On a superficial reading of Villette, which is Charlotte Brontë’s last completed novel, the reader might easily come to the conclusion that this novel is another work in the Jane Eyre style, as there are some similarities in the structure. It is written in the same autobiographical form, the events of the heroine’s life being presented in a strict chronological order, and it is a love story. In fact, it differs radically in the style of the writing, being intentionally more restrained in expression, as it is infinitely more complex in meaning. The plot is simple, being the life story of a young orphan girl, Lucy Snowe, who goes to the continent after the death of her employer in England, and obtains a post as a teacher of English at a girls’ school. She falls in love with the professor of literature, M. Paul Emanuel, who is drowned during a storm at sea, and the novel ends with Lucy established as the Directrice of the Externat that her lover has set tip for her. The story covers fourteen years of Lucy’s life, beginning when she is fourteen years old, and living in England, and ends in the town of Villette, when she is nearly twenty-eight years old. However, Charlotte Brontë has not set the story of Lucy’s life in the immediate past, she has distanced it by imposing a time interval of approximately thirty years between the events described and the actual age of the narrator.


Pear Tree Religious Difference Rough Path Love Story Tonal Quality 


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Notes and References

  1. Heilman, Dr R.B., ‘Charlotte Brontë’s “New” Gothic’, an article printed in From Jane Austen to Joseph Conrad, edited by R. Rathburn and Martin Steinmann, Jr., (University of Minnesota Press, 1958), p. 123.Google Scholar
  2. Kroeber, Karl, Styles in Fictional Structure, The Art of Jane Austen, Charlotte Brontë, George Eliot. (Princeton University Press, 1971), p. 92. (Reproduced by permission of the publisher).Google Scholar
  3. Colby, R.A., ‘Villette and the Life of the Mind’, PMLA, vol LXXV (September, 1960), pp. 410 and 412.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. J.S. Mill’s Essays on Literature and Society, edited and with Introduction by J.B. Schneewind (Collier Books, New York, 1965), p. 104. (Permission granted by Macmillan Publishing Co., Inc., New York.)Google Scholar

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© Cynthia A. Linder 1978

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  • Cynthia A. Linder

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