Thursday, March 3, 2011

"Villette" Read-A-Long: Chapters 13 - 22

Fourth post for this read-a-long, initiated by Unputdownables.

To see all the posts, click on "Villette read a long" in the right hand bar. 

NOTE: all posts include spoilers.

I am continuing to enjoy this book in which Bronte has created in Lucy, a complex and interesting character.  I have recently finished listening to the audiocourse, Art of Reading,  and am using Villette as a vehicle to practice the newly learned tools.

In the course, Professor Spurgin suggests writing down the chapter numbers and next to each, noting the entrance/exit of a main character, any changes in setting, if there is a destabalizing event, etc to determine if a pattern exists.  As I look back over the chapters, there is something significant that happens in every one.  For example, the changes to setting are numerous: the Bretton home, leaving for 8 years (where does she go?), London, boat to France, Villette, Rue Fossette, La Terrasse, art gallery, concert hall, back to Rue Fossette.  The list is longer if the places within Rue Fossette are noted: classroom, garden, alley, attic, fete, etc.

In last week's post, I wrote of the contradictions within Lucy's character.  Turns out, she is not the only one.
"The reader is requested to note a seemingly contradiction in the two views which have been given of Graham Bretton - the public and private - the out-door and the in-door view. In the first, the public, he is shown oblivious of self; as modest in the display of his energies, as earnest in their exercise.  In the second, the fireside picture, there is expressed consciousness of what he has and what he is; pleasure in homage, some recklessness in exciting, some vanity in receiving the same.  Both portraits are correct."
Lucy observes and notes the discrepancies, idiosyncrasies and nuance contradictions in the people around her.  I also find this idea of a "public and private" face or an "out-door and in-door"  view of a person thought-provoking.  Isn't this true of most people?  Of me?  Is this part of human nature to show different sides of ourselves in different situations?  And as Lucy says, all sides or "portraits" shown are correct?  And therefore, to really know someone, you must see both public and private life.  The only way for Lucy to have seen the "private" face of Dr. Bretton was to end up in his home.

Another thought from the Art of Reading.  Prof. Spurgin talks about looking for the conflicts either outside or within the main character by asking questions like: what do they want?  If the conflict is outside of the character what are the external obstacles to obtaining what they want?  And if the conflict is within the character, this question is a good one:  Do they want what they shouldn't want?  And how do they deal with this?

Lucy struggles with internal conflict.  She wants Dr. Graham but doesn't want to want him.  This inner fight shows up in the passage where she talks to the part of herself called "Reason".  They argue about Lucy's response in the event Dr. Bretton should write as promised.  Reason is harsh, unrelenting and downright horrible.
"This hag, this Reason, would not let me look up, or smile, or hope: she could not rest unless I were altogether crushed, cowed, broken-in, and broken-down.  According to her, I was born only to work for a piece of bread, to await the pains of death, and steadily through all life to despond."
So the questions I have after finishing this section are:
  • Is there going to be a love triangle? Two men are in Lucy's life now: Dr. Graham Bretton and M. Paul Emanuel. She is drawn to one who appears to view her only as a close friend while the other shows interest in her, but she finds him annoying.
  • What does Dr. Bretton think of Lucy?  Who will he love, if not Ginerva?
  • Why the conversation with "Reason?"  Why is she so harsh?
  • It feels like Lucy has a secret.  What is it?  Who is she?  Where did she come from?  These questions remain unanswered and I am beginning to wonder if they ever will be.


  1. This is a great post! I think we all have a public and private face to some degree.People tend to reveal themselves completely and fully, the person they truly are only after they know someone very well and feel comfortable with them. People don't want to feel vulnerable to others. And, I think many people want to make a certain impression at first, a good one. As we get to know people we show more of ourselves. Of course, not everyone is like this.

    I think Lucy's internal conflict is very interesting and a great issue to bring up. She's very concerned about keeping her feelings in check for the most part and making sure she behaves according to Reason. Lucy talks about struggling with who you are, fighting against your natural inclinations a bit in the beginning of chapter 17.

    I think Lucy likes Dr. John but that he thinks of her as a friend. I didn't even consider that M. Paul might be interested in Lucy romantically. I thought he saw her as a young woman in need of guidance. I'll have to think more about this!

    Lucy has a secret? hmmm...This is an interesting idea, too. I thought she was embarassed to be alone in the world and didn't want any emotions regarding not having fammily to impact her as she tried to get on with her life so she put her past behind her completely and stopped thinking about it. But maybe there's more to itall.

    Great post! And the Art of Reading sounds very interesting and helpful.
    ~ Amy

  2. First of all... I LOVE that you are being able to look further into this text because of that audiocourse. I am very tempted to do it too!

    Second, great points. I, too, felt like I have an inside/outside nature. Isn't the problem with life that we can never really see our own outside nature? Perhaps that is why it is so difficult for all of us to nail Lucy down... we are only getting the inside view of her since she is the narrator.

  3. I am also wondering if some of those questions will ever be answered. She is definitely intriguing!

  4. I would like to know the answers to these questions as well. I'm really pulling for some crazy stuff to go down in these next chapters; it needs some real action. And I never thought M. Paul would become some kind of love interest, that's intriguing.

  5. Wallace (and all),
    Good point about Lucy and why it has been difficult to nail her down. As the narrator, I am on the fence as to whether she is reliable or not.

    Is is possible to be a secretive, reliable narrator? Any thoughts or opinions on this?

  6. Interesting observations! Is this the first section that you read using Spurgin's strategies? I'm also interested in the idea of the secretive yet reliable narrator. I think it is entirely possible to be both. In a way, don't all narrators pick and choose what they will share? The only time Lucy's seemed purposefully deceptive is when she neglected to tell us that Dr. John was Graham. Of course, she did eventually tell us-- so can't we argue that she was truthful?

  7. Hi Mindy,
    I've gone back through the previous chapters and made notes on each one including the pages of quotes that struck me at the time. There are many! After this recent section, I have written down questions and predictions - another Spurgin tool. This is helping me stay engaged with the story as I want to find out if I've guessed correctly.

    I am now wrestling with what to do with all of the quotes that I've made note of. Should I write them on notecards that I can file by description? Or do the same on blog posts? I guess I'd like to have a list of all time favorite passages of setting or character or dialogue or feelings.

    I think having something like this will help me to not only remember books but be able to compare and contrast authors and their styles.

    Does that make sense?