fall back on over-modesty

Irelia20150604

Senior Member
Chinese
The context comes from Jane Eyre Chapter 13

“Because I have less confidence in my deserts than Adèle has: she can prefer the claim of old acquaintance, and the right too of custom; for she says you have always been in the habit of giving her playthings; but if I had to make out a case, I should be puzzled, since I am a stranger, and have done nothing to entitle me to an acknowledgment.”


Oh, don’t fall back on over-modesty! I have examined Adèle, and find you have taken great pains with her: she is not bright, she has no talents; yet in a short time she has made much improvement.”
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Hi everyone! I don't quite understand the bold sentence. Cambridge Dictionary tells me "fall back on" means "to use something for help because no other choice is available", and I think "modesty" means "freedom from vanity, boastfulness". So I interpret it as "Oh, don’t use freedom from vanity, boastfulness". But the interpretation seems not plain enough for me to understand. So I post the thread for help.
 
  • I would say 'resort to' is not bad as a paraphrase.
    "Don't resort to over modesty."

    The speaker is saying, "Don't be overly modest as you're inclined to do."

    The speaker is saying, don't just do what's so easy for you, this presentation of great modesty, but own up to, take credit for what you've done.

    Online dictionary:

    fall back on
    phrasal verb of fall
    1.
    have recourse to when in difficulty.

    "they normally fell back on one of three arguments"
     

    Marionine

    New Member
    English - US
    She compares herself unfavorably with Adèle without there being any justification for it. This is what prompts the speaker to say, in effect, that she is being over-modest, which means too modest. A modest woman does not boast about herself.
     
    Last edited:

    velisarius

    Senior Member
    British English (Sussex)
    My take on it:

    She is reluctant to accept a gift from him, since accepting a gift would put her under a more personal obligation, and perhaps give him ideas she wants to discourage at this point. Rochester sees through this, and accuses her of using false modesty as an excuse. They are playing games; this is why he says "fall back on" - implying that she has recourse to an excuse that isn't the true reason for her refusal.
     

    suzi br

    Senior Member
    English / England
    She compares herself unfavorably with Adèle without there being any justification for it. This is what prompts the speaker to say, in effect, that she is being over-modest, which means too modest. A modest woman does not boast about herself.
    I do not think she is comparing herself to Adele, exactly. She is saying she does not deserve a gift, but not in direct comparison with her young pupil.
    He says she has done well with Adele, as her teacher and is being modest to say she doesn't deserve a gift (for that success in teaching Adele).
     
    Nice analysis.

    My take on it:

    She is reluctant to accept a gift from him, since accepting a gift would put her under a more personal obligation, and perhaps give him ideas she wants to discourage at this point. Rochester sees through this, and accuses her of using false modesty as an excuse. They are playing games; this is why he says "fall back on" - implying that she has recourse to an excuse that isn't the true reason for her refusal.
     
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