In Chapter 14 of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre, Jane and Mr. Rochester discuss a number of topics, including the following:
- Whether greater age and greater travel give one knowledge superior to one who is less old and less well traveled.
- Whether free-born beings will “submit to anything for a salary.” Rochester believes that
“Most things free-born will submit to anything for a salary . . . .”
- The nature of memory.
- The nature of conversation.
- The nature or repentance and reformation.
Rochester’s references to repentance and reformation are deliberately intriguing and mysterious. We wonder why these topics are on his mind, yet at present we have no way of knowing. His preoccupation with these topics make him seem a somewhat tortured figure despite his great power. Only later in the novel do we discover precisely how and why he is tortured. Jane is confused by his talk, and so, at this point are we. Surely this is part of the effect Brontë intended -- and achieved.