Thursday, March 10, 2011

Villette by Charlotte Bronte Read-a-long:: Week Five

Villette by Charlotte Bronte read-a-long hosted by Wallace at her blog, Unputdownables.
Week Five, Chapters 21, 22, 23, 24 & 25
Summary: (this section contains spoilers)
Lucy is back at Rue Fossette to resume her teaching responsibilities. She's very sad. Dr. John has promised to write and tells her Mrs. Bretton will visit. Lucy spends quite a bit of time wondering whether or not she'll actually get a letter from Dr. John and trying to talk herself out of hoping for one. Lucy sees M. Paul soon after returning but she's not in the mood to be teased or to talk to him at all. Later on in the day, Ginevra comes looking for Lucy because she knows Lucy's been staying with Dr. John and his mother. Ginevra wants to talk about Dr. John and is rather rude when she does. For some reason, Lucy humors her.

A letter finally arrives for Lucy from Dr. John. M. Paul delivers the letter to Lucy in the classroom. Lucy immediately takes the letter to her room and hides it away to enjoy later. When she returns to the classroom, she finds M. Paul ranting and raving about the students behavior and speech. He turns on Lucy blaming her for the students. When Lucy doesn't answer him, M. Paul became incensed. Although Lucy tries to remain calm, especially since some of the students were crying, her voice cracks when she finally speaks. This calms down M. Paul. But, by the end of the chapter he's annoyed again!

Lucy retreats to her bedroom in the evening to read the letter. But Ginevra is already in bed, not feeling well.(I found this an interesting tidbit). Lucy takes the letter up to the dark, cold garrett, 3 flights up but guaranteed privacy. She’s enjoying her letter when she hears a footstep and looks to the dark end of the long room. She sees, in the middle of the room, a figure in black skirts with a head bandaged in white. Lucy runs to M. Beck's sitting room and tells M. Beck and her company that someone is in the garrett. One of the men is Dr. John, there to treat M. Beck mother.

The police are called but nothing is discovered. Dr. John found his letter to Lucy. He doesn't give it back to her, initially, teasing her about it. But Lucy is so upset at losing it that he returns it to her. Dr. John encourages Lucy to tell him exactly what she saw. She describes the apparition as a nun He thinks Lucy saw it as a result of being depressed, it's a trick of her mind. He tells her she needs to "cultivate happiness" have "a cheerful mind" and uses himself as an example.

Lucy says that happiness has become her new creed, sadness is kept at bay. She receives several more letters from Dr. John. Lucy wrestled with herself over how to answer them. She wrote about her deep affection and gratitude to Dr. John and then tore these letters up and wrote a very direct, brief letter that she sent! Once a week, Lucy visits at La Terrasse, the Bretton’s home to visit. One evening, Dr. John arrives unexpectedly and asks Lucy to go to the theater with him.

Lucy's dress is up in the garrett. When she went to get it, she saw another apparition of sorts that she couldn't explain. Dr. John could tell something had happened and persuades Lucy to tells him what she saw. He attributes it also to a nervous malady.

Lucy thoroughly enjoys the theater (she explains it to us at length!). Towards midnight, and the most exciting part of the production, a fire breaks out! Of course, it’s chaos with most of the audience running for the exit. Dr. John and Lucy stay where they are to wait out the crowd. They see a woman knocked to the floor when a large man roughly brushes by her. Dr. John runs to help and he and Lucy accompany the injured woman and her father back to the hotel where they are staying to make sure she‘s fine.

Lucy doesn't see or hear from Mrs. Bretton or Dr. John for seven weeks following the fire at the theater. Ginevra tells Lucy that the young woman injured that night is the daughter of Ginevra's rich uncle, Monsieur de Bassompierre. Ginevra is out of sorts because Dr. John virtually ignored her when they were all at dinner together, giving all of his attention to Missy and M. de Bassompierre.

Later that day, Lucy receives a letter which she hopes is from Dr. John but it's from Mrs. Bretton. She invites Lucy to come for a visit later that day as its a holiday weekend. Lucy arrives at La Terrasse and meets the young woman from the other night who, it turns out, is little Paulina Mary, or Polly from Bretton all those years ago!

My Thoughts: I realized while reading these chapters, how important Mrs. Bretton and, especially Dr. John, have become to Lucy. Now that she's found some friends, she's desperate to keep them and afraid she'll lose them. She behaves as if she's okay having a quiet life without friends or family. But I think it bothers her terribly. She just doesn't want anyone to know how she really feels.

