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Relational reconsiderations: reliability, heterosexuality, and narrative authority in 'Villette.'

Contemporary narrative theorists have come far in their understanding of "person" since Wayne C. Booth, in his Afterword to The Rhetoric of Fiction, conceded that this category was - contrary to his earlier claim - "radically underworked" (412). Yet remaining curiously absent from our discussions about the workings of person is a sustained analysis of un/reliability in homodiegesis.(1) Calling "a narrator reliable when he speaks or acts in accordance with the norms of the work (which is to say, the implied author's norms), unreliable when he does not," Booth created these categories to explain how dramatic irony creates a disparity between implied author, narrator, and reader, a distance that functions rhetorically to engage the reader along a different ethical axis than the narrator, thereby complicating a narrative's logic. Booth's rhetorics, of both Fiction and Irony, acknowledge two types of unreliability: those of ethical norms and those of narrative fact (see esp. ch. 7, RoF, and ch. 3, A Rhetoric of Irony).

Booth's definitions have provided stable foundations for rhetorical analyses that others have refined over time. For example, Susan Lanser suggests looking at a narrator's reliability in terms of a continuum in which a narrator can be seen as "developing . . . through the course of a text" (The Narrative Act 172); James Phelan reconsiders a key assumption behind both factual and ethical reliability, that of a "continuity between narrator and character," and concludes that "the possibility of divergence between the character's functions and the narrator's function" exists (Narrative as Rhetoric 11012).(2) Neither Lanser's nor Phelan's work is inimical to Booth's; rather, their modifications and extensions reflect the resilience of these rhetorical categories. Some interpretive practices, however, have at times misused Booth's typology, embracing an "either/or" logic to validate a particular reading, even one at odds with a text's narrative dynamics. As a result, these interpretations tend to emphasize either unreliability of ethics or unreliability of facts and/or to characterize a narrator as either reliable or unreliable at any given moment in the narrative progression (even when s/he develops through the course of the progression).(3) Such has been the case with interpretations of Charlotte Bronte's Villette, especially those written during the 1980s.


The 1980s were a time when many feminist agendas, especially those of some Americans, sought to promote readings that empowered women (as authors, literary characters, and readers).(4) Villette lent itself perfectly to such a critical enterprise because of the myriad ways in which the text foregrounds female authority and autonomy. When we look at this body of criticism, two related patterns emerge: (1) the tendency to separate narrative events, be they of story or of discourse, into two types, those that reaffirm and those that subvert traditional power structures; and (2) the ritualistic invocation of the categories of un/reliability as a method to privilege the discourse over the story.(5) The first trend relates to ideological concerns about narrative authority. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar, Karen Lawrence, Nancy Sorkin Rabinowitz, and Brenda S. Silver all share a methodology that locates two distinct narrative tracks - that of story-events (progression toward heterosexual union) and that of discourse events (progression toward narrative authority) - and then places them in a binary opposition, privileging the track that might subvert patriarchal power (authority) over the one that could reaffirm traditional power structures (union).(6) These critics, despite their differences in focus, share the conclusion that the death of M. Paul Emanuel at the end of Villette signifies a rejection of both the cultural construction of heterosexual marriage and the aesthetic convention of the happy ending. In this view, Bronte's narrative ultimately privileges female autonomy and narrative authority.

The second critical tendency is to note Lucy's unreliable behavior as narrator: Gilbert and Gubar note "the consternation of many critics who have bemoaned [Lucy's] trickery" and suggest that her "reticence as a narrator makes her especially unreliable" (418); Mary Jacobus tells us that "Lucy lies to us"; Silver calls it "evasiveness"; Rabinowitz says that Lucy "withholds information"; Lawrence dubs her a "cypher."(7) The discussions are largely limited to considerations of unreliability about narrative facts, although Rabinowitz offers a compelling reading of the relationship between Lucy's secrecy in the story and her reticence in the discourse (a matter to which I will return later). The second trend -relates to the first in that the critics cite Lucy's unreliability as evidence to support their final judgments about the author's purpose, specifically that Bronte asks us to recognize that heterosexual marriage impedes female authority. Our decisions about reliability thus influence our conclusions about discursive authority and heterosexual desire, as well as our judgments about Bronte's worldview.

