Villette by Charlotte Bronte Read-a-Long Week 2

Unputdownables is hosting a Villette by Charlotte Bronte read-a-long for the next couple of months.  And this is the second week of discussion (click on the image to see my earlier posts)

For this week, we had to read chapters 6-11.

Stay tuned next Thursday, Feb. 24, 2010, for the next discussion.

We begin with Lucy Snowe in London where she feels a sense of freedom that she has not felt previously, at least what we can tell from the narrative thus far. She seems positive and eager to begin her new life given the open possibilities before her.

“I saw and felt London at last:  I got into the Strand; I went up Cornhill; I mixed with the life passing along; I dared the perils of crossings.  To do this, and to do it utterly alone, gave me, perhaps an irrational, but a real pleasure.”  (page 53)

Alas, the plot pace continues in rapid succession and despite the “Gothic” storm and sea elements, Miss Snowe begins yet another adventure in the late evening and boards a vessel slated to depart the next day. Our narrator seems not only fearless, but also a bit naive in the ways of the world given her penchant for over paying and her decisions to board boats in the late evening despite her position as an unmarried woman.  However, what better place for her to observe more people and make commentary about not only their personalities, but their behavior and social status.  It is clear from the few interactions and the many observations she’s made about people around her that she has very well-defined opinions, and many of them are harsh.  What does this tell us about her personality and her behavior?  Upon reading these passages, readers may get the sense that she both values and fears the opinion of others, which forces her to shrink into the background as an observer whenever possible but does not prevent her from speaking her mind to a certain extent.  For example, she has no qualms about telling the steward once she is aboard The Vivid that she knows she paid the boatman too much or telling the stewardess that now that she has arrived on board she has not plans to leave no matter the lateness of the hour.

While a determined young woman, Miss Snowe does leave quite a bit up to chance and fate, following blindly an inner voice who speaks occasionally about which destination should be next.  Arriving in France, this voice explains that she must go to Villette where a young Miss Fanshawe from the boat said she was going.  Again she relies on fate to get her where she needs to go and often relies on the kindness of strangers when misfortunes befall her.  Once employed by Madame Beck, she waffles between the adventurous woman who left her home nation in search of work and a young woman scared of her current surroundings and the challenges they impose.

Although her opinions and observations are very clear about other people, her own observations about herself are often incongruous with her actions.  In one instance, her determination to prove Madame Beck wrong about her “spineless” nature spurs her to actions that readers may find disturbing and a bit out of character once in a classroom with students outside the nursery who speak French eloquently.  Meanwhile, Miss Fanshawe reappears and the banter between her and Miss Snowe is entertaining, but also sheds more light on our narrator’s personality, prejudices, and faults.

Overall, this section of the book is revealing of the narrator’s character and her ability to interact with others in a foreign land without speaking the language.  While it highlights her adventurous and spontaneous nature, it also serves to show how complex she is when making decisions that concern herself versus decisions that others must make for themselves.  Miss Snowe is an enigma, which is slowly unraveling.

Stay tuned next Thursday, Feb. 24, 2011, for the next discussion.


  1. I keep finding myself wondering what the other characters would say about Lucy. Would we like her as much if Madame Beck or Ginevra was telling the story? I agree too with your discussion on the role of fate in this section– I’m not sure quite what to make of it.
    Mindy´s last blog post ..Villette Read-a-Long- Week Two

  2. Well put. Perhaps Lucy doesn’t know herself very well and that is why she acts so differently in her mind than in public? That and somewhat insecure, is my thought. I hadn’t noticed this as much, but a few of you had pointed it out and now I see that part of her quite clearly. I can’t quite figure out how old she is at this point… late teens/ early twenties? Maybe that has something to do with it and she’ll come into herself more as we move along.

    • I’m looking forward to watching her character evolve from this sort of “messy” stage to a more confident woman whose in charge…like Madame Beck intimates that she can be.

  3. Sounds like an interesting book. I’m enjoying your posts even though I’m not reading it.
    Anna´s last blog post ..The Girl’s Thoughts on Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson

  4. I agree with you that her thoughts about herself don’t always match her actions, but I think that’s pretty realistic. I think that we think of ourselves in a certain way that doesn’t always gel with what we actually do. We have our own history/subjectiveness/prejudices about ourselves that alter our self-image. She thinks of herself as meek and anxious a lot it seems, but she’s really a brave, impetuous girl sometimes, what with moving to France and just hoping to get a job. I love her mental monologue and the way her personifies certain aspects of herself into that “inner voice” you spoke of.

    I’m liking her a lot and can’t wait to see what she does next!
    Erin´s last blog post ..Villette Read-a-Long- Week Two

    • I agree that people often think one way about themselves and act another, but some people have a closer grasp on themselves than Lucy seems to have. It makes me wonder what her life was like before the “tragedy” that left her on her own.