I'm certain she has a crush on Dr. John, although she'll never admit it. But Lucy is becoming too focused on him, almost obsessed. It seemed like she would lose her mind if she didn't find that first letter. And its ridiculous how disappointed she is when the last letter isn't from him, even though it's an invitation to his home. Her responses to his letters were both funny and sad. I think the letters she tore up also illustrate her obsession with Dr. John. I wonder how much of her adoration of him is because her life has been devoid of friends, especially very close friends and men. I wonder if she thinks her conversations with Dr. John are special as if he's confiding in her because she's special to him. Lucy doesn't seem aware that many, many of their conversations were about another young woman. I think Dr. John might feel some pity towards Lucy and has taken her under his wing as a kind of sad, little sister with a very quiet life. And because she's special to his mother. I don't completely trust him since he couldn't be bothered to speak to Lucy at all those months at Rue Fossette when he didn't know she was Lucy Snowe.

I find the passages in which Lucy discusses and ponders Reason and Reason versus Feelings interesting although a little tedious sometimes. I wonder if she was raised to be practical and reserved or if it's more a result of the difficulties she's had in her life.

I really wonder what's going on with the ghost images Lucy has seen in the garrett. She doesn't seem at all concerned that Dr, John thinks they are due to a nervous mind. It sounds a little bit like he thinks Lucy's going crazy. Maybe it's stress or terrible unhappiness which Lucy keeps quiet about.

I don't think Lucy cares much for Polly, years ago or now. I think she finds her a "curious little thing", kind of odd. Lucy watches Polly for the several hours they are in the room together but never talks to her!(p.326-27 signet classic) I'm sure she's concerned that Polly will take all of Dr. John's free time when he's home as she did years ago at Bretton. Polly seems very fond of Lucy. It sounds as if she talked to her papa about Lucy a lot. She also seems very happy to be reunited with Lucy.

Question: I was wondering what you think about why Lucy told Ginevra that Dr. John was angry and upset and hurt over her and her behavior at the auction? I know he didn't like how Ginevra treated Mrs. Bretton but other than that he seemed almost relieved to see this side of Ginevra. Yet Lucy lets Ginevra think that Dr. John was "Quite mad". At the end of this passage Lucy thinks "There was pleasure in thinking of the contrast between the reality and my description-" (p.267 signet classic). Do you think that Lucy simply likes being the only one to know the truth? If so, I'm not so sure I like this trait!


  1. I'm thinking it is a case of Lucy being happy to know something about Dr. John that Ginevra doesn't know. A way of saying, "see how close we are?"

  2. I'm with Wallace on this one: Lucy was just a bit smug in knowing something her rival didn't. Not very Christina of Lucy, but all's fair in love and war.

    I hope this obsession with Dr John goes away soon. Polly with probably help in this!

  3. I'm thinking the same thing--that Lucy likes having the inside scoop on what really happened while Ginevra is off on the wrong track. Also, she couldn't really tell Ginevra the truth without betraying a confidence..

    Susan E.

  4. Lucy is certainly showing more of herself in these chapters, although I don't think she's doing it on purpose. I think that Lucy's response to Ginevra was also rooted in knowing Ginevra's character--she wouldn't hear anything other than what she wanted to hear anyhow, you know?

  5. WALLACE: Oh, of course! That makes sense. Thank you!

    ALEXANDRA: Good point! I guess I didn't want to see Lucy as smug, but I think you & Wallace are right!
    I hope Polly distracts Dr. John totally, too!

  6. ANONYMOUS: Lucy is moral and so would never want to betray a confidence, but I think she likes, even more, knowing something Ginevra doesn't. And now that the 3 of you have brought Lucy's smugness to my attention, I don't know how I missed it!

    MELODY: That's a great point! Ginevra is so sure of herself that she's only going to believe what she already thinks not what Lucy says if it's different, so, of course, Lucy goes along with her. And, as a result, we see even more how smart & clever Lucy is and we also find out that she can be smug and a little catty!

  7. Amy -
    I have yet to read the Bronte's - but they are on my list. Having visited the area they lived so many times (North Yorkshire) because of my husband's family lives there - it is more than necessary.

    I have read a short bio of the family - such a tragic story.

    I was certain I had followed your blog - not sure what happened there. :) You will see my little icon now.

  8. I've never read anything by the Brontes--I should, just to find out what the books are like. I'm intrigued by this post and the comments; it sounds like there are some interesting aspects to this novel.

  9. I think teasing and cajoling Ginevra is a popular pastime for Lucy. I don't know about Lucy being smug, perhaps just CB subtly showing us a side of her natural make-up which isn't so nice. We all have these facets don't we. Another difference between Jane Eyre and Lucy Snowe. Lucy is a much more troubled character. Her name is as ironic as it is a reflection of her character.