The Forces of Nature in Villette

June 11, 2019 by Essay Writer

Supernatural events and portents are a major theme in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette. While Brontë never crosses into a truly magical realm, it is clear that Lucy Snowe believes that certain events pertain to the supernatural world. Forces of nature play a large part in Villette, through weather and other natural elements, such as the stars. Lucy believes that weather ties closely with events in her life and the lives of those around her, and also turns to nature in times of distress to guide her in the appropriate direction. In Villette, the supernaturalism within nature affects individual human activities through Lucy’s eyes.On the night of Miss Marchmont’s death, there is a terrible storm. Lucy predicts that the storm is a portent of this tragedy: “Three times in the course of my life, events had taught me that these strange accents in the storm—this restless, hopeless cry—denote a coming state of the atmosphere unpropitious to life. Epidemic diseases, I believed, were often heralded by a gasping, sobbing, tormented, long-lamenting east wind” (38). Lucy philosophizes that the unsettled weather tends to predict misfortune at home. Miss Marchmont was clearly not in good health, or she would not have needed Lucy to be her nurse. Despite this reality, Lucy places her trust in nature as the main reason for the death of her companion. Although blaming the storm for the catastrophe seems unusual at the beginning of the novel, similar events later on support Lucy’s philosophy of nature’s supernatural powers. Feeling lost for direction after Miss Marchmont’s death, Lucy trusts nature and the stars to guide her in the darkness: “I should have trembled in that lonely walk… I should have quailed in the absence of moonlight, for it was by the leading of stars only I traced the dim path; I should have quailed still more in the unwonted presence of[…] the Aurora Borealis. But this solemn stranger influenced me otherwise than through my fears. Some new power it seemed to bring” (43-44). Alone in her travels, Lucy follows the stars, trusting them to take her wherever it is she belongs. Lucy as the speaker rarely offers specific, personal details about her character. This event shows that she has a vivid imagination which allows her to heed the advice she receives from the natural world. It also reveals Lucy as a dependant person, needy of guidance and uncomfortable without a companion. When the person dearest to her passes away, she immediately searches for a new mentor. She finds comfort in the form of the Aurora Borealis, also known as the Northern Lights, rarely seen in northern England. The rare star’s appearance during this helpless time in Lucy’s life is significant in proving that nature has supernatural powers.At the end of Chapter XV, Lucy collapses in the Basse-Ville during a terrible rainstorm. “Strong and horizontal thundered the current of the wind from north-west to south-east[…] it was cold and pierced me to the vitals[…] I tried to reach the porch of a great building near, but the mass of frontage and the giant-spire turned black and vanished from my eyes. Instead of sinking on the steps as I intended, I seemed to pitch headlong down an abyss. I remember no more” (163-164). At this point in the plot of Villette, Lucy is realizing that Polly and Dr. John’s relationship is deepening. The reality that she will never be more than a sisterly figure to him creates a severe coldness in her heart. The coldness of the snowstorm outside is a portrayal of the internal pain Lucy is experiencing. Also, similar to when she loses Miss Marchmont, Lucy is alone and searching for some sort of companion, this time looking to a Catholic priest. Feeling she may reconsider her Protestant faith, she decides to venture back to Madame Beck’s. In this case, at first the awful weather predicts the unfortunate event of Lucy fainting. Once the weather clears up, Lucy awakens to find herself back in Mrs. Bretton’s house. In essence, the bad weather causes a bad event, and once the weather becomes good again, Lucy experiences a moment of triumph in realizing the true identity of Dr. John as Graham. At the end of the novel, Lucy alludes to M. Paul’s possible death being caused by a storm. “That storm roared frenzied for seven days. It did not cease till the Atlantic was strewn with wrecks[…] Peace be still! Oh! a thousand weepers, praying in agony on waiting shores, listened for that voice, but it was not uttered” (495). Lucy’s prophecy of a storm brewing is essentially a description of her fears. She dreads that her love M. Paul will not return to her, thus decides that it will happen. Evidence throughout the novel supporting that nature indeed reflects events that occur in Lucy’s life causes the reader to believe this storm will in fact occur. For example, Miss Marchmont’s death also occurred during a storm, thus this foretelling is a reflection of Lucy’s past. She believes that she has the ability to feel these tragic events before they occur, reflective of her strong connection with nature. Clearly, Lucy believes that the mysterious powers of nature influence reality. In conclusion, there are various occurrences throughout the novel in which weather and other natural elements either predict or reflect events in Villette. When viewing these cases in chronological order, it becomes apparent that each case has significant impact on the plot of the novel. Miss Marchmont’s death causes Lucy to search for a new home, and in effect maps out the remainder of the plot. During her search, she experienced the natural force of the stars to guide her on her path. Another terrible storm caused her to arrive back at a home she hadn’t seen in years. The end of the novel demonstrates a different side of Lucy’s belief in the supernaturalism of nature. In this case, rather than nature taking a part in current plot events or reflecting on past experiences, the weather takes part in Lucy’s prediction of the future. In Villette, Brontë uses Lucy’s perceptions of nature effectively to support current events, reflect history, and predict the future.

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