A novel by Charlotte Brontė
follows Lucy Snowe, an orphan from England who searches for greener pastures in the fictional town of Villette. She takes care of the headmistress' children at a school for girls until she is thrust into the role of an English teacher. Lucy struggles to find companionship and a place where she belongs, often having depressive episodes and supernatural encounters. She also deals with the strange new culture she lives in, overcoming the Language Barrier
and feelings of being an outsider, and sorts out her affections for two very different men
The novel is notable for portraying Lucy's depression very accurately, as well as for its mysterious and clever usage of the Unreliable Narrator
This was Charlotte Brontė's final and most autobiographical novel, partly inspired by her own experiences in Brussels and her unrequited passion for Constantin Heger. Villette
was written after all of Charlotte's siblings had died, and her outlook on life is decidedly bleaker
than it was in Jane Eyre
Contains examples of
- Angst: Chock full of it.
- At the Opera Tonight: Lucy goes there with the Brettons. Cue the pink/red dress discussion with M. Paul.
- Author Avatar: Lucy. It's a semi-autobiographical work, after all.
- Belligerent Sexual Tension: M. Paul and Lucy have trouble being nice to each other for a while.
- Betty and Veronica: Dr. John and M. Paul could be either one depending on how you look at it. Dr. John is really good friends with Lucy, but he's also way out of her league. M. Paul is more unapproachable, but less out of her league.
- Polly and Ginevra for Dr. John. Somewhat subverted in that he really doesn't have much trouble choosing.
- Bolivian Army Ending: Lucy tells her readers that M. Paul's ship back to Villette was caught in a storm, and then basically tells the reader to pretend that their love had a happy ending. She never actually says that he died. Word of God had it that Paul did indeed die. Charlotte Bronte reputedly considered it a kinder fate than life with Lucy Snowe.
- Broken Bird: Lucy.
- Cabin Fever: This is basically what happens to Lucy during the vacation, when she is left alone (well, almost). It's dangerously close to Go Mad from the Isolation.
- Calling the Old Man Out: Lucy does this to Madame near the end of the book.
- The Chessmaster: Madame.
- Converting for Love: Subverted.
- Cool Old Lady: Mrs. Bretton.
- Dark and Troubled Past: Lucy's undisclosed family tragedy. Also it probably was her Despair Event Horizon.
- Diabolus ex Machina: After finally gaining true love, Lucy loses M. Paul in a storm.
- Eccentric Mentor: M. Paul. He's kind of a Sink or Swim Mentor, too, but Lucy doesn't respond to it well.
- Expy: Villette is Brussels.
- Gray Rain of Depression: Averted, oddly enough; Lucy seems to actually like rain.
- The Hedonist: Lucy sees your average Labascurian as this.
- Her Heart Will Go On
- Heroic BSOD: "My heart will break!"
- If I Can't Have You: Mme. Beck sabotages Lucy and M. Paul's relationship because of this.
- I Just Want to Have Friends: Lucy Snowe puts up with a lot of crap from Dr. John for this reason.
- It's All About Me: Ginevra Fanshawe.
- I Want My Beloved to Be Happy: When Dr. John showed romantic interest in Ginevra, Lucy objected because Ginevra was basically leading him on because he gave her gifts. When Dr. John showed romantic interest in Polly Home, Lucy approves because Polly is a decent lady.
- Karma Houdini: Invoked at the end when Lucy says that Mme. Beck, Pére Silas and Mme. Walravens all had long and happy lives.
- Language Barrier: Lucy is having a hard time in Villette at first, not speaking French and nobody around who would understand English.
- Licked by the Dog / Pet the Dog: M. Paul is the school dog's favorite.
- Like Brother and Sister: Invoked by M. Paul, but even he probably knew that he and Lucy were more than that.
- Love Dodecahedron
- Lovable Alpha Bitch: Ginevra Fanshawe, a superficial Gold Digger who values Lucy's friendship, even when Lucy pushes her away.
- May-December Romance
- Meaningful Name: "Lucy Snowe" stands for all the contrasts she's filled with: a light name for someone with Dark and Troubled Past, a cold name for someone who's of a very passionate nature.
- Moment Killer: Way to go, Mme. Beck...
- Mushroom Samba: In the third volume, Madame Beck gives Lucy an unspecified drug that, instead of putting her to sleep, intensifies her emotions and sensations.
- No Celebrities Were Harmed: Vashti is the legendary French actress Rachel.
- Not So Stoic Woobie: Lucy.
- Oblivious to Love: Dr John seems to be this, but is he really?..
- Papa Wolf: Polly's father.
- Precocious Crush: Polly on Graham at the beginning.
- Rich Suitor, Poor Suitor: Ginevra chooses the rich one; she finds him much prettier anyway!
- Real Life Writes the Plot: Dr John was based on Charlotte Brontė's publisher George Smith. Because Charlotte was in love with Smith and realised he didn't care for her, she decided not to make him the hero. It didn't go well with him.
- "The Reason You Suck" Speech: Lucy gives these to herself all the time. It would be Heroic Self-Deprecation if it wasn't that Lucy isn't involved in much heroicking.
- Roman ą Clef: Based on Charlotte Brontė's life in Brussels, her feelings for Constantin Heger and George Smith and her morose attitudes to life.
- She's All Grown Up: Lucy when Dr. Bretton learns who Lucy is and Lucy when she re-meets Polly.
- Sitting on the Roof: To watch the storm, no less.
- Star-Crossed Lovers: Lucy and M. Paul.
- Taking Advantage of Generosity: Ginevra.
- Ugly Guy, Hot Wife: Lucy encounters such a pair while traveling and is stunned to realize that the pretty young woman is quite happy and content, as the man is not only ugly in looks, but in personality.
- Unreliable Narrator: Lucy knows that Dr. John is Graham Bretton (and so does the audience), but she conveniently forgets to tell the reader until later in the book.
- There's generally a lot of unreliable narration regarding Dr. John. Lucy praises him a lot, yet his actions paint a very different picture...
- Victorious Childhood Friend / Unlucky Childhood Friend: Polly and Lucy respectively.
- Vitriolic Best Buds: Lucy and Ginevra are a truly strange case of this, as they are hardly friends, but certainly vitriolic. They spend quite a lot of time together, thanks to both being Englishwomen in a foreign country and Ginevra being surprisingly clingy.
- You Can't Fight Fate: Invoked a few times.