a decent quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage

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Irelia20150604

Senior Member
Chinese
The context comes from Jane Eyre Chapter 13

“Let Miss Eyre be seated,” said he: and there was something in the forced stiff bow, in the impatient yet formal tone, which seemed further to express, “What the deuce is it to me whether Miss Eyre be there or not?At this moment I am not disposed to accost her.”

I sat down quite disembarrassed. A reception of finished politeness would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage.

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Hi everyone! I don't understand the bold part, though I seem familiar with almost all of words in the sentence...:confused: What does it mean?
 
  • owlman5

    Senior Member
    English-US
    Hi, Irelia. I'm not surprised that you found this part confusing.

    Here is what I think CB meant: I could respond with decent silence. People expected me to be quiet when they told me to do things, which gave me the advantage. I think "freak of manner" means something like "a characteristic of my personality."
     

    Keith Bradford

    Senior Member
    English (Midlands UK)
    If I'd been received with perfect politeness I'd probably have been confused. I could not have returned or repaid it by by responding gracefully or elegantly enough. But this capricious rudeness put me under no obligation. On the contrary, by remaining modestly quiet in the face of this freaky behaviour, I gained the advantage.
     

    Irelia20150604

    Senior Member
    Chinese
    If I'd been received with perfect politeness I'd probably have been confused. I could not have returned or repaid it by by responding gracefully or elegantly enough. But this capricious rudeness put me under no obligation. On the contrary, by remaining modestly quiet in the face of this freaky behaviour, I gained the advantage.
    :idea::idea::idea: Thank you for your clarifying the mess. :D
     

    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    a decent quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage. = a short period in which nothing was said, influenced by the attitude/mood of Mr Rochester, gave me the advantage.

    In CB's day, freak = the state of mind/attitude in which something was done. - this meaning is largely obsolete.
     
    M-W unabr has this:

    b : an odd, unexpected, or seemingly capricious action or event

    [Jane Eyre excerpt in OP]
    A reception of finished politeness would probably have confused me: I could not have returned or repaid it by answering grace and elegance on my part; but harsh caprice laid me under no obligation; on the contrary, a decent quiescence, under the freak of manner, gave me the advantage.

    [reworded, explained in third person]
    If she'd been received politely, she couldn't have shown, in response, a lot of grace (she's plain and outspoken), but since she encountered capricious (arbitrary unreasonable) action, simply remaining quiet, in the face of such a capricious way of (Rochester's) acting, gave her an advantage.


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    Both Owl and Paul influenced this suggestion. Thanks.
     
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