Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
Cathy

Needing some encouragement with Villete

Recommended Posts

I'm 1/3 of the way through Vilette and really struggling to stay interested! Please tell me something is going to happen! (no spoilers please!) This novel (so far) seems to have no structure, and no reason for turning the page. Plus what is her problem with Catholics? Its like some in-joke for 19th century protestants and I just don't get it. Will reading it as 'trust the tale not the teller' make it better? How does that work exactly?

 

I'm so disappointed, Wuthering Heights is one of my favourites but this is just not doing it for me. :(

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I recollect struggling with Villette many years ago. Can't remember the plot, nor the ending....nor even if I did reach the end, just the effort it was to pick it up and continue reading.

 

So, if there is someone out there with a good word to say for it, I would like to know if it is worth trying again. As I am so much older, I might get more out of it, but I also need encouragement to try.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Ok some much needed support from the Pro-Villette camp!!

 

I read it about 3 years ago, and I remember liking it -apart from one chapter where she goes a bit mad, I think I eventually had to skip that one! I've refreshed my memory from flicking through and looking at my underlinings and annotations...

 

Ok, Lucy Snowe is not the typical Romantic heroine - sh'es plain and unpopular. Intelligent but not a particularly likeable character. She's really rather dull. I think Bronte conveys this by naming her 'Snowe', reflecting her cold exterior, morbidness and weakness. So why has Charlotte Bronte created Lucy Snowe, in a complete contradiction of the Romantic norm? I think that, in Villette, Charlotte is trying to create a more realistic heroine. SHe doesn't get married or die like most Romantic heroines, instead Lucy finds a middle ground. I think Charlotte is pointing out that it was not only beautiful, rich, popular women who had feelings and were worth writing about. Some people think this may be an autobiographical novel...?

 

SO this realistic heroine, she's not really that engaging...hardly a Cathy, or a Jane Eyre! So what makes her interesting?

 

Well that's where the question 'don't trust the teller, trust the tale' comes in. Reality is a big theme in Villette, but Lucy is a very unreliable narrator. SHe keeps many secrets from the reader (I won't give examples because I don't know how far you've read and you didn't want any spoilers!) but there's things that you discover several chapters on and think, 'well why didn't Lucy tell us that before? what else is she keeping from us?' Many of the characters have dual personalities, and secretive natures. When a novel is in the first person, the reader assumes that they are party to the truth, but why must this necessarily be so? Lucy could be writing a whole pack of lies, we just don't know. In fact Lucy even says:

 

'It will be conjectured that I was on course glad to return to the bosom of my kindred. Well! The amiable conjecture does no harm and may therefore be safely left uncontradicted. Far from saying nay, indeed, I will permit the reader to picture me, for the next eight years, as a bark slumbering through halcyon weather, in a harbour still as glass.'

 

....in other words, Lucy give us a version of her life we are permitted to imagine, but also points out that it is indeed imaginary. SHe admits it here, but has she also embellished the truth elsewhere? To allow the reader to get the most from a text, it must be removed from the author's control, leaving it up to the reader to decide whether to take as truth the point of view put forward by the narrator, or to search the text for clues to other possibilities. If you're familiar with Roland Barthes' The Death of the Author it might be useful to think of this in conjunction with the question Don't trust the teller trust the tale.

 

I'm in danger of getting into essay territory here, sorry! I just think it's a really interesting novel, but if you were expecting something like Wuthering Heights or Jane Eyre it will be a bit of a shock! My advice would be to read it critically, don't take anything Lucy says at face value and look for clues as to what the REAL story may be. Don't try and LIKE Lucy, be suspicious of her.

 

I've probably not been very clear here, I have rushed it a bit, and I obviously haven't read it for years, but hopefully I've inspired enough curiosity about what the hell i'm on about to make you read on! I can't really write what I want without putting in spoilers!

 

I managed to write a huge essay on it in second year, and found it really interesting, although it maybe doesn't give so much pleasure when you're just reading it for pleasure rather than reading it to write about it.

 

It's inspired me to read it again, and who knows, I may come back and post in a few weeks having hated it this time round!

 

Sorry again for the babbling, but it's either babbling or spending ages writing it like an essay which, frankly, I can't be bothered to do! I'll just post it before I re-read this and delete it!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

What a marvellous post, Seraphina! Will probably even convince me to have another go with it. I got about half way through when I was sixteen or so, and gave up in disbelief at such an unlikable character. I would probably be more understanding these days.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Now I am intrigued!

I think I am more likely to appreciate the kind of book you've described than I was back in my late teens/twenties, or whenever it was I last attempted it, so, dammit, there's another one to add to 'The List'

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Thanks for all your posts, I'm plodding on, and have got over the bit I think you mean Seraphina, and can see what you mean about her not telling the truth now! However if that's the only thing that is going to happen ...!

I will try to read it more suspiciously... I think I have a problem with reading books where I can't sympathise with anyone. There is no one really nice in this book. Am I being too harsh? Its a bit of a problem with lots of literature for me, e.g. Mansfield Park... but that's another board! :confused:

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It seems so silly to write *spoilers* about a book written about 200 years ago!

 

Well, what a strange book! I'm glad I read it because it showed me a different side to Charlotte Bronte. It got quite gripping towards the end, but I really do think that girl had a HUGE masochistic streak which is quite disturbing! I think she quite enjoyed not making the ending happy - I know its supposed to be 'ambiguous', but if she wanted it to be really happy, she could have just made it happy! Seraphina said somewhere that its about a woman finding happiness through compromises and in the real world, but I can't buy Bronte's happiness, I wanted her to scream and shout at Madame Beck, and to have her revenge! I find it quite strange, because in Jane Eyre I see a totally different type of happiness. I liked Villette from the point of view that it put down in writing the experiences of lots of ordinary women struggling to find their way through the world without money or connections.

 

Was Villette written later? What happened to her in between? Has Bronte had her hopes of marital bliss in her lifetime dashed by this point?

 

I have to find something else to read now!

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

Loading...
Sign in to follow this  

  • Similar Content

    • By Cathy
      This is really a response to a query on the 'Introduce yourself board, from Megustaleer
       
      Apparently , according to the postcolonialists Jane Eyre is all about anxiety over the loss of empire and the "degeneration" thought at the time to be caused by mixing with other races. There is a passage somewhere which suggests the woman in the attic is mixed race, and the whole thing with her being in the attic is sort of trying to repress the colonial thing. At least that's how I remember it from university.
       
      But as I say on the other board, I don't believe this interpretation at all, and it really nearly spoiled Jane Eyre for me. I mean, Jane Eyre is an amazing Romance with a capital R, and as you may be able to tell from my username this is right up my street!
       
      Thankfully, I am now coming to terms with the trauma and have been able to enjoy Jane Eyre again recently! Although I really, really wish I hadn't annotated my text (all be it very sarcastically) at uni.
    • By megustaleer
      Nearly missed this one!
      Radio4 (again) The Woman's Hour Serial.
       
      Started today, The Professor, by Charlotte Bronte, in 10 parts. Weekdays 10.45am, repeated the same day at 7.45pm
       
      And on 'Listen Again', thank goodness.
    • By Hilary
      There only seems to be a thread about this in regard to its being post-colonial or otherwise. It surely needs a more general thread?!
       
      I've just started reading it these last few minutes. I have seen a play of it but am unsure whether I have actually read it before. I thought I had, but a few pages in and I'm still not sure.
       
      (really troubled by the 'its' in my first sentence. I'm having an apostrophe wobble and can't decide where it should go. Someone will know, I am sure...)
×
×
  • Create New...