I find these readings problematic because they rely on a strict separation of story and discourse; they place story-events and discourse-events into an antithetical relationship, privileging those events that most closely align with the critics' own historically specific ideological beliefs (the repressive nature of heterosexuality); and they invoke unreliability in a rather monolithic fashion. First, I do not think that Villette sustains the type of strict boundaries between story and discourse that these interpretations suggest. Second, feminist scholarship of the 1980s was rigorous in its criticism of compulsory heterosexuality.(8) Desiring to empower women, critics produced an abundance of analyses in which the female protagonist ends up contesting patriarchal structures (including but not limited to marriage) in order to achieve some sort of authority, or autonomy: for example, essays on novels by the Bronte sisters, Kate Chopin, Zora Neale Hurston, Gayl Jones, and Toni Morrison, to name a few. While often correct and always insightful, this end result sometimes came at the cost of accounting adequately for the novel's textual dynamics. Finally, Villette's narrative discourse suggests that issues of reliability are far more complex than these critics claim - so complex, in fact, that we need to supplement the models offered by Booth, Lanser, and Phelan. Now, I do not suggest that feminist criticism can or should lose its focus on forms of female oppression and liberation, but I do hesitate before accepting the ideological assumption that makes heterosexual love the antithesis of narrative authority and the role that the theoretical construction of unreliability plays in upholding that assumption. I want to argue here that while Villette does advocate a feminist politics, it does not necessarily conform to the version of politics found by the 1980s feminist critics. Connecting questions of narrative theory to the 1980s feminist reception of Bronte's text allows us to see the relationship between ideological concerns and narratological tools. Moreover, such an investigation moves us away from a reified "either/or" logic, expanding our ways of thinking about the categories of un/reliability, asking us to consider the possibility of a more complex and often contestatory interplay between ethical and factual norms in both story and discourse.

This either/or logic is most evident in terms of the binary oppositions that sustain these analyses of the 1980s: narrative authority/heterosexuality, discourse/story, reliability/unreliability, ethics/facts. As Inderpal Grewal and Caren Kaplan point out, the texts of modernity tend to dichotomize concepts and terms, overlooking "complex, multiply constituted identities that cannot be accounted for by binary oppositions" (10). In demanding that we rethink the theories of modernity that have informed our critical discourses and that we attempt to apply relational strategies in our feminist interventions, Grewal and Kaplan eerily echo Boothian concerns about terminology and classification: any system of categorization will tell us nothing of importance unless we become more precise and describe who uses these terms, where they are used, and for whom and why they are useful.(9) If we can move away from the constructed oppositions of modernity without ignoring the specificity of concerns about power relations, we might link Bronte's feminism to a larger feminist critique that attempts to understand the forces that construct and deconstruct difference. Bronte's sophisticated modulation of the narrative discourse does suggest that Lucy Snowe achieves narrative authority, but it does not ask us to conclude that Lucy is liberated by the loss of her beloved, or that such an easy opposition can be made between authority and heterosexual union. Indeed, the dynamics between Villette's story and discourse, the interchange between the fictional and cultural texts, and the various forms and functions of narratorial/character traits all suggest that Bronte values heterosexual love as much as she does discursive authority. This insight alters our awareness and appreciation of the disruptive feminism both Lucy and Villette embody.


To create a space for a model of female autonomy, Bronte first exposes those Victorian "fictions of authority" that confer patriarchal norms upon female subjects. Lucy's trips to an galleries, where she is "happy; happy, not always in admiring, but in examining, questioning, and forming conclusions," both designate and contest the aesthetic and cultural belief systems that function to repress female creativity and to silence women's voices (274). Asserting that "an original and good picture was just as scarce as an original and good book," Lucy values those "exceptions" that embody "fragments of truth here and there which satisfied the conscience, and gleams of light" that give a "clear insight into character . . . startlingly remind[ing] you that genius gave it birth" (274-75). Lucy's trip to "a certain gallery" where she views two popular representations of women, the Cleopatra and the four "Anges" (Angels), allows Bronte to pinpoint more specifically her own aesthetic values. Lucy unequivocally censures the first painting, interjecting sarcastic remarks into her descriptions: Cleopatra's girth meets an unfavorable comparison to a "well fed" animal feeding on "very much butcher's meat"; mocking incredulity characterizes Lucy's response to this "commodity of bulk" on a couch: "why [she lay half-reclined], it would be difficult to say; broad daylight blazed round her; she appeared in hearty health. . . . She had no business to lounge away the noon on a sofa" (275). Dialogizing the words of the dominant discourse, Lucy's language and belief system render this "notable production" nothing more than "an enormous piece of claptrap" (276).(10) Colonel de Hamal, for whom we have earlier cultivated a distaste, appears on the scene. Considered by his genteel peers a "man of sense," de Hamal's appreciation of the Cleopatra, juxtaposed to Lucy's ironic description of his "highly-polished little pate" and his "tittering" and "whispering," works to undermine the aesthetic norms of supposedly "refined gentle[men] of superior taste and tact" (281). While Lucy is clearly ironic in her use of the language of this "refined class," nothing in the text indicates that Bronte ironizes Lucy's voice. In fact, the inclusion of de Hamal in this scene reflects Bronte's intention to align her reader with Lucy, rather than with "men of sense."

