape from terrifies her.
Resurgam is Latin for “I shall rise again.” Helen’s death, as well as this inscription, further contributes to her characterization as a Christ-like figure, as Christ died but came back to life again before ascending into heaven.
“I am famished!”
“Madam, your dinner has been served!”
“What is it that you have, then? one of the rats says; ‘Speak!”
“The Plot of the Rats: a fable by Jean de la Fontaine”
[French] “Is this my governess?”
It was assumed that educated people throughout Europe could understand French, so Brontë did not bother translating these passages. As a well-educated woman, she learned French in school and often wrote in the language in many of her novels.
"Raiment" is an archaic term that refers to clothing. Jane is underdressed for her occupation, and this sort of discrepancy between Jane’s appearance and her identity occurs throughout the novel. Jane’s small stature and plain dress often lead others to misjudge her.
“by the way”
“Hurry back, my good, dear friend, Miss Jane”
Latmos (Latmus) is a mountain in modern-day Turkey, with significance in Greek mythology as the resting place of Endymion. Jane is the perpetual dreamer, always wanting to be in any location but her current one. Her drawings are a, perhaps subconscious, projection of this desire.
“Isn't there a gift for Miss Eyre in your trunk, Sir?”
“This means there must be a present inside just for me, and perhaps there is one for you also, Miss. Mr. Rochester asked me about you: He asked about the name of my new governess, if she was short, thin, and rather pale. I said yes: because that's the truth, isn't it, Miss?”
“Didn't mother do it like this, sir?”
“Sir, I thank you innumerable times for being so generous”
“and my shoes? and stockings? Watch, as I dance!”
“What do you think of my dress?”
“I must try it on!”
“and I care”
“Oh, heaven! Isn't it beautiful?”
“keep quiet, child; do you understand?”
“My box! my box!”
This literally translates to “wheel of a nobleman”, but roué has a more subtle meaning. It refers to someone who lives a debauched lifestyle.
This Latin phrase roughly translates to “will-o’-the-wisp,” referring to something that is deceptive or deluding. Jane compares it to loving Rochester, who is outside of her social class and her employer. Victorian societal norms would not deem them a good marital match, so she believes loving him would only be a waste of time. She cannot imagine marrying Rochester, so she tries to remain rational, renouncing her true feelings.
“Your fingers tremble like a leaf, and your cheeks are red: as red as cherries!”
“What's wrong, Miss?”
Sago is a starch harvested from the trunks of palm trees. It is native to the West Indies, and is popular in Caribbean cuisine as well. While it is eaten in Europe, it is not a popular ingredient. It is unusual, almost suspicious, that Grace Poole would eat sago.
“the beautiful passion”; love
This phrase has many possible interpretations. It may simply be nonsense invented when the Ingrams were children; however, an archaic meaning for “pip” is “ill humored,” which could also be a possibility based on their opinion of Mr. Vining. “Pip” also suggests something insignificant or small. Whatever the meaning, it shows the Ingrams’ lack of respect for those from lower social classes.
“a father of the theatre.”
“Good day, ladies.”
A French term of endearment for one who’s attractive in an unusual way, whose imperfections lend to their beauty. It literally translates to “crumpled little face”.
“These are magnificent flowers, may I take one, Miss? It would make my outfit complete.”
“and then what a pity!”
“Of course, Miss: but we have not had anything to eat in five or six hours.”
“When we had company at my mom's house, I followed the guests everywhere, from the drawing room to their bedrooms; frequently I watched the maids assisting the ladies with their hair or their clothes, and it was very amusing; I learned to mimic them.”
“They are changing their clothes.”
A “Mother Bunch” is a strong ale and can also be used in reference to a messy and untidy-looking woman who serves it. The term has a slightly derogatory connotation and reveals the upper class’s negative view of Romani people (“gypsies”) or any culture outside of their own.
“Look, Mr. Rochester has returned!”
Bridewell was formerly a prison in London as well as a slang term for any police station or prison. This scene may suggest that Rochester feels imprisoned by some dark secrets he may be harboring.
Jane’s choice of words here reveals what she thinks about Rochester and Blanche Ingram’s relationship. “[P]antomime” works as a sort of double entendre. The party is playing charades, but she also believes that their good relationship is only a performance, mere pretend. They only have give the appearance of being a good couple because of their social standing when it is really Jane who would be a better match for Rochester.
