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Jane and Rochester argue about giving in to temptation in chapter 14. That might sound boring, but Chapter 14 of Jane Eyre is a perfect example of 19th century flirting. They are just getting to knoe each other. They argue about whether one should live life with reckless abandon once something regretful has happened. Rochester argues that since things have already gone wrong he should be able to do whatever he wants, and Jane argues that behaving that way will make a person regress further.
What makes the flirting even more exciting is that Jane and Rochester should not have any kind of romance, according to Victorian social rules” they are of two different classes. They begin flirting almost from the beginning. Jane comes in with Adele, and Rochester gives her a present and calls the housekeeper to get her out of the way. He insists Jane sit facing him, and when he catches her looking at him he starts the verbal dance.
“You examine me, Miss Eyre,” said he: “do you think me handsome?”
Jane answers “no” without thinking. She says she doesn’t mean to be coy, but Rochester is in a lively mood, and Jane doesn’t back down to his teasing (although she does muse to herself that he’s had too much wine).
Eventually the conversation gets around to more serious matters. Rochester is contemplative and mentions that he has done something he regrets, and he was wronged by fate (he doesn’t say what, and at this point we don’t know about the crazy wife in the attic yet).
"Dread remorse when you are tempted to err, Miss Eyre: remorse is the poison of life.”
Jane replies that repentance is a cure, and Rochester disagrees that reformation is the cure. When we think about this in the context of what he has done (marry the crazy woman) and what he wants to do (start over), his side of the conversation makes sense. Rochester suggests that he’s cursed and might as well enjoy life. Jane argues back that he will “degenerate still more.”
The conversation continues, with Rochester suggesting he should just enjoy life and Jane arguing that it really won’t be worth it. He says remorse is an angel, and she replies:
“Distrust it, sir; it is not a true angel.”
He suggests she doesn’t know what she’s talking about. She responds that if he tried he could be a good person. He tells her that the road to Hell is paved with good intentions, and he has good intentions but is still tempted.
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