M. Paul interrupts Lucy's denigration of the Cleopatra, demanding that she view a series of portraits entitled "La vie d'une femme." Although unlike the "indolent" Cleopatra, these "laids tableaux" are denounced with equal vehemence: "grim and gray as burglars, and cold and vapid as ghosts . . . insincere, ill-humoured, bloodless, brainless nonentities!" (278). Lucy's emphatic critique of the "hideous" Angels undermines the discursive relationship between "masterpiece" and referent, once again calling dominant artistic norms into question.(11) Lucy's sarcastic and aggressive voice, sincere and urgent in its condemnation of these two female stereotypes and notably lacking any double-voicing by Bronte, functions to contest the aesthetic standards of Victorian society.(12)

After successfully critiquing the dominant norms, Bronte offers an alternative: Vashti. Compared with "the Cleopatra, or any other slug," Vashti is a "marvellous sight: a mighty revelation" and "a spectacle low, horrible, immoral" (339-40). A woman and a representation of woman, Vashti, Lucy tells us, "would see, would hear, would breathe, would live, up to, within, well nigh beyond the moment when death says to all sense and all being - 'Thus far and no farther'" (342). To Vashti, "what hurts becomes immediately embodied"; the artist embodies the pain, the hurt, and the agony of her own experience and, like Heaven's gleam of light, "pierces the confines" of Lucy's heart, drawing it "out of its wonted orbit" (340). The "strong magnetism of [Vashti's] genuis" (340) signifies that Lucy, with Bronte behind her, affirm an aesthetics that contains two prominent truths: (1) art is a dynamic process that enables the individual to represent her own experience; and (2) the speaker and the receiver of the representation are fully recognized as human subjects. This self-designated aesthetic paradigm establishes a relational model between life and representation and between speaker and receiver. On the one hand, the factual events of female experience should not diverge from the represented; on the other hand, representation should transmit this experience in a way that provides "clear insight into [the subject's] character" while simultaneously "satisf[ying] the conscience" of the receiver. By constructing and endorsing this model, Bronte contests dominant literary and cultural norms. One way to measure Lucy's success as narrator, then, is through the relation between her own narration and the criteria valorized by Vashti's model. In other words, if the process of Lucy's narrative discourse aligns her with the norms suggested by Vashti's model, then Lucy can be seen to achieve narrative authority; conversely, if Lucy's narration does not meet these standards, then we must decide if Bronte ultimately undermines Lucy, or if Vashti's model comes under attack later, or if Bronte was unable to meet the aesthetic goals that she herself established.

Once we locate Bronte's artistic norms, we can ask how (or if) the narrative generates a logic to meet the aesthetic criteria. One answer is that Bronte complicates the aesthetic norm by connecting it to the moral norm of heterosexual love. In the first three chapters of Villette, Lucy's status as witness-observer and her non-self-consciousness create a tension between implied author and narrator in terms of the story's moral center, the "Home" plot, a plot of heterosexual union, separation, and reunion. Situated outside her godmother Bretton's family circle, Lucy bears witness not to her own story but to that of Polly Home. Polly's prayers to her absent "dear papa" are, to Lucy, indicative of "that monomaniac tendency" with which "the most unfortunate . . . man or woman can be cursed" (69). She feels "oppressed" when Polly expresses joy at the return of Mr. Home, and later, when the agitated Polly cries upon his departure, "I," Lucy tells us, "was calm" (79). When the primary love for the father is substituted with the childish romantic love young Polly comes to feel for Graham Bretton, Lucy deems this amusing, eccentric, a precursor to the "shocks and repulses, the humiliations and desolations" that constitute life (93).(13) Relying on the pathos of the scenes between Polly and her father (and later Polly and Graham) to elicit a moral center based on love and union between male and female, Bronte's voice undermines Lucy's. While the double-voicing is a conventional method for ironizing a narrator's ethical stance, note also that the non-self-conscious and homodiegetic narration also indicate a distance from the aesthetics Vashti's model valorizes: Lucy, as witness to Polly's story, does not represent her personal experience, and the double-voicing tends to dehumanize Lucy, making her more of an object than a subject.

