Villette: Week One

These are thoughts half-formed, nascent, and wholly mutable as I delve further into Charlotte Brontë’s final novel, Villette, along with the rest of the readers in the Villette readalong.

Five chapters into Villette, and my question is: who is Lucy Snowe?  She’s the main character and narrator of the novel.  But I know little else of her.  In fact, I feel better acquainted with six year-old Polly and the “rheumatic cripple” Miss Marchmont.

The concrete facts are slim.  There’s no mention of her family, save her godmother Mrs. Bretton.  “Troubles” sum up the eight years between her departure from Bretton and her employment to Miss Marchmont.  It’s hinted she’s wearing a mourning dress and seems “a worn-out creature,” a physical display of these “troubles.”  Lucy has “not yet counted twenty-three summers,” she is twenty-two (the same age as I am).

But, I’ll attempt to read between the lines.  Lucy is calm, wise, and has so far seemed to act mature.  Even her trip to London was well thought out, with a mission.  (Although the Aurora Borealis was somewhat the catalyst for this decision.)  Observant may be her most prominent characteristic so far, always watching, always listening, always thinking.  And here, I identify with her.  This observance tells me of Polly and Miss Marchmont in exacting detail.  This observance also blocks me from learning more of Lucy Snowe herself.

Lucy seems to feel a strong connection to, and a strong belief in the power of, nature.  During the storm on the last night of Miss Marchmont’s life, she anxiously recalls three previous times when “events had taught me that these strange accents in the storm–this restless, hopeless cry–denote a coming state of the atmosphere unpropitious to life.”  She allows the Aurora Borealis lighting up the sky to spark a possible change in her life, a new location: London.

So, onward to London, until next week!

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9 Responses to Villette: Week One

  1. Wallace says:

    I love how you saw things that I didn’t see (my post will be up tomorrow — at least tomorrow here in California). I missed her connection with nature and somehow didn’t even notice her mention of the Aurora Borealis! I was stuck on her incredible loneliness. This is why it’s so much better to read with others– to see the things I missed and have a richer experience because of it. Looking forward to the next five chapters. 🙂

    • Yes, I’m so glad your hosting of this his given me the impetus to start Villette and the enrichment provided by other readers! I think the only reason I noticed the Aurora Borealis was because I had never heard of them being seen in England, so I had to look it up. =)

  2. Bellezza says:

    I identify with Lucy, too, although there isn’t much to know about her yet. I agree with your analysis of being mature and wise, though, and there seems to be the lovely qualities of calmness, strength and courage as well.

  3. sagustocox says:

    I agree that Lucy is observant and she has a connection to nature, which I think is connected to the Gothic nature of the Brontes’ writing. I did notice that there are some similarities between Polly and Lucy in how they interact with others, seeming to want more attention, but unsure how to get it without seeming overly needy. While Polly takes it to the needy extreme, Lucy often seems too aloof.

    Here’s my link if you are interested in my thoughts: http://savvyverseandwit.com/2011/02/villette-by-charlotte-bronte-read-a-long-part-1.html

    • Polly was incredibly needy, wasn’t she? I’m hoping we’ll see more of her later in the novel and be able to see what became of her and if she matured at all.

      That’s interesting about nature being connected to being Gothic, I’ve only read Jane Eyre and Agnes Grey, so I’ll have to look into it.

  4. cousinsread says:

    I feel that Lucy is very distant also, but I am hoping to know her better in the coming weeks. I kept thinking how incredibly frightening it must have been to go to London by herself and how courageous that decision was.

  5. As Wallace above said, you really brought out an interesting facet of Charlotte’s writing when you talk about the connection with nature. This was often very explicit in Jane Eyere (I’ve commented on someone else’s blog about her flight from Thornfield and sleeping in the fields), but in Villette it is more subtle, more focused, and more ethereal – appropriately for those allusions to ghosts we’ve read so far…

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