Having gotten to the 253rd page of Villette, I feel an additional progress report is necessary. There is still heavy interplay between the duality of hot (M. Paul) and cold (Lucy Snowe, who at times herself experiences warmth and thereby embodies a quasi-dual self), and the plot, like many Victorian novels, relies heavily on coincidence. I will make it a point not to spoil this particular device, but suffice to say that characters thought absent for many pages may return in a different guise than initially introduced. Rather than making the plot contrived, I feel it only augments my gradually growing appreciation for this work, as does the constant utilization of secrecy by both the narrator and by other characters, which contributes to the overall suspense generated by the novel. Such is the case particularly with Ginevra, whom I suspect of some transgressive behavior and have resolved to keep an eye on as I continue progressing through the novel.
Located between the two extremes is Dr. John, who possesses neither fire nor ice but simply “warmth.” He appears to be more temperate and is constantly cheery. With each passing page, I grow to envy his optimism due to circumstances in my own life that will likely wind up in a rant on my other blog. In the words of Dr. John,
“Happiness is the cure–a cheerful mind the preventative. Cultivate both” (Bronte 250).
In giving Lucy the agency to correct her own health, as indicated by the word “cultivate,” Dr. John in some sense deviates from the traditional Victorian view of women, or my recollection of it, in that he asserts his belief that Lucy can indeed control herself and passions (and she does in most instances). The quote also unveils the book’s psychological nature, as Lucy attains a sort of “brain fever” and constantly provides readers with glimpses of her psychology. Phrenology also functions to enhance this in that it provides an outlet for the speculation of another character’s temperament. Unfortunately, that little relates to the great Victorian Female Dual Self project as it now stands.
It goes without saying that the amount of French passages in the novel is still appalling, but one adjusts to them with the correct amount of patience. Nonetheless, I find myself longing to return to Villette despite the linguistic barriers that exist between us.