But in chapter 4, the narrative tides shift. First Polly and then Lucy leaves Bretton. Closing the door on Bretton and foreclosing the Polly Home plot, Lucy moves home, a transition that includes replacing homodiegetic with increasingly autodiegetic narration.(14) Beginning to focus on herself, Lucy uses the present tense to beseech her "reader" to picture her "as a bark slumbering through halcyon weather" (94). Then she challenges that image: yes, we may picture her as a slumbering bark, but in reality she "must somehow have fallen over-board, or that there must have been wreck at last . . . the ship was lost, the crew perished" (94). The mutinous changes in imagery and tense correspond to a shift in responsibility for the techniques associated with the narrative discourse. The mature Lucy's self-conscious voice, speaking from the time of the discourse, is now endorsed by Bronte as she - Lucy - asserts the lyricism of her own style: her own images, metaphors, and tone.

Because self-consciousness will play a significant role later in my essay, let me take a moment to explicate what I mean by the term. This Boothian category (even more underworked than unreliability) classifies narrators who are "aware of themselves as writers" as self-conscious; the non-self-conscious narrator "rarely if ever" discusses her writing chores (RoF 155). Phelan explicates Booth's categories, noting in "Distance, Voice, and Temporal Perspective" that non-self-conscious narration is the default: unless given reason to do otherwise, "we assume that the narrator is not the source of such things as foreshadowing, patterns of imagery, parallelism of incidents, the lyricism of a particular style" (69). Lanser places issues of self-consciousness under the category "contact," which refers to the relationship between speaker and audience: "the contact between author and audience is established through discourse register, tone, and other equivalents of visual/auditory contact" (The Narrative Act 91). As with issues of status (which are "dynamically linked" to those of contact), Lanser sees degrees of self-consciousness as variable along the narrative continuum (see her comments on Tristram Shandy, The Narrative Act 177).

This category relies on our acceptance of a "poetic convention": although we all really know that the flesh-and-blood author is the source of all techniques, including the synthetic task of creating a narrator who announces "authorship," we suspend that knowledge when so required. In this way, we accept the putative author, the narrator who takes responsibility for imagery, parallelism, lyricism, and so on. But simply to state that a narrator is self-conscious tells us little. What may be significant, however, is to ask who is given self-consciousness, why, when or where in the text self-consciousness is foregrounded, and how self-consciousness might relate both to story-events (or the narrator's character) and to larger ideological concerns.

We have already seen the way that Bronte modulates homo/autodiegesis and un/reliability in relation to non/self-consciousness in the first four chapters; I return now to examining the way she develops this pattern. The changes in Lucy's position in both the story and the discourse parallel a shift in her relation to the ethics of the Home plot. Lucy, "forced . . . by circumstances" to become self-reliant, assumes care of the elderly Miss Marchmont (95). For eight years Lucy tends the older woman, growing fond of the "vein of reason" that runs through Miss Marchmont's passion, adopting "the steadiness of her virtues . . . the power of her passions . . . the truth of her feelings to trust" (96-97). Having aligned Lucy with Miss Marchmont, Bronte then uses this character to reintroduce the moral center, the Home plot. On a stormy February night ("I remember it well," Lucy self-consciously muses), with the wind first "wailing at the windows" with "an accent keen" and then falling "to a dead calm," Miss Marchmont awakens and tells Lucy a story (9798). A discursive substitution of the earlier story-events between Polly, her father, and Graham, Miss Marchmont's narrative speaks of her love for her betrothed, Frank, their separation, his death, and her years of grief. The double-voicing that earlier distanced Lucy from the implied author and reader in terms of the Home plot now vanishes as Lucy sensitively accepts, at least in the abstract, the value of heterosexual love and union, the pain of separation, and the desire for reunion. Miss Marchmont thus functions to "redirect" Lucy's worldview; once this has been accomplished, her death frees Lucy to embark on a voyage. The convention of the voyage indicates that Villette's narrator, like that of Jane Eyre, will undergo a fresh search for self-identity. Neither the romantic fantasy of young Polly Home nor the abstract ideal of Miss Marchmont's discourse, Lucy's Home plot relies, in part, on the successful negotiation of her identity and her sexual desires. To France Lucy travels, to the town of Villette, where, employed as an English teacher, she meets one Dr. John. Her growing passion for Dr. John becomes increasingly apparent, but what Lucy does not tell the the reader is that Dr. John is actually the Graham of Bretton-place. Coinciding with this discursive withholding by the narrator is the character's hiding of her identity from Dr. John.

Lucy's reticence as narrator constitutes a paralipsis, and, whether dubbed reticence, trickery, withholding, or dishonesty, this behavior has been read as an instance of unreliability because it creates a tension between narrator and reader in terms of the narrative facts.(15) These paralipses are even more interesting in that Bronte has ostensibly ceded aesthetic control by making Lucy self-conscious. Why would Bronte first let Lucy assume this role and then have her make aesthetic choices that disconcert virtually all readers? Rabinowitz suggests that the power Lucy gains over her readers through strategic silence increases her discursive authority in the same way that her secrecy about her identity gives her control of the situation with Dr. John, foregrounding Lucy's role as narrator: "When games are played with what is told us," Rabinowitz writes, "we are much more conscious of the medium of the tale, and consequently of the authority of the teller" (248). In other words, even as paralipsis signifies an unreliability of facts at both story and discourse levels, it indicates a reliability about norms.

