|Andre prepares to dissect Villette.|
|Bronte's bleak novel reflects her life experiences.|
Such a strange book, with its disingenuous heroine Lucy Snowe constantly professing to be something she clearly is not. So much suffering and injustice, so many coincidences. It's less well-rounded and satisfying than Jane Eyre, but Bronte is working over the same themes: a young woman with no family or fortune must make her way in the world. She desperately wants love, but also to maintain her selfhood -- her dignity and independence. Jane is eventually able to do both through Mr. Rochester; Lucy has a harder time.
Much of the book is based on Charlotte's own experiences -- like her heroine, she travelled to a foreign where she taught girls, and like Lucy she suffered excruciatingly when a love affair failed. Such bleakness has a valid basis; the isolation and claustrophobia of the Bronte family home at Haworth, Yorkshire, is legendary. Charlotte was one of six children cooped up with their parson father (the mother died early) in a house overlooking the churchyard. One by one, the Bronte children, including authors Anne and Emily, made their way to the graveyard at very young ages (TB was rife at the time). When Charlotte died in 1855 at age 39, every one of her siblings had predeceased her.