In Greek mythology, a Chimera (with a capital C
) is a fire-breathing monster with a lion's head, a goat's body, and a snake's tail. In more general usage, a chimera is any similar, incredible monster — or an impossible, foolish delusion.
Scientifically, a chimera is an organism having two or more genetically distinct types of cells due to mutation or grafting. Intrigued by that last definition? Here's an example: A human chimera can have two or more complete sets of DNA, where the DNA in the skin is totally different from the DNA in the blood. Freaky, huh?
In this passage from Jane Eyre, chimera means "delusion." Jane has run away from Thornfield (and Rochester). She has lost her meager belongings, has no money, and has been reduced to begging from strangers. Here, Jane has come upon a well-kept home and wonders if its occupants will take pity on her:
And how impossible did it appear to touch the inmates of this house with concern on my behalf; to make them believe in the truth of my wants and woes — to induce them to vouchsafe a rest for my wanderings! As I groped out the door, and knocked at it hesitatingly, I felt that last idea to be a mere chimera.