Villette is a narrative that seems constantly at war with itself, fraught with tensions of reason versus feeling, nature versus art and reality versus imagination, as I will attempt to illustrate. Lucy is anything but a one dimensional character and it throughout the novel, her emotional growth is charted. The important elements in the narrative seem to resist a one-sided reading. Read in context, perhaps Bronte recognizes that in the Victorian world, tensions of the aforementioned impinge upon and are all shaped by one another.
Reason/ Feeling In chapter 23, Lucy Snowe penned two replies to Graham’s letter, one under “the dry stinting check of Reason” and another “according to the full, liberal impulse …show more content…
We are told that Lucy looks plain, but underneath is “fiery and rash” and given to unpredictable changes, while M. Paul is “a little hawk of a man”(237), a “savage-looking friend”(247) of Lucy’s. Even the end of which they come to is poetically suitable- M. Paul perishing in waters and Lucy lamenting amidst the turbulence of nature’s elements. Also, in the beginning of the novel, most of the scenes take place indoors- in lecture halls, concert halls, art galleries while towards the end of the novel, more scenes take place in the woods and gardens. Art is posed against Nature, and it is significant that Lucy’s love for M. Paul blooms in the natural environment. She hears stories from M. Paul who narrates with “diction simple in its strength, and strong in its simplicity… such a picture I have never looked on from artists' pencil.”(421). Lucy stresses that the stories seem spontaneous, free from artifice. M. Paul leads Lucy from literature to art into nature, imitations of life into life itself.
Imagination/ Reality In the novel, there are also many allusions to literature