Villette Readalong: Week Two

villette-buttonWow–so many thoughts, so few conclusions. Volume II sees Lucy entering into a new phase of her life in Villette. After suffering an illness at the end of Volume I, she is taken under the wing of a former acquaintance and nursed back to health. I couldn’t help but think that having companionship and people in her life who genuinely care about her made more of a difference to Lucy’s state than anything else could. She is a woman who is desperately independent and yet needs affection just as anyone does. Thus she finds herself in a struggle between wanting for someone to pay attention to her and wanting to remain stoic and unaffected by the actions (or non-actions) or others. I can’t help but feel that she’s this way as a result of her sad upbringing, which must have been quite lacking in affection.

Old acquaintances are renewed and new ones are made in Volume II, and we get to know some of the other characters at Madame Beck’s better. M. Paul (or M. Emmanuel, depending on Brontë’s mood, evidently. Is it confusing to anyone else that she calls everyone by several different names?) features largely in these chapters. Lucy runs into him at the museum and again at a public event at which he is speaking. He’s a funny little man, with very decided ideas about the place of women in society and Lucy’s place in particular, and I couldn’t help but think that he has a vested interest in her.

Two things stood out very clearly to me in this part of the book. One is that Brontë is using the book as a vehicle for trying to express her feelings about the role of women, and she does so particularly through the medium of art, which allows women to express themselves in ways that they might not be able to otherwise. The other is that she is using the character of Lucy, mysterious and unknown to us in many ways even as she shares her thoughts and feelings quite freely, as a way to show how women are much more complicated than the common view may allow for. Lucy is different things to different people, and none of them see her in exactly the same way. She doesn’t fit into a neat box, and I think that Brontë does this very deliberately.

As we head into the last third of the book, I still have no idea how it will all end, but I can’t wait to see what Brontë has in store for us next.

Other thoughts on Volume II:

Covered in Flour

The Misfortune of Knowing

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9 thoughts on “Villette Readalong: Week Two

  1. A.M.B.

    Lucy is a fascinating character, and I hope we will see her true nature more clearly in Volume III. I also find M. Paul’s names confusing (he’s so creepy, and I really don’t want Lucy to fall in love with him!), and I also don’t have a very good concept of the passage of time (but that could be because I’m reading a couple of books at once).

    Reply
    1. Beth

      I’m not a big fan of his, either, although supposedly he’s based on a person who Brontë fell in love with in real life, so maybe her taste is just very different from ours!

      Reply
  2. Pingback: VILLETTE & a Cup of Tea (a Giveaway!) | The Misfortune Of Knowing

  3. Care

    Hope you are having fun with this one. I am going for more Stephen King with the Under the Dome readalong and am rather in shock. I’ve been choosing a lot of shocking titles to read lately, actually. 🙂

    Reply
    1. Beth

      I would have jumped in on that on if it weren’t so long, but I’ve got some review books to get through this month. Enjoy!

      Reply
  4. Pingback: Charlotte Brontë and I Can’t Agree on Everything | The Misfortune Of Knowing

  5. Luv Lubker

    Hi, I’ve read Villette 11 times and have been studying the Brontes for 3 years. Thought you might find a little back-story for Villette interesting.
    Charlotte Bronte went to Brussels when she was 25-27 – to learn French to start her own school, but got writing lessons while she was there. Her teacher was Monsieur Heger – who M. Paul is based on, but in real life he was married – Madame Beck is Charlotte’s jealous portrait of her. She did not really have any affair with him.
    Also, later after Charlotte was published, the owner of the publishing company, George Smith (who is who Dr. John is based on) fell in love with her.
    (This next part is little known) They got engaged but his mother did not approve – she wanted him to marry someone “Young, Rich & Pretty” as Charlotte said – He still lived with his mother and siblings and still would after he married – she would not marry him without his mother’s permission. He even tried to get her to elope and she wouldn’t. His mother just kept making them wait longer and longer till Charlotte got worn out.
    Villette was actually her break up letter to George – there are a lot of long passages cut out of the manuscript that were private messages to him – he would not let the person in the business who usually read all the books sent to them read the manuscript. One of my friends called it her “Dear Dr. John Letter” instead of Dear John Letter lol.
    Charlotte made Graham be much more superficial than George really was – there is a letter to one of her friends about teasing him about Ginevra or Paulina and he said he was not in love with that character.

    Reply
  6. Pingback: #Villettealong: Reading Companions | Covered In Flour

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