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Thread: Villete

  1. #1
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    Villete

    Hi,

    I finished Villete - a true masterpiece. I just read it for the first time - and spent the past 2 1/2 hours trying to wrap my mind around it.

    It's funny, though, because while I greatly admire the book, I can't say I loved it. It didn't make me smile. Yet, the amount of involvement I felt as a reader is a true testament to my favorite author's genius.

    A few thoughts though:

    The character of Paulina greatly puzzled me. I found her to be a bit creepy as a child, and an oddly immature adult. I found it interesting that she gained Lucy's esteem. She praised Paulina... for what? Paulina really didn't appear to have much of a depth of character at all. It seems to me that her only credentials were her beauty, and lack of arrogance in comparison to her cousin. How did she win Lucy's affection?

    And even when she married the handsome Dr. John in the end, it gave me an aura of a "prince and princess together at last." Miss Fanshaw appears to be the ugly stepsister. Yet, again, other than being quieter and more submissive, Paulina is strikingly similar to Miss Fanshaw. Both are pretty, doted upon, and spoiled. Dr. John pretty much falls for both of them based on their looks. I don't understand why Lucy gave Paulina so much credit.

    The Ending:

    The ending was a difficult thing. It was disappointing and infuriating, yet, I don't think it should have ended any other way. Lucy was not meant to reach happiness, I feel. She had a rough life, and I feel like giving her a happy ending would strip away from the authenticity of the book. On the other hand, killing off Paul Emanual would have definitively made it too sad. Leaving the ambiguous nature was suitable, though, I'll admit, greatly frustrating.

    Another question:

    In chapter XLI, M. Emanuel referred to Madame Beck as "femme" when he was trying to tell her to leave him and Lucy alone. Now I don't speak French, but upon entering that word on my trusty Google translate, I got that that word means "wife." Does anyone have another translation, speak French, or have an explanation for why he would refer to Madame Beck as that?

    All in all, this book was truly remarkable - unlike any other I have read. I am surprised that it has not received more recognition. Its unpredictable nature and depth of feeling were great. I also liked how Bronte had a few different stories intertwined with Lucy's, and that they all saw completion. Paulina and Dr. John - the "perfects"; Miss Fanshawe and de Hamel - the "shallows"; and of course our chaotic Lucy and Paul Emanuel.

    Any thoughts?
    Last edited by Laura Clarke; 03-27-2016 at 08:25 PM.

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    Registered User Aylinn's Avatar
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    Femme looks very similar to the word female, so I suppose it may mean the same, especially since the word female was taken from old French, which took the word from Latin femella – girl.

    As for why Lucy hold Paulina in such a high regard, I don’t know. She was shown as an intelligent person, but her critical thinking seemed limited. From her comparison of catholic France and protestant England, one could take an impression that England was populated by paragons of virtue. She seemed to have a serious problem in regard to looking critically at her own society, religious group.
    Last edited by Aylinn; 03-28-2016 at 04:17 AM.

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    It is some time ago that I read the novel, so I don´t remember the passage you refer to. If Paul said "ma femme" that would mean "my wife". The model for Paul seems to have been the Belgian professor Charlotte fell in love with but who didn´t correspond.
    As for Paulina, I like her portrayal as a child, she somehow brings life into the first chapters of the story, while the protagonist herself acts more as an observer. But as an adult I find her rather dull, a bit spoiled if I remember her well.
    I read somewhere that Charlotte intended a much more radical end for Villette. The ambiguous final is a half concession to the wish of her father, who wanted a happy ending. So, Charlotte left the matter ironically to the choice of her readers.
    Last edited by Danik 2016; 03-29-2016 at 01:05 PM.
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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Ma femme means my wife, but une femme just means a woman?

    Any Belgian French speakers?
    Previously JonathanB

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Last edited by Danik 2016; 03-29-2016 at 04:12 PM.
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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Thanks, Jonathan, you are right. Charlotte went to Brussel, not to Paris, and fell in love with Monsieur Héger.
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Villette_%28novel%29
    And a review of Villette:
    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...Jane-Eyre.html
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    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Jon's right - femme is woman or wife in French depending on the context, so here Paul is calling Madame Beck "woman!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Laura Clarke View Post
    Hi,

    I finished Villete - a true masterpiece. I just read it for the first time - and spent the past 2 1/2 hours trying to wrap my mind around it.

    It's funny, though, because while I greatly admire the book, I can't say I loved it. It didn't make me smile. Yet, the amount of involvement I felt as a reader is a true testament to my favorite author's genius.

    A few thoughts though:

    The character of Paulina greatly puzzled me. I found her to be a bit creepy as a child, and an oddly immature adult. I found it interesting that she gained Lucy's esteem. She praised Paulina... for what? Paulina really didn't appear to have much of a depth of character at all. It seems to me that her only credentials were her beauty, and lack of arrogance in comparison to her cousin. How did she win Lucy's affection?