I agree with Rabinowitz that Lucy's withholding signifies her attempt to gain control at both story and discourse levels, but I believe that these paralipses have still other implications. On the one hand, these withholdings indicate a movement toward one of Vashti's criteria: the representation of personal experience, the integration of life (Lucy's secrecy with Dr. John) and art (her reticence with her reader). But on the other hand, her game-playing seems to move her away from Vashti's other aesthetic criterion, that the personal utterance does not dehumanize subject or audience. Gregory O'Dea and Brenda Silver succinctly summarize what many critics note, that at times Lucy "disorient[s] her audience," is "distanced from and disdainful of" the reader (O'Dea 41), and that she assumes a "potentially antagonistic posture" with her reader (Silver 93). In this way, the reader's experiencing of Lucy's representation parallels that of Lucy's experiencing of the Cleopatra and the Angels: by sidestepping the "truth" of the female experience, Lucy makes the audience distant from the art form. The dynamics of Villette suggest that the relationship between paralipsis and unreliability of fact is highly variable: Lucy is empowered by the merging of lived experience and representation, but disempowered by the disorientation of the reader. To understand more fully the way Bronte modulates the narrative discourse, we need to address the benefits and the repercussions of Lucy's secreting her identity in terms of the other narrative track, that of heterosexual love and union.

The "paralipsis" at the level of Lucy's "lived experience," her secreting of her identity from Dr. John, functions in relation to the one at the discourse level and within a larger context. D. A. Miller, in The Novel and the Police, relates secrecy to "the [Victorian] subject's formal insistence that [is]he is radically inaccessible to the culture that would otherwise entirely determine [her]" (195). Following Miller's logic, Lucy (the character), by withholding her identity from Dr. John, remains "undetermined" by the a priori assumptions that would stabilize her identity, especially those gendered-class beliefs that could only block the possibility of a romantic liaison between the two.(16) If secrecy is "the spiritual exercise by which the subject is allowed to conceive of [her]self as a resistance: a friction in the smooth function of social order, a margin to which its far-reaching discourse does not reach" (Miller 207), then by hiding her identity Lucy does attain some power over Dr. John. Bronte thus affirms the potentially empowering aspects of secrecy, of keeping silent, a function especially important, as Elaine Hedges and Shelley Fisher Fishkin point out, in combating "the taboos under which women have historically labored in representing the body and sexuality" (5). In other words, as a "real-life paralipsis," silence can be strategically deployed as a technique to gain control, especially over the desiring female body.(17)

Lucy's character's increased consciousness of her self as a physical, desiring subject thus corresponds with her narrator-trait of self-consciousness; control of the facts of her identity parallels control of the facts of the narrative. But we run into the same problem with Lucy's strategy at the story-level as we do at the discourse-level: just as the power the character gains by withholding her identity from Dr. John does not bring her any closer to achieving heterosexual union, so too the power the narrator achieves by tricking her readers fails to establish the narrative authority valorized by Vashti's model. Thus Bronte carefully links the progression of the two narrative tracks. As Lawrence astutely points out, Lucy's designation of herself as "cypher" signifies the tension between two modes of being: a nonentity and a disguised manner of writing. While the image of the nun (none/nonentity) and what Christina Crosby calls the "ghostly world of the text" (703) link the two, for Lucy to attain authority, to be more than null, she must develop other skills.

Gayatri Spivak's comments on the relationship between an "itinerary of the silencing" and a view of history "not as a series of brute facts but as narratives generated in one way or another" can help us see Villette as a project that reveals how various narratives compete with each other, "which one rises, which one falls, who is silent, and the itinerary of the silencing rather than the retrieval" (31). The first three chapters give rise to one narrative about women which, through Bronte's double-voicing and Lucy's irony, positions both female narrator (Lucy) and female protagonist (Polly) as object. This narrative falls as Lucy begins, in chapter 4, to assert a different project, one that eventually deploys a strategic itinerary of silence to create a resistance in keeping with that discursive framework that D. A. Miller relates to Victorian subjectivity. Characters, Miller writes (discussing Dickens), "protect their subjectivity by refusing to assume it even grammatically, by refusing to say 'I'" (202); and we see that Lucy often speaks of herself in third-person (see esp. 401). This resistance allows her to become the non(nun)person. Bronte then reveals the relational structure of the second narrative - the Victorian agenda of secrecy - showing that for a specific class of women (that is, working women like Lucy), there may be repercussions to silence, that, in fact, the Lucy Snowes of the world must ultimately resist being the nun, the nonentity, and risk exposing their subjectivities by saying "I," by speaking their desires. Villette thus does not offer one stable "representation of woman" but a series of narratives that compete with each other in an ongoing struggle to constitute an artistic voice and to create an identity as a desiring subject.

