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Charlotte Brontë: The Imagination in History$
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Heather Glen

Print publication date: 2004

Print ISBN-13: 9780199272556

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: October 2011

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199272556.001.0001

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Epilogue

Epilogue

Chapter:
(p.285) Epilogue
Source:
Charlotte Brontë: The Imagination in History
Author(s):

Heather Glen

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199272556.003.0010

It has come to be customary to read Villette as the story of Lucy Snowe: a self-defensive character, a ‘constitutionally nervous’ individual, ‘a nobody and a somebody’, an exemplary figure of ‘woman's growth into self-recognition and self-sufficiency’. However, there is a great deal in the novel that cannot be assimilated to a narrative such as this. Its images of visual bedazzlement and of devastating idolatry bespeak a different kind of engagement with rather different areas of mid-Victorian cultural debate. This other face of the novel is, it seems, no less expressive of Charlotte Brontë's concern with contemporary actualities than that psychologically realistic story which its readers usually abstract. The complexities of ‘dazzle’ — its challenge to perceptual mastery, its connotations both of splendour and of annihilation, as well as, more particularly, the blinding light of the sun — were in early Victorian England being pondered in another medium by an artist by whom Charlotte Brontë seems to have been deeply stirred as she began to conceive Villette.

Keywords:   Villette, Lucy Snowe, Charlotte Brontë, dazzle, splendour, annihilation, Victorian England

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