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ConnieAnnKirk
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"hunger, rebellion, and rage" ?

From the B&N Classics edition:
 
"Matthew Arnold asked, 'Why is Villette disagreeable?'  He answers by saying, 'Because the writer's mind contains nothing but hunger, rebellion and rage, and therefore that is all she can, in fact, put into her book.'  Is this a fair interpretation?  Can you, from a novel such as this, make valid inferences about an author's character or state of mind?"
~ConnieAnnKirk




[CAK's books , website.]
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dulcinea3
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Re: "hunger, rebellion, and rage" ?

I had been thinking that it seems, if I am interpreting it correctly, that this book reveals much more of Charlotte Bronte's own views than Jane Eyre does.  There is certainly much more of a kind of soliloquy by the narrator Lucy, that usually seems of a moral, philosophical, or religious nature.  These are frequent, and sometimes almost lengthy.  I think they must represent Charlotte's own thoughts on life, and they paint a bleak picture.
 
In addition, as Jen has mentioned elsewhere, and I had noticed as well, there seems to be a dislike of foreigners.  Indeed, the fact that Lucy persists in calling the Belgian girls in the pensionnat 'foreigners', although they are in their native country (where she is the true foreigner), seems to show how much she wants to set them apart from her.  She is frequently critical of their intellects and looks.  I think it is a kind of culmination of this sentiment when, in response to M. Paul's 'history' lesson that is critical of the English, she has an extremely uncharacteristic moment when she pounds on the table and shouts "Vive l'Angleterre, l'Histoire et les Héros! A bas la France, la Fiction et les Faquins!"

And then there is her attitude towards Catholicism.  She seems to have a lot of hostility towards it.  I was almost shocked as I got nearer to the end of the book to find more and more religious discussion going on, with much invective towards the Church and its priests.  I think she must have been a victim of some bigoted views towards Protestants at some time in her life (perhaps while Charlotte was in Belgium?) to be so bitter.

I think that Charlotte must have had a very difficult and painful time in Belgium, and she is using this novel as way to vent about it.


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Choisya
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Re: "hunger, rebellion, and rage" ?

[ Edited ]
Lucy's patriotic outburst was perhaps due to the fact that the Napoleonic wars had only ended in 1815, the year that Charlotte Bronte was born.  Hatred of the French was common in England at this time because of the loss of men's lives it entailed and the fear of invasion it engendered (France is only 22 miles away, across the English Channel).  The Belgians fought on the side of Napoleon so no doubt hatred of the English was just as common there as in France following Napoleon's defeat at the Battle of Waterloo in 1815.
 
France is, of course, a catholic country (as is part of Belgium) and much of the prejudice against it which exists then and now is because of English Church of England (Protestant) attitudes towards it.   So Lucy was reflecting the attitudes in England at that time in history. 
 
Charlotte would have been brought up with a hatred of Roman Catholicism because her father was a vicar of an Anglican/Protestant church.  The history of the UK is bound up with Catholic-Protestant clashes and wars, not least the long running one in Northern Ireland, only recently resolved.  During the Bronte's lifetime there was much bitter discussion about Catholic Emancipation which was finally granted in 1829.  Because of the Irish famines in the 1840s many Irish Catholics had emigrated to England and their presence in the country provoked the same sort of fears and hatreds that large scale immigration sometimes causes in our countries today.  The Oxford Movement was also worrying to Protestants at this time because certain prominent Anglican church men were urging a return to Catholic rituals of former times. 
 
If you would like to read up about Victorian attitudes towards catholicism, this Victorian web link has a lot of useful information.

dulcinea3 wrote:
I had been thinking that it seems, if I am interpreting it correctly, that this book reveals much more of Charlotte Bronte's own views than Jane Eyre does.  There is certainly much more of a kind of soliloquy by the narrator Lucy, that usually seems of a moral, philosophical, or religious nature.  These are frequent, and sometimes almost lengthy.  I think they must represent Charlotte's own thoughts on life, and they paint a bleak picture.
 
In addition, as Jen has mentioned elsewhere, and I had noticed as well, there seems to be a dislike of foreigners.  Indeed, the fact that Lucy persists in calling the Belgian girls in the pensionnat 'foreigners', although they are in their native country (where she is the true foreigner), seems to show how much she wants to set them apart from her.  She is frequently critical of their intellects and looks.  I think it is a kind of culmination of this sentiment when, in response to M. Paul's 'history' lesson that is critical of the English, she has an extremely uncharacteristic moment when she pounds on the table and shouts "Vive l'Angleterre, l'Histoire et les Héros! A bas la France, la Fiction et les Faquins!"

And then there is her attitude towards Catholicism.  She seems to have a lot of hostility towards it.  I was almost shocked as I got nearer to the end of the book to find more and more religious discussion going on, with much invective towards the Church and its priests.  I think she must have been a victim of some bigoted views towards Protestants at some time in her life (perhaps while Charlotte was in Belgium?) to be so bitter. 

I think that Charlotte must have had a very difficult and painful time in Belgium, and she is using this novel as way to vent about it.







Message Edited by Choisya on 04-20-2008 04:42 AM
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dulcinea3
Posts: 4,372
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: "hunger, rebellion, and rage" ?

Thanks, Choisya.  I definitely agree that the general attitude that Lucy feels towards religion, in which she rejects Catholicism when it is shown to her, and remains true to Protestantism, is a result of Charlotte's upbringing as the daughter of a Protestant minister.  However, I still feel that Lucy's more specific attitude towards some of the Catholic characters, in particular Pere Silas, indicates a feeling of being persecuted because she is Protestant.  She feels spied upon, and that they are practicing wiles to try to convert her, or to turn M. Paul against her.  Because this novel is rather autobiographical, based on Charlotte's own experiences in Belgium, I tend to still feel that this may be a reaction to prejudice against Protestants that Charlotte experienced in Belgium, rather than the antagonism between Protestants (who I assume were the majority) and Catholics in Great Britain.  Being the daughter of a minister, I wouldn't have expected her to have experienced much discrimination at the hands of Catholics in England.  But, who can really say at this distance of time, what Charlotte really experienced or meant by it?
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