The strength of the second narrative, which produces a resisting subject through silence, proves inadequate as Lucy's story - and her narrative - threaten to come to a sudden end. The potential dangers of silence and secrecy are exposed when Lucy reaches the point where, alone, unknown and unloved, cold, powerless, and weak, she collapses. While we suspended our knowledge of Bronte's control of the imagery, parallelism, style, and fore-shadowing as early as chapter 4 (when Lucy asserted her awareness of herself as narrator), at this moment Bronte's command of the narrative discourse is foregrounded. We are asked to see Lucy's self-consciousness as a trait that first moves her toward Vashti's model as she assumed control of her own story, but then functions to distance her from both reader and author as she struggles, within the confines of Victorian ideology, to use secrecy and silence as tactics of empowerment. "Status" and "contact" issues conflate as Bronte writes at the cusp of her era, recognizing the insidious repressiveness in this mode of self-definition, contesting its effectiveness, and replacing it with a new narrative that allows for both artistic and sexual expression.

In the second volume of Villette, Bronte continues to play .with the effects of paralipsis, this time to move her narrator steadily away from her "secretive" behaviors. During her recuperation, Lucy attends Vashti's presentation. A fire erupts toward the end of the performance; a woman is injured; Lucy does not say who; and we - having picked up on Lucy's tendency to trick us - suspect another paralipsis. We might even guess that the hurt woman is Polly Home. But this time Lucy is not withholding. Part of the joy of the situation occurs because, through her newly found factual reliability, Lucy bests us again. Our suspicion, especially because it is not warranted, signals an important shift in Lucy's strategy of narration. No longer will she omit "truths" about her experience.

But of course Lucy (and Bronte), by choosing some facts, must ignore others. What Barthes calls the "hermenuetic code" works because reading involves a series of enigmas that "can be distinguished, suggested, formulated, held in suspense, and finally disclosed" (19). All paralipses do not have the same effects; each "omission" does not have to indicate unreliability. Yet the feminist analyses of the 1980s, having discerned the relationship between unreliability and withholding in the earlier half of the novel, want to equate all foregrounded instances of reticence as continuing that pattern. Without accounting for the shift that takes place during the fire, two subsequent moments of "withholding" are frequently mentioned: that which occurs while Lucy is making M. Paul his birthday girl, and that which occurs at the end of the novel, when Lucy does not specifically tell us of M. Paul's death. Read as repetitions of the type of withholding that occured with Dr. John, these paralipses have been interpreted as indicators of Bronte's continued privileging of narrative authority. Since I have already questioned the assumptions that separate and privilege narrative authority and discourse over heterosexual union and story, it should come as no surprise that I interpret the textual dynamics here differently. While producing diverse affective responses at various moments, the pattern of paralipsis continues to connect the story's progression (toward heterosexual union) with the discourse's progression (toward narrative authority).

True enough, Lucy does not tell us exactly what she is doing before M. Paul's fete, but this withholding of information functions very differently from the disarming sidesteppings of part I. Lucy's word-choices in describing her craftsmanship - "to suit the particular taste whose gratification was in view, an effective appearance was quite indispensable" (422) - are juxtaposed to an explicit reference to the impending birthday fete, indicating her increasing control of her narrative. Many readers will draw the correct conclusions, but even if we do not, the effect differs from the earlier disorienting effects: like M. Paul, we share in the pleasure of the surprise of her handmade gift. To determine if any one particular paralipsis signals an unreliability, then, we must see it in the context of the different textual norms and recognize that the pattern of paralipsis itself might serve two or more thematic purposes within the narrative logic. It is our attempts to work out the various possibilities that brings us much of our reading pleasure.

