The episode on the ship reinforces Lucy’s habit of moral judgment about everyone around her, which will persist throughout the book. In one instance, after relating an episode of “complicated, disquieting thoughts,” Lucy concludes, “However, that turmoil subsided: next day I was again Lucy Snowe” (110). Though Lucy is characterized by her modest and quiet nature, she spares little to assert her strong opinions against Catholicism early into the novel. The personifications of these emotions are almost always female. The ghostly visitations (though in the end we know their cause) in the attic and garden are meant to show Lucy's own inner fears as well as her ability to face down, bravely, what could send others into hysteria. She is “split between the functions of unarticulated faculties that refuse to collaborate in the production of an amendable world” (Hughes 717). Forces of nature play a large part in Villette, through weather and other natural elements, such as the stars. Not affiliated with Harvard College. Get tips and ideas in OUTLINE. This revelation signals Lucy’s failure to unmask the performance of another, as well as a self-centered propensity to misinterpret coincidental figures and events as deeply intertwined with her own character, despite claims of immunity to any “overheated imaginings.” This humorous anti-climax calls Lucy’s powers of interpretation and representation into question. Both Villette and Jane Eyre resonate with me because I am still defining myself and finding my place in the world, just as Charlotte was and just as her heroines strive to do. It is known, however vaguely and obliquely, that before that death and Lucy’s current status as a poor, genteel young woman with no family or friends, there was some sort of emotional suffering or neglect in her life. Suggest a Title. She is looked down upon by the ladies’ cabin stewardess, and she awaits the arrival of the other passengers. On the other hand, there are points at which she claims she is not determining her path, but that others or the Fates are doing it for her. A shadow is not distinct or clear, it can be altered, it is not a true representation of the real object, and (perhaps most importantly here), it can be interpreted in a myriad of ways. Instead, it involves using each experience — with all of its uncertainty and risk- to discover and lay bare what is … Lucy Snowe (whose name means "light" and "cold") speaks early in the novel of herself in the third person. Miss Marchmont is introduced. Lucy’s identity is traced through the imaginative space of Labassecour, forcing her to question her British nationalism and Protestant beliefs, but through Brontë’s voice, British supremacy will never be exposed for the problem that it is. The meanings of the name, too, suggest a character's qualities rather than the wholeness of the character herself. For example, at the Rue Fossette, she “lived in a house of robust life and [she] chose solitude” (Brontë 126). She knows nothing of these places, but she has "nothing to lose." This novel emerged after Brontë’s acclaimed Jane Eyre, exemplifying a newfound maturity as well as a more personal voice shown through an experimental and exploratory narrative. The name of Lucy’s ship The Vivid, compared to the mythological and historical names of the other ships on nearby anchor, is perhaps a foreshadowing of what this trip will mean to Lucy. . The amiable conjecture does no harm, and may therefore be safely left uncontradicted. The property Mrs. Bretton held in trust for her son has fallen to a fraction of its value, and the mother and son now live in London. But Miss Marchmont had not made any such provision before she died, so Lucy, after having experienced another death of a person dear to her, will be thrust again on the world in much the same state of poverty as before. the next step in a long line of narrative maneuvers that require her to move interior matters outside, to tell her secrets, and to project her hidden self into visible spaces” (Heady 351). Lucy maintains her Protestant mantra until the end, but her appreciation that M. Paul accepts her despite the fact that she is “full of faults” is an appreciation of an absolution, though she recognizes it only as kindness. This response, while seemingly redundant, actually does little to close the gap between “Lucy Snowe” and the narrator’s identity. Ultimately, however, both critics settle somewhere within the popular discourse, positioning Brontë in opposition to Victorian gender codes. Polly is the throwback, the "ideal" woman of the Victorian age who believes only in the relational worth of women, not their intrisic worth. But in a moment of unreliability, Lucy makes us think that at this point in the narrative her command of French is good, for she critiques her old school friend's French. In fact, it is not even clear that Lucy's name is correct--it is spoken of sometimes as if it is a pseudonym merely for the reader. Lucy shows what Catholicism represents to her while describing the refectory at Villette: “This said ‘lecture pieuse’ [religious instruction] was, I soon found, mainly designed as a wholesome mortification of the Intellect, a useful humiliation of the Reason” (Brontë 129). Lucy believes that weather ties closely with events in her life and the lives of those around her, and also turns to nature in times of distress to guide her in the appropriate direction. The Question and Answer section for Villette is a great Instead, it may be argued that Lucy presents only a protestation, not an alternative. Copyright © 1999 - 2020 GradeSaver LLC. Though the Protestant novel is supposed to afford an individual the right to tell his own story, Lucy waffles between articulate claims that this is exactly what she is doing and indications that she wants nothing more than to conceal as much about herself as possible. This sacrifice of thoughts and feelings, usually kept contained, is decidedly unProtestant and unEnglish; it frightens her. “Gothic Desire in Charlotte Brontë’s ‘Villette.’” