"Jane Eyre," Vocabulary from Chapters 1-5

Charlotte Bronte's heroine "Jane Eyre" defies the stereotype of the docile Victorian woman and shines as a fully realized person who jumps off the page at a time when women were often portrayed as one-dimensional characters (etext found here).

Learn this word list that focuses on abuse. Here are links to our lists for the novel: Chapters 1-5, Chapters 6-10, Chapters 11-18, Chapters 19-25, Chapters 26-30, Chapters 31-38

Activities for this list:

definitions & notes only words
  1. antipathy
    a feeling of intense dislike
    John had not much affection for his mother and sisters, and an antipathy to me.
  2. infliction
    an act causing pain or damage
    There were moments when I was bewildered by the terror he inspired, because I had no appeal whatever against either his menaces or his inflictions; the servants did not like to offend their young master by taking my part against him, and Mrs. Reed was blind and deaf on the subject: she never saw him strike or heard him abuse me, though he did both now and then in her very presence, more frequently, however, behind her back.
    The Latin verb "fligere" which means "to strike" can also be seen in the words "conflict" and "afflict"--here, Jane is a ten-year-old who doesn't know how to deal with the abuse John inflicts on her; this sets up a contrast to the conflict with St. John nine years later when he afflicts her mind and soul.
  3. impudence
    a disrespectful statement
    “That is for your impudence in answering mama awhile since,” said he, “and for your sneaking way of getting behind curtains, and for the look you had in your eyes two minutes since, you rat!”
    "Impudence" can also be the broader "trait of being rude and impertinent" which Jane sometimes exhibits when others are rude to her. But in the eyes of John Reed, because she depends on his family's generosity to survive, she has no right to spout impudence, which in this case was a questioning of Mrs. Reed's displeasure with her: “What does Bessie say I have done?”
  4. pungent
    having a sharp, biting, or caustic quality
    I felt a drop or two of blood from my head trickle down my neck, and was sensible of somewhat pungent suffering: these sensations for the time predominated over fear, and I received him in frantic sort.
  5. liable
    at risk of experiencing something usually unpleasant
    The fact is, I was a trifle beside myself; or rather out of myself, as the French would say: I was conscious that a moment’s mutiny had already rendered me liable to strange penalties, and, like any other rebel slave, I felt resolved, in my desperation, to go all lengths.
  6. ignominy
    a state of dishonor
    This preparation for bonds, and the additional ignominy it inferred, took a little of the excitement out of me.
  7. reproach
    a mild rebuke or criticism
    This reproach of my dependence had become a vague sing-song in my ear: very painful and crushing, but only half intelligible.
  8. repent
    feel sorry for; be contrite about
    Say your prayers, Miss Eyre, when you are by yourself; for if you don’t repent, something bad might be permitted to come down the chimney and fetch you away.
  9. aversion
    a feeling of intense dislike
    All John Reed’s violent tyrannies, all his sisters’ proud indifference, all his mother’s aversion, all the servants’ partiality, turned up in my disturbed mind like a dark deposit in a turbid well.
  10. sullen
    showing a brooding ill humor
    I dared commit no fault: I strove to fulfil every duty; and I was termed naughty and tiresome, sullen and sneaking, from morning to noon, and from noon to night.
  11. opprobrium
    a state of extreme dishonor
    My head still ached and bled with the blow and fall I had received: no one had reproved John for wantonly striking me; and because I had turned against him to avert farther irrational violence, I was loaded with general opprobrium.
    "Reprove" and "reproach" are synonymous verbs that can lead to the synonymous states of "opprobrium" and "ignominy"--although John deserves to experience these words for his wanton ("occurring without motivation or provocation" and "extremely cruel and brutal") behavior, Jane is the only one who gets punished, which leads to her silent cry of “Unjust!—unjust!”
  12. indignation
    a feeling of righteous anger
    They were not bound to regard with affection a thing that could not sympathise with one amongst them; a heterogeneous thing, opposed to them in temperament, in capacity, in propensities; a useless thing, incapable of serving their interest, or adding to their pleasure; a noxious thing, cherishing the germs of indignation at their treatment, of contempt of their judgment.
  13. endurance
    the power to withstand hardship or stress
    My heart beat thick, my head grew hot; a sound filled my ears, which I deemed the rushing of wings; something seemed near me; I was oppressed, suffocated: endurance broke down; I rushed to the door and shook the lock in desperate effort.
  14. abhor
    find repugnant
    I abhor artifice, particularly in children; it is my duty to show you that tricks will not answer: you will now stay here an hour longer, and it is only on condition of perfect submission and stillness that I shall liberate you then.
    The Latin verb "horrere" which means "to shudder" can be seen in the verb "abhor"--Mrs. Reed uses the verb to show that she is disgusted by Jane, whom she assumes is trying to trick her into letting her out of the red-room. But Jane also connects to the verb, because she is actually horrified that Mr. Reed's ghost would appear (he had died in that room).