Rather than retaining the narrator-trait of trickery to distance Lucy from the reader, Bronte develops this trait along a different line: Lucy's sense of humor. Hinted at in earlier scenes such as the one in the art gallery, Lucy's wit increases as her tendency to withhold information decreases. She begins to present her facts openly, personably, and we begin to laugh with Lucy.(18) Bronte has variously positioned Lucy in relation to heterosexual desire throughout the narrative: the initial dismissal of the heterosexual model based on the primary father-daughter relationship and sanctified through the substitution of Polly's love for Graham; the acceptance of the abstract ideal when caring for Miss Marchmont; the secrecy surrounding her love for Dr. John. Lucy's growing love for M. Paul, however, is presented according to a different logic. Initially describing M. Paul as "mawkish," "injudicious," "sullen," and possibly "violent and implacable" (202), Lucy's later characterizations remain similar in terminology but differ in tone as she humorously notes such things as his "laudable, acceptable custom" of bursting in unannounced during study time (414). Lived experience again merges with representation: upon completing a "very inefficient" French translation, Lucy (as character) cannot help but smile at M. Paul's reaction, and her tone (as narrator) during the transmission of this event replicates that smile, making her reader smile too (416-17). Perhaps most significantly, Lucy begins to joke about herself with her reader: "The reader not having hitherto had any cause to ascribe to Miss Snowe's character the most distant pretension to perfection. . ." (427). A pattern of development emerges in which Lucy's self-conscious narration becomes more and more reliable as she uses humor to establish the identity that she has so long kept secret. In so doing, Lucy begins to "pierce the confines" of her reader's heart. By the time Lucy reveals that which "defied suppression" and tells M. Paul that her "heart will break" without him (580), the pattern of paralipsis has been left far behind. Here, she withholds nothing. She takes a great risk. Lucy Snowe speaks.

If, as Poovey notes, "the representation of women was . . . a site of cultural contestation during the middle of the nineteenth century" (9), then Villette takes part in this struggle by representing a working woman who comes to terms with, and speaks out on behalf of, her desire. Her action plays a significant role; she and M. Paul become engaged. Jane Gaines asks us, "[w]hy the need to claim heterosexuality when it is not only a given but also a mandate?" Her twentieth-century answer holds true for nineteenth-century Lucy Snowe: "It would seem that the only alternative to publicly claiming an erotic identity is to remain sexually unidentified. (And to be outside identity politics categories is to be unidentified.)" (394). By bringing her narrator to the point where she withholds nothing, Bronte accomplishes two things. First, she acknowledges women as desiring, speaking subjects. Second, Bronte herself, with Lucy as her reliable spokesperson, contests the Victorian codes that arrest female development, both professionally and personally. The two narrative tracks again operate in parallel: Lucy establishes her identity as she begins to act and speak in accordance with her desire for M. Paul and, correspondingly, she gains narrative authority. Together, the story and the discourse align with both the aesthetic and moral norms of the text, Vashti's artistic paradigm and the Home plot of love and union.


I began this essay by noting that many feminist accounts of Villette read the ending as a final moment of truth in which Lucy achieves authority. Rabinowitz sees the conclusion as "a conscious resistance of the conventional 'happy ending'" (252) and writes that "Bronte seems to realize that the paradox is that for women in heterosexual relations, in some ways you are better off alone" (253); Silver, stating that Lucy has rewritten "the traditional novel to illustrate the limited plots available to women in literature, as in life" and in so doing has "grown into another reality," determines that Bronte's narrator survives "the destruction of the romantic fantasy" and finds intellectual and financial fulfillment (110-11); Lawrence notes that "the very power of [M. Paul's] presence as opposed to Lucy's threatens to overwhelm her" and that his absence enables the plot of ambition - Lucy as headmistress and writer - to thrive: in the end Lucy, in the space provided by M. Paul's absence, "returns us to herself as writer" (98-99); Gilbert and Gubar also attend the relationship between M. Paul's presence and absence, asserting that "it is only in his [M. Paul's] absence that she [Lucy] can exert herself fully to exercise her own powers" and that "the end of love must not be equated with the end of life" (438). Each of these accounts read Lucy's "withholding" of the facts about M. Paul's death as a paralipsis that privileges the discourse over the story. But this type of literary "comeabout" just does not correspond with either the narrative logic or the specific dynamics of the narrative discourse: it works against the established intersections connecting the two tracks and overlooks the effective valence of Lucy's explicit statements.

Quite simply, nothing in the text indicates that Bronte wants us to see her narrator as "better off alone." For one thing, Lucy does not narrate the events of her supposedly thriving, liberated life as headmistress and writer; we are only told that the first three years of anticipating M. Paul's return were "the three happiest years of [her] life" (593). Nowhere does the narrative discourse suggest that Lucy's joy comes from M. Paul's absence; quite to the contrary, the "secret of my success," Lucy narrates, "did not lie so much in myself . . . as in a new state of circumstances, a wonderfully changed life, a relieved heart" (594). M. Paul's letters provide "real food that nourished, living water that refreshed" (594). Just before the formal break (indicated by the asterisk), Lucy summarizes her beloved's strengths and weaknesses: his tenderness, his pious enthusiasm.(19) The sincerity of Lucy's voice is difficult to deny. What, then, has led the critics of the 1980s to interpret the final chapter, and especially the final nine paragraphs, as privileging narrative authority over heterosexual union?

