"Jane Eyre," Vocabulary from Chapters 26-30

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 shifting identities. 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. impediment
    something immaterial that interferes with action or progress
    “I am in a condition to prove my allegation: an insuperable impediment to this marriage exists.”
    The adjective "insuperable" ("incapable of being surmounted or overcome") makes the impediment sound even more inhuman. The lawyer is referring to "the existence of a previous marriage" and to the existence of Bertha Mason, who is still legally married to Mr. Rochester, but whose mental instability makes her seem more like a monster than a wife.
  2. controvert
    prove to be false or incorrect
    “I have a witness to the fact, whose testimony even you, sir, will scarcely controvert.”
  3. resolute
    firm in purpose or belief
    I now inform you that she is my wife, whom I married fifteen years ago,—Bertha Mason by name; sister of this resolute personage, who is now, with his quivering limbs and white cheeks, showing you what a stout heart men may bear.
    Mr. Rochester is sarcastically using the adjectives "resolute" and "stout" ("having rugged physical strength" or "dependable"): because he's angry at Richard Mason for exposing him, he's insulting and further intimidating the man who is still trembling from the sight of a bloody glare and uplifted arm.
  4. grovel
    show submission or fear
    What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled, seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal: but it was covered with clothing, and a quantity of dark, grizzled hair, wild as a mane, hid its head and face.
  5. discretion
    the trait of judging wisely and objectively
    “One never knows what she has, sir: she is so cunning: it is not in mortal discretion to fathom her craft.”
  6. maim
    injure or wound seriously and leave permanent disfiguration
    I was in my own room as usual—just myself, without obvious change: nothing had smitten me, or scathed me, or maimed me.
  7. ardent
    characterized by intense emotion
    Jane Eyre, who had been an ardent, expectant woman—almost a bride, was a cold, solitary girl again: her life was pale; her prospects were desolate.
  8. ascribe
    attribute or credit to
    I would not ascribe vice to him; I would not say he had betrayed me; but the attribute of stainless truth was gone from his idea, and from his presence I must go: that I perceived well.
  9. inanition
    exhaustion resulting from lack of food
    I perceived that I was sickening from excitement and inanition; neither meat nor drink had passed my lips that day, for I had taken no breakfast.
    The Latin adjective "inanis" which means "empty" can be seen in both the noun "inanition" and the adjective "inane" which means "without sense or substance; devoid of intelligence"--the example sentence focuses on Jane's empty stomach, but her entire situation feels like a senseless loss of substance (Mr. Rochester had said the night before: "I am substantial enough—touch me"). Inanity surrounds Bertha Mason and her marriage to Mr. Rochester, yet they prevent the legal union of two equal souls.
  10. appropriate
    take possession of by force
    “What!—How is this?” he exclaimed hastily. “Oh, I know! you won’t kiss the husband of Bertha Mason? You consider my arms filled and my embraces appropriated?”
  11. profligate
    a dissolute man in fashionable society
    If you think so, you must have a strange opinion of me; you must regard me as a plotting profligate—a base and low rake who has been simulating disinterested love in order to draw you into a snare deliberately laid, and strip you of honour and rob you of self-respect.
    "Profligate" and "rake" are synonymous nouns ("dissolute" means "unrestrained by convention or morality"); "base" and "low" are synonymous adjectives that describe the lack of honor. Mr. Rochester uses these words not to insult himself but to question Jane's judgment and set up his contrasting declarations and explanations.
  12. fluctuation
    the quality of being unsteady and subject to changes
    I cleared and steadied my voice to reply: “All is changed about me, sir; I must change too—there is no doubt of that; and to avoid fluctuations of feeling, and continual combats with recollections and associations, there is only one way—Adèle must have a new governess, sir.”
  13. recoil
    draw back, as with fear or pain
    Now that you think me disqualified to become your husband, you recoil from my touch as if I were some toad or ape.
  14. nominally
    in name only
    You shall be Mrs. Rochester—both virtually and nominally.
