Villette Read-a-Long Week 3

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

For this week, we had to read chapters 12-17.

Stay tuned next Thursday, March 3, 2010, which is my official due date, for the next discussion.

I’m going to try to keep reading along, but some posts from here on out could be delayed a bit.

In these chapters, Lucy Snowe stumbles upon a secret love affair and infatuation and becomes engrossed in uncovering the identities of the lovers.  In this way, she seems to take on the suspicious nature of Madame Beck, who continues to spy on her household.  At one point, Madame Beck even suspects Lucy of trying to ensnare Dr. John away from her, and she takes it upon herself to go through Lucy’s things, which angers and amuses our narrator.  These baffling reactions often leave the reader wondering if Lucy has any pride in herself; does she not see herself as trustworthy and that is why she brushes off the invasion of privacy by her employer.  It is almost like she’s living a household like the Big Brother reality TV show.

In many of Lucy’s observations of her fellow teachers and others, readers note a streak of venom.  It is almost as if she cannot stand qualities different from her own, such as enjoying wealth and jewelery, but at the same time she comments on moments when certain qualities that she disapproves of can come in handy.

When the play for the Fete or party for Madame Beck is nearly stopped due to another’s illness, however, Lucy jumps in head first, despite a rambling of reluctance as to why she should not.  Readers will find that assertive ultimatums from fellow teachers and Madame Beck often propel Lucy into action.  Our narrator is courageous and full of conviction even in light of things she wishes not to do.

“I said my say badly; but I said it.  That first speech was the difficulty; it revealed to me this fact, that it was not the crowd I feared so much as my own voice.  Foreigners and strangers, the crowd were nothing to me.  Nor did I think of them.”  (Page 147-8)

In these chapters, we see Lucy grow, coming out of her shell and becoming more impulsive with her speech and approach to others, though harsher than most expect at times.  However, it is this impulsiveness that seems to show her growing more comfortable with her surroundings, but how much have those surroundings and Madame Beck influenced her behavior?  She seems to have broken from her reserved nature to tap a well of passion and conviction buried deep within, but can she control that well of passion or will it consume her?  Only time and more chapters will tell.

Stay tuned next Thursday, March 3, 2011, for the next discussion.


  1. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your post this week. Having been on a short trip away this week, I have yet to write this week’s post (but did get a chance to finish the reading) and I generally had thoughts along the same lines as yourself as to Lucy coming out of her shell. I love your idea that Lucy takes on Madame Beck’s nature for a while, as if her exposure to these new people (and a different country) is something she can do herself.
    It was reading the quotes that you have used, regarding the performance sequence, that made me think about how Charlotte’s ‘enforced’ public performance so echoes her real life experiences of being forced into the public eye thanks to her unwanted literary fame by the time Villette was being written. I haven’t read a lot of feminist theory about Charlotte Bronte, but I can imagine there is a wealth of material at hand regarding Lucy Snowe’s insistence on being recognised as a female before being put on show, rather than being dressed as a man at the behest of other people.

  2. Great breakdown…I’m enjoying this one!

  3. Agree: she is just bubbling with repressed feelings (Elinor Dashwood is nothing compared to her :)) and I wouldn’t want to be close when they finally are let loose.

    I also noted Lucy’s contradictions, for instance, when she gets upset when Ginevra tells her she wouldn’t be Lucy is they paid her (or something similar) when Lucy feels exactly the same way about Ginevra.
    Alex´s last blog post ..Villette by Charlotte Brontë Read-along- chapters 12-16

    • The interactions between Lucy and Ginevra are comical . . . it’s almost like two sides of the same coin finally facing one another and not liking what they see, but they are so similar and yet reciprocals of one another. This book has so many levels just in characterization, and never mind the Gothic elements and how those are used to explain emotion, etc.

  4. Yes, Lucy doesn’t seem to have the firmest grasp on who she is at this stage, which is why I think we don’t as well. I am interested in seeing if this changes as the story goes on. I hope so, for Lucy’s sake. I am starting to feel bad for her — being so lost.

    Good luck with baby! I will make sure to keep your name on the list, and look forward to seeing your posts when you can.

    • I agree that she seems lost, but I do hope that changes in the course of the novel. I do not like her all of the time, but I can sort of understand where she is coming from…she wants to grow and get outside of her own behaviors and habits and join others and not be so alone, but I don’t think she’s quite figured out how to do it.

      I’m going to try and read ahead and pre-schedule my read-a-long thoughts, but I make no promises. 🙂

  5. Seems like you are enjoying the book so far. Lucy seems like an interesting character.
    Anna´s last blog post ..Review- On Maggie’s Watch by Ann Wertz Garvin