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Villette

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Reading Group Guide


"Villette! Villette! Have you read it?" exclaimed George Eliot when Charlotte Brontë's final novel appeared in 1853. "It is a still more wonderful book than Jane Eyre. There is something almost preternatural in its power."

Arguably Brontë's most refined and deeply felt work, Villette draws on her profound loneliness following the deaths of her three siblings. Lucy Snowe, the narrator of Villette,flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new file as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy's struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her freindship with a wordly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Brontë's strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free.

"Villette is an amazing book," observed novelist Susan Fromberg Schaeffer. "Written before psychoanalysis came into being, Villette is nevertheless a psychoanalytic work—a psychosexual study of its heroine, Lucy Snowe. Written before the philosophy of existentialism was formulated, the novel's view of the world can only be described as existential. . . . Today it is read and discussed more intensely than Charlotte Brontë's other novels, and many critics now beleive it to be a true master-piece, a work of genius that more than fulfilled the promise of Jane Eyre." Indeed, Virginia Woolf judged Villette to be Brontë's "finest novel."

1. ?Discuss the character of Lucy Snowe. Do you find her to be an admirable heroine? What qualities do you like in her, or dislike? How do you think you would behave in her circumstances?

2. ?Writing to her publisher, Charlotte Bront? had this to say about Vilette?s protagonist: ?I consider that [Lucy Snowe] is both morbid and weak at times; her character sets up no pretensions to unmixed strength, and anybody living her life would necessarily become morbid.? What do you think of this appraisal? Do her ?unheroic? qualities make her more sympathetic or less?

3. ?Virginia Woolf felt that Villette was Bront??s ?finest novel,? and speaking about Bront?, wrote that ?All her force, and it is the more tremendous for being constricted, goes into the assertion, ?I love,? ?I hate,? ?I suffer.? ? What do you think Woolf means? Do you find this observation interesting, appealing, or moving?

4. ?Why do you think Bront? sets the narrative of Villette in a foreign country?

5. ?Explore the theme of education in Villette: What is the role of education in Lucy Snowe?s own life?

6. ??The conclusion of Villette is famously ambiguous (it was made purposefully so by Bront?). Do you find it a happy ending? A sad one? Discuss.

Product Details

ISBN:
9780679640080
Publisher:
Modern Library
Subject:
Classics
Author:
Bronte, Charlotte
Author:
Brontë, Charlotte
Subject:
British
Subject:
Love stories
Subject:
Fiction-Classics
Subject:
Fiction : Classics
Subject:
British and irish fiction (fictional works by
Subject:
Belgium Social life and customs 19th century Fiction.
Subject:
Man-woman relationships
Subject:
Women teachers
Subject:
Belgium
Subject:
main_subject
Subject:
all_subjects
Publication Date:
19971001
Binding:
ELECTRONIC
Language:
English
Pages:
575

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z
Fiction and Poetry » Romance » General

Villette
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Product details 575 pages Modern Library - English 9780679640080 Reviews:
"Synopsis" by , With her final novel, Villette, Charlotte Bronte reached the height of her artistic power.First published in 1853, Villette is Bronte's most accomplished and deeply felt work, eclipsing even Jane Eyre in critical acclaim.Her narrator, the autobiographical Lucy Snowe, flees England and a tragic past to become an instructor in a French boarding school in the town of Villette.There, she unexpectedly confronts her feelings of love and longing as she witnesses the fitful romance between Dr. John, a handsome young Englishman, and Ginerva Fanshawe, a beautiful coquetter.This first pain brings others, and with them comes the heartache Lucy has tried so long to escape.Yet in spite of adversity and disappointment, Lucy Snowe survives to recount the unstinting vision of a turbulent life's journey--a journey that is one of the most insightful fictional studies of a woman's consciousness in English literature.

From the Paperback edition.

"Synopsis" by , My godmother lived in a handsome house in the clean and ancient town of Bretton. Her husband's family had been residents there for generations, and bore, indeed, the name of their birthplace--Bretton of Bretton: whether by coincidence, or because some remote ancestor had been a personage of sufficient importance to leave his name to his neighbourhood, I know not.

When I was a girl I went to Bretton about twice a year, and well I liked the visit. The house and its inmates specially suited me. The large peaceful rooms, the well-arranged furniture, the clear wide windows, the balcony outside, looking down on a fine antique street, where Sundays and holidays seemed always to abide--so quiet was its atmosphere, so clean its pavement--these things pleased me well.

One child in a household of grown people is usually made very much of, and in a quiet way I was a good deal taken notice of by Mrs. Bretton, who had been left a widow, with one son, before I knew her; h

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