  15. virulent
    extremely poisonous or injurious; producing venom
    I was a precocious actress in her eyes; she sincerely looked on me as a compound of virulent passions, mean spirit, and dangerous duplicity.
  16. anguish
    extreme distress of body or mind
    Bessie and Abbot having retreated, Mrs. Reed, impatient of my now frantic anguish and wild sobs, abruptly thrust me back and locked me in, without farther parley.
  17. reprimand
    an act or expression of criticism and censure
    This state of things should have been to me a paradise of peace, accustomed as I was to a life of ceaseless reprimand and thankless fagging; but, in fact, my racked nerves were now in such a state that no calm could soothe, and no pleasure excite them agreeably.
  18. propensity
    a disposition to behave in a certain way
    Yes, Mrs. Reed, to you I owe some fearful pangs of mental suffering, but I ought to forgive you, for you knew not what you did: while rending my heart-strings, you thought you were only uprooting my bad propensities.
  19. mortified
    made to feel uncomfortable because of shame or wounded pride
    “I was knocked down,” was the blunt explanation, jerked out of me by another pang of mortified pride; “but that did not make me ill,” I added; while Mr. Lloyd helped himself to a pinch of snuff.
  20. severe
    unsparing and uncompromising in discipline or judgment
    Mrs. Reed surveyed me at times with a severe eye, but seldom addressed me: since my illness, she had drawn a more marked line of separation than ever between me and her own children; appointing me a small closet to sleep in by myself, condemning me to take my meals alone, and pass all my time in the nursery, while my cousins were constantly in the drawing-room.
  21. chastisement
    verbal punishment
    Eliza and Georgiana, evidently acting according to orders, spoke to me as little as possible: John thrust his tongue in his cheek whenever he saw me, and once attempted chastisement; but as I instantly turned against him, roused by the same sentiment of deep ire and desperate revolt which had stirred my corruption before, he thought it better to desist, and ran from me tittering execrations, and vowing I had burst his nose.
    "Execration" can mean "hate coupled with disgust (which John does feel for Jane) or "an appeal to a supernatural power to inflict evil on someone"--the second definition fits the example sentence better because John had failed in his attempt to chastise Jane. In contrast to chastising, John is "tittering" but since he is not laughing nervously about his broken nose, the choice of the verb seems to be Jane mocking him.
  22. audacious
    unrestrained by convention or propriety
    Mrs. Reed was rather a stout woman; but, on hearing this strange and audacious declaration, she ran nimbly up the stair, swept me like a whirlwind into the nursery, and crushing me down on the edge of my crib, dared me in an emphatic voice to rise from that place, or utter one syllable during the remainder of the day.
  23. homily
    a sermon on a moral or religious topic
    Bessie supplied the hiatus by a homily of an hour’s length, in which she proved beyond a doubt that I was the most wicked and abandoned child ever reared under a roof.
  24. capricious
    I remember her as a slim young woman, with black hair, dark eyes, very nice features, and good, clear complexion; but she had a capricious and hasty temper, and indifferent ideas of principle or justice: still, such as she was, I preferred her to any one else at Gateshead Hall.
  25. poltroon
    an abject coward
    What a miserable little poltroon had fear, engendered of unjust punishment, made of me in those days!
  26. strenuously
    strongly or vigorously
    Well might I dread, well might I dislike Mrs. Reed; for it was her nature to wound me cruelly; never was I happy in her presence; however carefully I obeyed, however strenuously I strove to please her, my efforts were still repulsed and repaid by such sentences as the above.
  27. obliterate
    do away with completely, without leaving a trace
    Now, uttered before a stranger, the accusation cut me to the heart; I dimly perceived that she was already obliterating hope from the new phase of existence which she destined me to enter
  28. scorn
    lack of respect accompanied by a feeling of intense dislike
    Willingly would I now have gone and asked Mrs. Reed’s pardon; but I knew, partly from experience and partly from instinct, that was the way to make her repulse me with double scorn, thereby re-exciting every turbulent impulse of my nature.
  29. resentment
    a feeling of deep and bitter anger and ill-will
    What had just passed; what Mrs. Reed had said concerning me to Mr. Brocklehurst; the whole tenor of their conversation, was recent, raw, and stinging in my mind; I had felt every word as acutely as I had heard it plainly, and a passion of resentment fomented now within me.
  30. abominable
    exceptionally bad or displeasing
    I was one of the last to go out, and in passing the tables, I saw one teacher take a basin of the porridge and taste it; she looked at the others; all their countenances expressed displeasure, and one of them, the stout one, whispered—“ Abominable stuff! How shameful!”

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