Questions and Topics for Discussion
1. Discuss the character of Lucy Snowe. Do you find her to be an admirable heroine? What qualities do you like in her, or dislike? How do you think you would behave in her circumstances?
2. Writing to her publisher, Charlotte Brontë had this to say about Villette’s protagonist: “I consider that [Lucy Snowe] is both morbid and weak at times; her character sets up no pretensions to unmixed strength, and anybody living her life would necessarily become morbid.” What do you think of this appraisal? Do her “unheroic” qualities make her more sympathetic or less?
3. Virginia Woolf felt that Villette was Brontë’s “finest novel,” and speaking about Brontë, wrote that “All her force, and it is the more tremendous for being constricted, goes into the assertion, ‘I love,’ ‘I hate,’ ‘I suffer.’ ” What do you think Woolf means? Do you find this observation interesting, appealing, or moving?
4. Why do you think Brontë sets the narrative of Villette in a foreign country?
5. Explore the theme of education in Villette: What is the role of education in Lucy Snowe’s own life?
6. The conclusion of Villette is famously ambiguous (it was made purposefully so by Brontë). Do you find it a happy ending? A sad one?