Godaffiliation: Lucy Snowe's Thwarted development in Charlotte Brontë's Villette
Komins, B. J.
Journal of Literary Studies
38 - 49
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Charlotte Brontë's character Lucy Snowe, the protagonist of Villette (1853), ostensibly belongs to the canon of Bildungsroman heroes. She narrates her own saga of apprenticeship which includes the tests of poverty, alienation and loneliness, finally finding fulfillment in marriage and professional life. But Villette does not always conform to the Bildungsroman formula; Lucy's story contains many gaps and frustrating deferrals. From beginning to end, genre “violations” occur. Brontë's novel asks its readers to consider several important questions: Where does Lucy begin? Where does she end? And, on a formal level, how does Villette ‐ Lucy Snowe's self‐narrated story ‐ violate reader's expectations of the Bildungsroman genre? In this essay I discuss Villette's genre “flaws”, especially its extraordinary use of ambiguities and cultural cliches; I contend that Brontë's novel may be read as both Lucy Snowe's saga and a Victorian guide to misreading.