Villette is the story of a woman named Lucy Snowe, a woman who appears to be cold and isolated from the people around her. It opens with her standoffish observations of the people in her godmother's house, and continues as she journeys to a place where she will find acceptance.
In this first part, we are introduced to Lucy as a resident of her godmother's house in Bretton. In addition to Lucy, her godmother Mrs. Bretton, her son John Grahan Bretton, and little Paulina. The opening pages describe the relationships between them, as Lucy observes. Its obvious that these characters will appear later in the novel, and that little Miss Polly has a crush on John. Their relationship and Polly's views of the world are the beginning focus.
Eventually Lucy leaves the Bretton home and finds another place to work. She is alone with no family and flounders for a bit in her new role. After her mistress passes away, Lucy boards a ferry across the water to Labassecour (supposedly Belgium) in hopes of finding work to do, even though she doesn't speak French. There she meets Madame Beck and lands a job working in her boarding school. It is shortly after that Lucy finds herself teaching English to the girls and finding a place.
There is a great cast of characters who appear in the school around Lucy. And while Lucy narrates and discusses them, you get the idea from Lucy herself that she considers none of them loved ones. She seems so alone and desolate-forced into a role that she perhaps never wanted.
It is this sadness that lays over the entirety of this novel (so far). While the world around Lucy seems brights, the girls in her school happy and young and bubbly, Lucy seems to pull away from the love and light around her. The other teachers acknowledge her and talk with her, but I wouldn't consider any of them her friends or people to rely on.
But Lucy is content with her solitude, which is something I can relate to. In many ways I am a hermit. I like having my own time and space to do what I need. I am happy to stay in with a book rather than go out with a group. Perhaps this is why I feel so deeply for Lucy. I know how she feels.
I also love Charlotte Bronte's writing. It is deep, lyrical, and beautiful. I find myself marking passages left and right and letting her language seep over me in a deep wave. I would give anything to write this way, to evoke such deep and powerful emotion with every sentence. She was certainly a master of her craft.
This first passage shows a little of Lucy's optimism:
"A strong, vague persuasion, that it was better to go forward than backward, and that I could go forward-that a way, however narrow and difficult, would in time open, predominated over other feelings," (52).
And this passage is my favorite so far. A female student is speaking to Lucy, confronting her if you will:
"You have no relations; you can't call yourself young at twenty-three; you have no attractive accomplishments-no beauty. As to admirers, you hardly know what they are; you can't even talk on the subject; you sit dumb when the other teachers quote their conquests. I believe you never were in love, and never will be: you don't know the feeling, and so much the better, for though you might have your own heart broken, no living heart will you ever break. Isn't it all true?" (164-165).
So powerful and beautiful, and Lucy admits it all as true.
Yes, I am loving the power and beauty of Villette, and I cannot wait to see what will happen to Lucy Snowe.