A type a smelling salt used to keep one from fainting or to arouse consciousness. Note Rochester's urgent tone and the tense atmosphere that calls for the use of salts.
Carthage is an ancient city located along Africa’s northern shore, now the capital of modern day Tunisia. Jane assumes Rochester is talking about Blanche Ingram, but note how his description only vaguely resembles Blanche. Blanche has an “olive complexion” and “dark features”, but she definitely doesn’t look to be of African descent, making Rochester’s statement suspicious.
“to give myself fresh air”
“besides, no fairies were included, and if there were”
“a true liar”
“Oh, things will be very unpleasant and uncomfortable for her there!”
“[H]ypochondriac” relates to the condition in which people are convinced they are ill and in need of medical attention, even if they are not actually ill. Oftentimes, people with hypochondria suffer from actual symptoms, even if the illness is not actually present.
In the Caribbean, “Creole” refers to someone of European and African descent. This culture is rooted in a history of European colonization and African enslavement, and Bertha represents this. Rochester reinforces colonial cruelty when he marries her and brings her back to Europe, treating a real person like the natural resources colonists extracted from the land.
In this context, “scaffold” refers to a platform where criminals stand while they await execution. Despite the beauty that surrounds Jane at Thornfield as she covertly escapes, Jane’s mind is occupied by the great pain she faces leaving Rochester, the man she loves. Again, Jane is uninterested in what is physically beautiful while more important matters present themselves.
[German] “As I weigh my thoughts on a scale, I realize that my temper and my behavior are weighted as heavily as my outburst.”
[German] “There was only one individual who came forward, to be observed like a crystal clear night.”
Brontë continues to give significance to place names. A marsh is soft, waterlogged land that can be difficult to traverse. “Marsh End” suggests Jane will find herself on firmer footing here, just as the ground at the end of a marsh would be more solid; it marks the symbolic end of Jane’s journey.
Calvinism is a stricter form of Protestantism than Jane’s Evangelicalism because it emphasizes the word of God above all else. Jane is lax about her religious beliefs, merely seeking to live a good life rather than follow specific principles. Though they can bond over religion, the differences in how devout Jane and St. John are have the potential to cause friction between them.
A peri is a Persian mythological creature, similar to a fairy and known for its beauty. Peris can either be benevolent or agents of evil. Rochester often referred to Jane as a sort of sprite or fairy, but Rosamond and Jane are not necessarily similar characters. Jane calls Rosamond a “peri” because of its potential for evil, which is directly linked to Rosamond’s beauty that Jane had just described in great detail.
While Lot’s family was fleeing Sodom as God was destroying it, the angel guiding them warned them not to look back. Lot’s wife disobeyed and turned into salt. With this biblical story, St. John advises Jane to have faith in God despite her doubts. It’s also significant that Lot’s wife is unnamed. She is defined by her relationship to a man, dependent on him for an identity. This is what Jane has been avoiding, so St. John’s comparison shows a disconnect between the two.
The 5th of November is known as Guy Fawkes Day. In Chapter 3, one of the maids at Gateshead likened Jane to an “infantine Guy Fawkes” for her rebellious behavior. As this Bildungsroman nears its end, this serves as a small reminder of Jane’s troubled beginnings and how much she’s grown over the course of the novel. Once hot-tempered and living in poor conditions, Jane is now more level-headed, independent, and has a space to call her own.
[Latin] “freak of nature”
Jane alludes to a section from the New Testament that refers to the apostle Paul’s passage through Macedonia. He was one of the most prolific of the apostles, spreading Christianity as a missionary throughout the East and West. Jane suggests that St. John is a Paul-like figure whose stringent dedication to his faith Jane can’t match. It is not that Jane’s faith is wavering, but that she approaches Christianity with a more laissez-faire attitude.
Both of these refer to peasant, farmer women--although “paysannes” is French and Bäuerinnen is German. It is unclear if Jane is well travelled enough to have actually been to France and Germany to meet these women, or if she is simply exercising her mastery of several languages.
This comes from Genesis 2:23, which explains God’s creation of woman from the rib of Adam. Jane’s allusion suggests that her harmonious marriage with Rochester is heaven-sent and ordained by God. It is also a reference to how Rochester’s physical condition allows them to recognize each other as equals.