Thursday, March 31, 2011

"Villette" Read-A-Long: Chapters 36 to end

Last 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

As I was reading these last chapters, I felt so sorry for Lucy.  Is she cursed in relationships?  Just when she was opening up her heart to M. Paul, when "affection and deep esteem and dawning trust had each fastened its bond", she found out from Madame Beck that he was leaving the school for an indefinite time.  This news was even more painful because just ten days prior, he took her hand and "through his touch, and with his words, a new feeling and a strange thought found a course.  Could it be that he was becoming more than friend or brother?  Did his look speak a kindness beyond fraternity or amity?"

To make matters worse, she received no word or visit from him.  And on the day he came to the school to bid farewell, Lucy allowed Madame Beck to manipulate her into not seeing him.  What a silly girl to allow this to happen!  Although Lucy could be headstrong, tough and determined, at other times, as Madame Beck knew, she was completely the opposite.
"She knew my weakness and deficiency; she could calculate the degree of moral paralysis - the total default of self-assertion - with which in a crisis, I could be struck."
Lucy figured out one of Madame Beck's secrets - that she wanted to marry M. Paul.
"Deep into some of Madame's secrets I had entered - I know not how; by an intuition or an inspiration which came to me - I know not whence. In the course of living with her, too, I had slowly learned, that, unless with an inferior, she must ever be a rival.  She was my rival, heart and soul, though secretly, under the smoothest bearing, and utterly unknown to all save her and myself."
Lucy also deduced that the "three self-seekers" as she called them; Madame Beck, Madame Walravens and Pere Silas had conspired to send M. Paul to Guadaloupe to manage M. Walraven's estate.

She comes to believe the M. Paul is to marry Justine Marie Sauveur "and then - something tore me so cruelly under my shawl, something so dug into my side, a vulture so strong in beak and talon, I must be alone to grapple with it. I think I never felt jealousy till now."  Poor, poor Lucy.

Fast forward to the end - M. Paul does love Lucy!  And shows this by setting up a home/school for her.  A place for her to wait for his return and while doing so, to work for herself.
"Lucy, take my love. One day share my life. Be my dearest, first on earth."
These words must have fallen so sweetly on her ears and after lodging in her heart, filled her with inexpressible joy.

Three years passed and then while on his way home to her, a seven day storm on the Atlantic left wrecks in its wake.  Was M. Paul one of them?  The end does not make it clear, but I would guess yes.

Lucy is a survivor.  And a realist and pragmatist.  I don't think she withered away in grief and melancholy.  Rather, she probably found great comfort having been loved by M. Paul for three years, the happiest in her life.  I don't think she would have traded this for anything.  In fact, her words before he set sail, never to be seen again, only heard from in precious letters, is how, I think, she feels until the time they are united in death.
"He deemed me born under his star: he seemed to have spread over me its beam like a banner.  Once - unknown, and unloved, I held him harsh and strange; the low stature, the wiry make, the angles, the darkness, the manner, displeased me.  Now, penetrated with his influence, and living by his affection, having his worth by intellect, and his goodness by heart - I preferred him before all humanity."


  1. Lovely final thoughts! And great choices on the quotes. I think I was so focused on finishing that I didn't spend enough time enjoying Bronte's prose. Though I have to say, I still like Jane Eyre better. This is one I don't think I'll reread, unless it's years down the road.

  2. Your thoughts about the three years and why they were the happiest of her life answered a question which was nagging at the back of my mind. Thank you for sharing your thoughts on Villette.
    Susan E

  3. I also felt terrible for Lucy, particularly when M. Paul was keeping his distance. Hasn't everbody experienced something similar in a young relationship? But you're right about Lucy being a survivor. I think that's what Bronte really wanted to leave us with, making the ending almost inevitable.

    I'm glad you decided to participate in the read-a-long, it's been fun reading your posts each week.

  4. Ah, those passages... she was such a brilliant writer! YES, the proposal -- oh my gosh -- melt my heart. And Lucy's feelings, what a steadfast person. It does make one think of Bronte herself. The last of her 4 siblings to survive and having lost her mother as a girl (and I can't remember if her father survived her or if he had passed as well). And then to write about it, in this sort of form. What a person to be able to express it so beautifully in a way that still resonates with readers centuries later. Wow.

    Thanks so much for reading along. I have enjoyed your insights!

  5. I LOVE Villette, I've read it 8 times! That second to last chapter is so beautiful and sweet and sad. I have read a lot about Charlotte Bronte and who M. Paul and Dr. John are based on. She changed her relationships with them a lot from how it was in real life. In real life George Smith, (her publisher and the real Dr. John) did like her and may have even proposed to her but hee lived in London and she prefered the country life. M. Paul was based on her professor in Brussels, Constantin Heger. He was the HUSBUND of of the owner of the school (who was a much nicer person than jealous Charlotte portrayed in Madame Beck) and he loved Charlotte as a daughter. He was also the first man out side her family to encourage her writing.