What is significant about the fire in Chapter 15 of Charlotte Brontë's novel Jane Eyre?
The episode involving the fire in Chapter 15 of Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre is significant for a number of reasons, including those already mentioned in the answer above. However, the episode is important for the following reasons as well:
- It foreshadows the much more serious fire later in the novel. This fire is put out rather easily; the later one will not be.
- It foreshadows the much more serious fate that will befall Mr. Rochester as a result of the later fire. Here he is saved fairly easily; later he will be badly burned.
- It shows Jane’s desire to help and protect Mr. Rochester; by the end of the novel she will be helping and protecting him far more than she does here.
- It suggests that someone in the house may be an arsonist; later we discover that that person is Bertha.
- It shows that Brontë is capable of humor even when describing something as serious as a life-threatening fire. Thus, Jane reports of Mr. Rochester that
Though it was now dark, I knew he was awake; because I heard him fulminating strange anathemas at finding himself lying in a pool of water.
“Is there a flood?” he cried.
“No, sir,” I answered; “but there has been a fire: get up, do; you are quenched now; I will fetch you a candle.”
In Chapter 15 Jane learns more about Rochester and Adele's past. That night as she lies in bed thinking about all that she has learned, she hears strange noises: fingers brushing on the wall and a wild eerie laugh. She hears a door open and then smells smoke. She runs into his room and realizes his curtains are on fire, and wakes him up dousing the bed with water. Happy that she has saved his life, Rochester goes to the third floor to investigate. When he returns he says
“I have found it all out, it is just as I thought.”
He checks to make sure she didn't see anything else and confirms that it was Grace-Pool.
"Just so. Grace Poole—you have guessed it.”
The fire, the second time she has saved Rochester, is significant because she begins to see that everything is not what it seems at Thornfield Hall. It also begins to show the reader that Rochester is significantly interested in Jane and that she is quickly falling in love with him.