Thursday, March 10, 2011

Villette read-a-long week 5 : Chapters 20-25

It has struck me, more than anything else about Villette, in reading the novel again thanks to Wallace's read-a-long, how much Lucy's involvement with events fluctuates throughout the book. She gets involved with the story, and I mean involved as in a moving the action along kind of way, in only very brief interludes; coming to the forefront of the story almost as a last resort. This isn't the way of Jane Eyre, which is a much faster paced narrative, and so we must assume that Villette is deliberately so; profoundly meditative on everything Charlotte Bronte holds and held dear during that deeply tragic part of her life. Is Lucy in Villette deliberately aloof from events, enabling her to become a kind of diffusing screen for Charlotte's exploration of her own current events in a fictional form?

Anne and Emily were both dead, as was the troubled brother Branwell who had held so much promise and hope for all of the sisters. Alone in the parsonage apart from her blind father who was in her charge; Charlotte was facing un uncertain, unhappy future exacerbated by her distaste for the trappings of her newfound celebrity after the mega-success of Jane Eyre.
We only have to lightly scratch the surface of Villette to discover Charlotte's thoughts on many if not all her demons; and I'm sure I've mentioned some of my thoughts on these in past posts. In this week's reading it is Lucy's set-in-amber descriptions of the perfect family moments that resonate with me very much; John and papa Home returning from their snowy excursion creates a memorable scene that to my mind betrays a yearning for the vibrancy of family that no longer lit up the Bronte parsonage. So much sadness; yet I detect no bitterness in her musing.
Then there is Dr. John. I think of Branwell Bronte and the hopes and dreams bestowed upon him by three adoring sisters, when I read of Graham Bretton. Branwell couldn't possibly live up to the expectations thrust upon him (and which almost certainly contributed to his downfall), but in Dr. John / Graham they thrive; his unassuming good nature and proud adoration of his mother are the embodiment of a brother that never was, and a mother that Charlotte never really knew. Maybe I'm completely wrong of course. Charlotte's writing is too brilliant to be that literal, and wouldn't be still being read 170 years later if her secrets could be unlocked that readily; but when I read Charlotte's work, it is her that I think of (and I am but surely a little bit in love) scratching away short-sightedly with her pen.
I'd be interested to hear what others think on this subject; with a little extra knowledge of the darkness surrounding Charlotte when Villette was being written; what do other read-a-longers read into some of Lucy's situations and relationships?


Wallace said...

I haven't actually thought at length about those relationships, actually (the loneliness and sadness, yes, but relationships in particular, no). Interesting how we are all getting different things out of this work and are viewing the characters in different ways. You describe John as kind and caring and I think he is annoying. Ultimately, I think this is a testament to Bronte's writing. It is so rich and layered that we, the readers, are given the opportunity to have so many differing thoughts and feelings while reading it. I love it!

I can't imagine that you are wrong, though, about Bronte incorporating her relationships (or hopes and dreams about what they might have been) into her work. Especially with as autobiographical as this work supposedly is. I think you're onto something.

Alexandra said...

I think Villette is in many way autobiographic, and the reason why Lucy always seems to speak to us behind a veil of "profoundly meditative" passages is that Charlotte couldn't be too explicit about her own feelings.

Interesting point about Graham being what Branwell could have been!

Melody said...

Graham's relationship with his mother is portrayed in a very idealistic manner, though not in a shallow way--it seems to be representative of some deep feelings on the author's part. Villette seems to have quite a bit of depth, which I'm really liking.

Josh's mom said...

I have been struck over and over with the tortured emotions that fill poor Lucy soul so it makes sense that this is coming from CB's struggles in her own life. I haven't read anything the Bronte family life, so appreciate this kind of insight.