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900, vol. This particular quality of hers is obviously related to her Britishness and Protestantism, which makes it so interesting that she forms a bond of any kind with M. Paul. I believe while I tremble; I trust while I weep.”, “Peril, loneliness, an uncertain future, are not oppressive evils, so long as the frame is healthy and the faculties are employed; so long, especially, as Liberty lends us her wings, and Hope guides us by her star.”, “The negation of severe suffering was the nearest approach to happiness I expected to know. Just as Villette thwarts categorization into any one genre, neither will it submit to any one structural model of desire. However pretty or kind Polly is, she is to Lucy always the Other, for Polly's nature is the polar opposite of Lucy's. She returns to safely English arms – the Bretton home – where she is welcomed and almost encouraged to remain distant and unknown. However, she ends up “[pouring] her heart out” (Brontë 162), divulging much more about herself than is her habit. It is not just a poetic or literary device used by Brontë, but an illustration of Lucy's intense fantasy and imaginative inner life, necessary to her because so much of her outer life is repressed and limited. According to Ciolkowski’s reading, Brontë recognizes Victorian womanhood as “both invented and counterfeited,” and, in Villette, establishes a narrative that thwarts both literary and gender conventions. As characters in novels, they would be subjects for readers’ vicarious adventuring. Since there was no electronic communication, word of mouth and "who you know" were more important then. Fundamentally, the Protestant narrative prizes realism over the gothic or romance genres. She begins the exchange with her familiar announcement, “Mon pere, je suis Protestante.” She is “a practicing Protestant, who would be assumed to keep her sins between herself and God” (Heady 351). MacKay, Marina. Dressed in a “gown of shadow,” Lucy recalls “feeling [her]self to be a mere shadowy spot on a field of light” (122). However, while Preston holds that Brontë’s challenge to Victorian gender codes successfully “acknowledges women as desiring, speaking subjects,” Laura Ciolkowski’s reading exposes the flaws in feminist criticism that seeks to claim Villette as a “powerful literary assertion of female identity” (Preston 397, Ciolkowski218). She certainly aims to give the impression that she can clear her own path. A dissolution of the tension between the Gothic and realist modes in Villette ignores crucial ways in which Brontë’s jarring undercutting of her own Gothic maneuvers seeks to carve space for a feminist reconsideration of mental health. In this case, rather than nature taking a part in current plot events or reflecting on past experiences, the weather takes part in Lucy’s prediction of the future. There is some evidence that the model for Lucy’s desolate childhood was Charlotte Brontë’s own childhood. While any weary, lost traveler would appreciate the help, she assigns his kindness and chivalry towards her to his Englishness. Lucy’s active splitting of her own character resurfaces in her attitude toward performance itself. My first impression of Villette by Charlotte Brontë (1853) was the familiarity of the writing — if I had no inclination of the author or book title, but merely “read it blind,” I think I would still know it was Charlotte Brontë. Lucy, the perpetual outsider, is generally very fair in her judgment of people, and she is remarkably clear-eyed about the evils and hypocrisies of the world. Her identity is constructed as much by her own performance as it is by others’ interpretation of it. In rendering Lucy unknowable, Brontë positions the reader as one in a series of failed interpreters—Lucy fails to know others just as the reader fails to know Lucy—suggesting a broader commentary on the impossibility of accurate interpretation and representation of the self and the other. In Villette, the supernaturalism within nature affects individual human activities through Lucy’s eyes.On the night of Miss Marchmont’s death, there is a terrible storm. Where might i obtain an English translation for the French passages in Villette. Charlotte Brontë’s Villette (1853) explores repression and projection of identity through the voice of the suffering, confusing, and often unreliable Lucy Snowe. New York: The Penguin Group, 2004. 5 September 2012. After he reveals to her the school he has procured on her behalf, she tells the reader, “It was the assurance of his sleepless interest which broke on me like a light from heaven” (Brontë 487). Critics have long puzzled over what Emily Heady terms an “uneasy fusion” of genres in Charlotte Brontë’s final novel, Villette (341). Taking a narratological approach to the text, Warhol seeks to explain the novel’s generic inconsistency by aligning it with one of the text’s other most infamous sources of bewilderment: Lucy’s narration. (Also, the story of Frank is blunt foreshadowing.) Lucy eventually leaves England for Villette and finds work at a boarding school for girls. Lucy enjoys several weeks there as she recovers from her illness. Specifically, Lucy’s attraction to John Graham Bretton lies in his British identity and handsome physical appearance, which she uses to forgive him for any unkind deed he does to her. Afterwards, she “felt, not happy…but strong with reinforced strength”. Her relationship with Ginevra, a fellow Englishwoman, is perhaps the most interactive for much of the novel, but even Ginevra ends up questioning, “‘Who is Lucy Snowe?’” Lucy masks herself through situational detail, almost as though she chooses to be acted upon as opposed to taking action herself. Man, your equal, weak as you, and not fit to be your judge, may be shut out thence: take it to your Maker” (Brontë 179). In initial scholarship of the English novel, a certain Protestant ideal was maintained in the best of English literature. Though the burial of the letters is a loss of that particular time in her life, and causes Lucy to grieve, she also emerges stronger from the event, with her sacred texts safe from invasive eyes.