  15. prurience
    feeling morbid sexual desire or a propensity to lewdness
    There is no folly so besotted that the idiotic rivalries of society, the prurience, the rashness, the blindness of youth, will not hurry a man to its commission.
  16. candor
    the quality of being honest and straightforward
    I was not sure of the existence of one virtue in her nature: I had marked neither modesty, nor benevolence, nor candour, nor refinement in her mind or manners—and, I married her:—gross, grovelling, mole-eyed blockhead that I was!
  17. eschew
    avoid and stay away from deliberately
    when I perceived that I should never have a quiet or settled household, because no servant would bear the continued outbreaks of her violent and unreasonable temper, or the vexations of her absurd, contradictory, exacting orders—even then I restrained myself: I eschewed upbraiding, I curtailed remonstrance; I tried to devour my repentance and disgust in secret; I repressed the deep antipathy I felt.
    In this explanation, the verbs "eschew" and "curtail" ("cut short") are verbs that require less energy than the devouring of disgust and repressing of intense dislike. That is because Mr. Rochester is a passionate man who has more difficulty ignoring his emotions than controlling his actions ("upbraid" and "remonstrate" both mean "criticize harshly").
  18. depraved
    deviating from what is considered moral or right or proper
    I was rich enough now—yet poor to hideous indigence: a nature the most gross, impure, depraved I ever saw, was associated with mine, and called by the law and by society a part of me.
  19. repudiate
    refuse to acknowledge, ratify, or recognize as valid
    In the eyes of the world, I was doubtless covered with grimy dishonour; but I resolved to be clean in my own sight—and to the last I repudiated the contamination of her crimes, and wrenched myself from connection with her mental defects.
  20. oblivion
    the state of being disregarded or forgotten
    Let her identity, her connection with yourself, be buried in oblivion: you are bound to impart them to no living being.
  21. desecrate
    violate the sacred character of a place or language
    I felt the truth of these words; and I drew from them the certain inference, that if I were so far to forget myself and all the teaching that had ever been instilled into me, as—under any pretext—with any justification—through any temptation—to become the successor of these poor girls, he would one day regard me with the same feeling which now in his mind desecrated their memory.
  22. solecism
    a socially awkward or tactless act
    Your garb and manner were restricted by rule; your air was often diffident, and altogether that of one refined by nature, but absolutely unused to society, and a good deal afraid of making herself disadvantageously conspicuous by some solecism or blunder; yet when addressed, you lifted a keen, a daring, and a glowing eye to your interlocutor’s face: there was penetration and power in each glance you gave; when plied by close questions, you found ready and round answers.
  23. transitory
    lasting a very short time
    I did not then know that it was no transitory blossom, but rather the radiant resemblance of one, cut in an indestructible gem.
  24. benignant
    characterized by kindness and warm courtesy
    I used to enjoy a chance meeting with you, Jane, at this time: there was a curious hesitation in your manner: you glanced at me with a slight trouble—a hovering doubt: you did not know what my caprice might be—whether I was going to play the master and be stern, or the friend and be benignant.
  25. sully
    place under suspicion or cast doubt upon
    You make me a liar by such language: you sully my honour. I declared I could not change: you tell me to my face I shall change soon.
  26. alias
    a name that has been assumed temporarily
    Anxious as ever to avoid discovery, I had before resolved to assume an alias.
  27. mendicant
    a pauper who lives by begging
    I dared to put off the mendicant—to resume my natural manner and character.
  28. expedient
    appropriate to a purpose
    “I did say so; and it is the name by which I think it expedient to be called at present, but it is not my real name, and when I hear it, it sounds strange to me.”
  29. contravene
    go against, as of rules and laws
    I am sure you cannot long be content to pass your leisure in solitude, and to devote your working hours to a monotonous labour wholly void of stimulus: any more than I can be content,” he added, with emphasis, “to live here buried in morass, pent in with mountains—my nature, that God gave me, contravened; my faculties, heaven-bestowed, paralysed—made useless.
  30. inexorable
    impervious to pleas, persuasion, requests, reason
    You would think him gentle, yet in some things he is inexorable as death

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