I can't believe that is how Villette ends. Charlotte Brontë is playing with our minds. Seriously, what just happened? The end was fantastic and crazy. Reading the entire novel was worth it for the build up to those final scenes, to the final lines of the novel. For anyone who has read it, what do you think happened? It's obvious, right? What do you imagine? What are you sure of? What? What?! Seriously, I can't believe what happened.
The reader is being told a story through Lucy Snowe. It is not just first-person narrative. She tells the reader things, but also hides things from us. There are almost "meta-fiction" moments. Lucy talks to the reader, like she might be verbally telling us a story or writing us one really long letter. Lucy is cold, judgmental, but also repressed; she's complex and intriguing.
Villette had a great beginning. I loved life at Bretton. Lucy Snowe seemed a quiet, self-contained adolescent. Graham was kind, but also a "school-boy". Little Polly was fascinating. I really became invested in the children, then I wondered where they went and when we would be seeing them again. I also found myself wondering where Lucy's parents were and how she ended up in this situation.
The first obvious moment, when you wonder what Lucy has been keeping from us is the revelation about Dr. John. After that, I found myself waiting for a similar moment and I think the ending provided some of that. What I didn't realize before reading was the way the setting, the descriptions of everything reflects Lucy's mental state. Lucy doesn't tell us everything, but she does show us in a way.
The more I read Villette, the more I thought of it as a feminist (at least protofeminist) novel. Women don't have as much freedom as men. Lucy is oppressed. There's definitely a longing for freedom.
There is some obvious bigotry too. Lucy is deemed "not good enough" to be M. Paul Emanuel's friend just because she's a Protestant. I didn't know a lot about the dislike between Catholics and Protestants in England and France, besides that it existed. Some of the things they say to and about each other were surprising to me. This all adds to the historical context of the novel, making it even more fascinating.
I've noticed that a lot of people compare Villette to Jane Eyre. I loved Jane Eyre. It was an amazing story and one of the first "classics" (if not the first) I ever read. However, I think that it's been long enough that I'm not comparing Lucy and Jane. They are very different women, though both governesses at certain points in their lives. Both deserve re-readings. There's so much that could be said about Villette, but I didn't plan on writing an essay. I enjoyed the novel and I will one day read it again.