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Charlotte Brontë: The Imagination in History$
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Heather Glen

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199272556

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199272556.001.0001

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‘Entirely bewildered’: Villette and History (1)

‘Entirely bewildered’: Villette and History (1)

(p.197) CHAPTER SEVEN ‘Entirely bewildered’: Villette and History (1)
Charlotte Brontë: The Imagination in History

Heather Glen

Oxford University Press

After the expansive social landscape and the flexible third-person narrative of Shirley, Villette seems oppressively constricted. Here, more extremely than in any of Charlotte Brontë's previous novels, the viewpoint is confined to that of an individual sensibility — a sensibility more eccentric than William Crimsworth's, less expressive than Jane Eyre's. Like Jane Eyre, Villette explores the plight of a woman who is ‘insignificant, poor and plain’. But it offers a far darker view of the possibilities for such a one. Lucy Snowe, like Jane, is an orphan; her family is hinted at only in images of disaster and loss. She finds no congenial kinsfolk: at her story's end, she is alone. However, Villette has none of the melodramatic darkness of Jane Eyre. Instead of those images of elemental nature that gave Jane's story cosmic urgency, here there are images of banal, domesticated space.

Keywords:   Shirley, Villette, Charlotte Brontë, Jane Eyre, Lucy Snowe, woman, disaster, loss

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