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Posts Tagged ‘Charlotte Bronte’

Mileage:  2 miles walking the golf course, 3.5 miles for the day.

Although the mileage remains the prime mover (apropos of walking), I promised to read Yorkshire-appropriate literature.  Thus, Charlotte Bronte.

As part of the perambulation project, I plan to read Yorshire literature, but I started with a non-Yorkshire Bronte novel, Villette, because I have been thinking about this novel in particular.  It isn’t set in Yorkshire but is still authored by a Bronte.  Please add the necessary umlaut above the “e.”

I have been a Brontes reader since high school.  In Nelson Sudderth’s AP English class (Girls Preparatory School, class of 1978)l, we read Wuthering Heights, my first foray with a Bronte, Emily.  In graduate school, Brontes were on my reading list–The Professor, The Tenant of Wildfell Hall, Shirley, Agnes Grey, Jane Eyre, Villette.  Granted, this is a heck of a lot of Brontes.

Wuthering Heights always satisfies, Heathcliff and Cathy and the successive generations repeating the obsessions of every previous generation.  And film adaptations are inspiring.  Who beats Laurence Olivier as Heathcliff?  But Villette poses unique challenges, challenges that I seem to have forgotten since I last read it sometime in 1990-1.  The challenge is Lucy herself.   

Lucy is the first-person narrator of the novel, and it is through her perspective that we learn everything about the students and teachers at the French school where she is employed.  And yet, in reading the novel again, I was reminded how much Lucy Snowe keeps from us, how many of her feelings are only indirectly revealed through the narrative.

For instance, I forgot how absolutely secretive Lucy Snowe is.  She won’t explain the personal family disaster that forces her to seek her fortune in France.  Likewise, she takes the letters that Dr. Graham Breton writes to her and buries them beneath the ancient pear tree in a sealed glass container, but she never explains why she decided to “bury” her feelings (although seeing Polly and Dr. Breton together might be a clue).  And why does she redirect her feelings to the Professor, when she just a moment earlier felt so strongly for Breton?  She won’t explain.  She won’t confess.  Everything she feels remains her secret.

And that’s what I like about this book.  I appreciate a fictional creation who can keep her deepest feelings to herself.  More of us should be keeping our feelings to ourselves.  Enough of confession, revelation, and public display.

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