    And even when she married the handsome Dr. John in the end, it gave me an aura of a "prince and princess together at last." Miss Fanshaw appears to be the ugly stepsister. Yet, again, other than being quieter and more submissive, Paulina is strikingly similar to Miss Fanshaw. Both are pretty, doted upon, and spoiled. Dr. John pretty much falls for both of them based on their looks. I don't understand why Lucy gave Paulina so much credit.
    Charlotte wrote this book during the loneliest time of her life, after the death of her siblings, and the result is this amazing testament to loneliness. I agree with you that it is not as lovable as Jane Eyre but Charlotte Bronte fans are going to love it all the same.

    Paulina is an unsatisfactory character from the literary point of view, even Charlotte realized that, as she explains to her publishers -
    I greatly apprehend, however, that the weakest character in the book is the one I aimed at making the most beautiful; and, if this be the case, the fault lies in its wanting the germ of the real - in its being purely imaginary. I felt that this character lacked substance; I fear that the reader will feel the same. Union with it resembles too much the fate of Ixion, who was mated with a cloud. The childhood of Paulina is, however, I think, pretty well imagined, but her. . ." (the remainder of this interesting sentence is torn off the letter). - Letter to George Smith, quoted in Mrs. Gaskell's Life of Charlotte Bronte
    As for Paulina and Lucy, here's my theory - I think she tries to sort of live out her love for Graham vicariously through Paulina. She never dares to admit her love for him even to herself, he being such a bright, handsome, wonderful creature, while she regards herself as a looker on at life, a shadow in life's sunshine and that sort of thing. This is why as a 14 year old she keeps observing the child Polly with such obsessive intensity as she freely shows her affection for Graham, something Lucy herself would never dare to do. As for the adult Paulina, Lucy is always praising her virtues to us readers, but I'm not really feeling the love. Maybe it is because of Paulina's shortcomings as a character. On the other hand I get the feeling she really likes Ginevra, although she does nothing but complain about her. Aylinn also has a point. She likes all the English characters but despises all the continental characters, with the exception of M. Paul of course.

    And even when she married the handsome Dr. John in the end, it gave me an aura of a "prince and princess together at last." Miss Fanshaw appears to be the ugly stepsister. Yet, again, other than being quieter and more submissive, Paulina is strikingly similar to Miss Fanshaw. Both are pretty, doted upon, and spoiled. Dr. John pretty much falls for both of them based on their looks.
    Dr. John is rather shallow, but don't people usually fall for good looks? What about Lucy herself, who is so much in love with Dr. John mostly because he is so handsome?

    I'm glad you liked it, Laura. It is one of my favourite books. Did you see this recent thread posted by Carmilla, who also liked it very much? http://www.online-literature.com/for...onderful-novel

    Quote Originally Posted by Danik 2016 View Post
    That was a good review!
    Last edited by mona amon; 03-30-2016 at 08:15 AM.
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    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    Paulina is an unsatisfactory character from the literary point of view, even Charlotte realized that, as she explains to her publishers -
    Interesting. I'll have to read more into this...

    As for Paulina and Lucy, here's my theory - I think she tries to sort of live out her love for Graham vicariously through Paulina. She never dares to admit her love for him even to herself, he being such a bright, handsome, wonderful creature, while she regards herself as a looker on at life, a shadow in life's sunshine and that sort of thing. This is why as a 14 year old she keeps observing the child Polly with such obsessive intensity as she freely shows her affection for Graham, something Lucy herself would never dare to do. As for the adult Paulina, Lucy is always praising her virtues to us readers, but I'm not really feeling the love. Maybe it is because of Paulina's shortcomings as a character. On the other hand I get the feeling she really likes Ginevra, although she does nothing but complain about her. Aylinn also has a point. She likes all the English characters but despises all the continental characters, with the exception of M. Paul of course.
    Hmm that's an interesting take on it. That would explain Lucy's odd fixation on the couple.

    Still, though, I can't pin down exactly what Lucy's feelings for Graham were. Lucy most certainly seemed to admire Graham, but I never picked up any love or romantic interest. Her feelings seemed more like an obsession - like an fan to a celebrity. In terms of actual love for him, I wasn't too sure - but again, it's hard to tell with Lucy.

    Dr. John is rather shallow, but don't people usually fall for good looks? What about Lucy herself, who is so much in love with Dr. John mostly because he is so handsome?
    True - but ... another reason why I'll forever love Jane Eyre.

    Speaking of Jane Eyre, I found it interesting how Charlotte Bronte seemed to flip on the opposite sides of the spectrum in terms of the style of narrating. Although Lucy and Jane are very similar characters, Jane Eyre seemed to me like a more open book - Jane was always sharing her thoughts and feelings, and confiding in the reader (even addressing the reader every once in a while). She was very much connected with the reader. Lucy, on the other hand, is the complete opposite. Always resisting the reader, Lucy is very secretive and somewhat unreliable (she even knew that Dr. John was Graham for half the book and hid it from us; come on, Lucy!). Villete seems more like puzzle that the reader has to try to piece together. I wouldn't say that I prefer one style of narration over another, but the contrast surprised me...

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