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Villette Summary & Study Guide

This Study Guide consists of approximately 113 pages of chapter summaries, quotes, character analysis, themes, and more - everything you need to sharpen your knowledge of Villette.
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Villette Summary & Study Guide Description

Villette Summary & Study Guide includes comprehensive information and analysis to help you understand the book. This study guide contains the following sections:

This detailed literature summary also contains Related Titles and a Free Quiz on Villette by Charlotte Brontë.

Charlotte Bronte's 1853 novel Villette chronicles the journey of Lucy Snowe as she grows from a sheltered girl to a lonely young woman, until she finds her own place in the world. The novel opens with Lucy's visits to her godmother, Mrs. Bretton, as a child. On Lucy's last visit a child Paulina Home also comes to stay at the Brettons' home and develops a close relationship with Mrs. Bretton's son, Graham, before she is called back to her father's side.

In the time that passes after Lucy's final visit with the Brettons, Lucy is left on her own in the world. She does not reveal much about her past, but the friends and family she had as a child, represented by her visits to the Brettons, are gone. Lucy is left to wander in search of a home, and she travels first to London and then on to Villette. This journey demonstrates how napve and unprepared Lucy is for life on her own. She arrives in the city of Villette, France, with no baggage and little money. Lost and frightened, she wanders the streets and chances upon Madame Beck's school in Rue Fossette, where she is given a job as a governess. Madame Beck sees Lucy's potential and pushes her to take over the English classes at the school. Although this position gives Lucy a respectable means of providing for herself, she is lonely at the school and feels there is nothing for her to look forward to. Lucy becomes depressed, and when she is left alone over the vacation she begins wandering the city. After visiting a church, where she confides in Pire Silas, a priest, Lucy faints in a strange neighborhood.

Lucy wakes to find herself in an oddly familiar room. She realizes that she is in the company of her old friends, the Brettons. After their happy reunion, the Brettons become friends with Lucy and care for her as she recovers from her illness. The prospect of a friendship with the Brettons, particularly Graham Bretton, is important to Lucy, since it adds companionship and variety to her stifled life. This friendship improves Lucy's life and her health, but she is worried that she will be forgotten and that the friendship will only be temporary. Graham begins to confide in Lucy, particularly about his feelings for Ginevra Fanshawe, a beautiful but vain girl from Lucy's school. Over time, the Brettons take Lucy to concerts, museums and even a play. One night Lucy accompanies Dr. Bretton to the theater, and a fire breaks out. Dr. Bretton rescues a young lady who is nearly trampled by the crowd, and this young lady turns out to be their old friend, Paulina Home de Bassompierre. While Paulina becomes a valued friend of Lucy's, her arrival also ends Lucy's friendship with Graham, as he becomes more interested in Paulina.

As Lucy sees Paulina and Graham becoming closer, she begins to focus her attention elsewhere and cultivates a friendship with M. Paul Emanuel, the strange, egotistical literature professor. At first, Lucy does not like M. Paul, but he helps her with her studies, leaves her little gifts and books and teases her about her flirty manners and materialism, characteristics that only he sees. Eventually, Lucy learns about his goodness and his generosity. When he was young, M. Paul was engaged to a young lady, Justine Marie, but they were forbidden to marry. She died in a convent, and although her family disapproved of the marriage, M. Paul provided for the family when they had financial problems. Although Lucy secretly harbors hope for Graham, she can see that he and Paulina de Bassompierre have fallen in love and will be married. Lucy feels that she has found a firm and devoted friend in M. Paul, and she grows to love him deeply. He leaves Europe, though, to take care of an estate in the West Indies. Before he leaves, he reveals that he has prepared a home and school for Lucy. In his absence, Lucy cares for the school, and it prospers. She looks forward to a future with M. Paul upon his return, but there is a strong indication that he dies on the return trip.

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