If you accept my reconsiderations of the variable, fluid relations between different forms and functions of unreliability, between unreliability and self-consciousness, and between the two narrative tracks, you might anticipate my answer. The tendency to use binary oppositions - un/reliability, story/discourse, heterosexual union/female authority - to reach the desired goal of female liberation plays a large part in judgments about the ending. But I do not think that is the only factor at work. Bronte's sophisticated handling of the conclusion brings many different dynamics together, making it difficult to understand more fully just what is happening. I therefore want to begin by acknowledging that M. Paul's physical absence plays a role in Lucy's success as narrator, but that it does so only in relation to his narrative presence. M. Paul's absent-presence permeates Villette, blurring story/discourse boundaries up to and including the final moment of Lucy's narration. To put it another way, Bronte's narrator's longing for the completion of the Home plot (reunion) both marks the narrative occasion and infiltrates earlier story-events. Techniques associated with self-consciousness - diction, style, mood, metaphors, foreshadowing, and the juxtaposition of scenes and imagery - become crucial to unraveling the various narrative threads that appear in "Finis."

As I noted earlier, the shift to self-conscious discourse occurs in chapter 4, paralleling a movement from homo- to autodiegesis and an increased acceptance of the values associated with heterosexual love and union. Lucy's interjection of present-tense discourse also marks this transition: "To this hour," Lucy writes, "when I have the nightmare, it repeats the rush and saltness of briny waves in my throat, and their icy pressure on my lungs" (94). Her images (storms, shipwrecks, wind) will, along with the present-tense narration, repeatedly reappear, often in conjunction, signaling key moments in the narrative discourse.

These images will foreshadow all the deaths in Villette, both "literal" and figurative. "Three times in the course of my life," Lucy says, "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" (98). The first "literal" death occurs on that stormy February night of chapter 4, when the keening wind dies down and Miss Marchmont concludes her narrative, telling Lucy that "from this day I am about to enter a better frame of mind, to prepare myself for reunion with Frank"; she then dies (101). The second death occurs sometime between the stormy November night when Lucy awaits M. Paul and seven days later. The storm that begins that November night, that "roared frenzied for seven days" and did not cease until "the Atlantic was strewn with wrecks," causes the second "literal" death, the death of M. Paul Emanuel.

Functioning both to make M. Paul present and as testimonial to the pain, the anguish, and the suffering associated with her loss, Lucy's writing embodies her grief, voices her sorrow. The voice that haunts Villette frequently combines the knowledge of the narrating-Lucy with the vision of the experiencing-Lucy, blurring the boundaries between story and discourse.(20) As Lucy narrates her own Home plot - her developing love for M. Paul, her actions in bringing the engagement about, and their separation - the knowledge of his death filters every relived event. Lucy initially represents M. Paul as sullen and mawkish, but also claims that "he was the soul of honour" (212). It is impossible that at the time of the story - the time of her vision - she could know that M. Paul was the "soul of honour" and, in fact, she has gone to great pains to represent him as anything but. The hybridization of vision and voice is even more apparent when, during M. Paul's birthday fete, Lucy expresses a lack of pleasure in gathered flowers - "I look on them as things rootless and perishable," she narrates, "their likeness to life makes me sad" (424) - which makes sense only when considering the "certain bunch of white violets" that M. Paul offers her when they first meet (187), the "sweet violets" that "lent fragrance" to her schoolroom (585), the plants she cultivates "out of love for him" (595), and her painful acknowledgement of his continued absence at the time of the discourse.(21) The narrating-I constantly infiltrates the mood of the experiencing-I. Destabilizing story/discourse boundaries, the blending of vision and voice functions to merge lived and represented experience, paying tribute to the continual grief that loss generates. It is this that Bronte wants us to recognize, and this is very much in keeping with Vashti's model.

Lucy herself undergoes two figurative deaths and rebirths, both complete with shipwreck and storm images. The first "death" occurs when, after leaving Bretton-place and then England, Lucy is "reborn" as self-conscious narrator of her own story (see the beginning of chapter 4, which I have already recounted). The second death occurs between volumes 1 and 2. Volume 1 ends with Lucy, "lost" and with "no resolution to ask guidance of any passenger," falling unconscious during a rainstorm (236); volume 2 opens with her soul - one of the two "divorced mates, Spirit and Substance" - being rebound to her "poor frame" (237). She hears a gale, subsiding at last . . . drawn and withdrawn

far, far off, like a tide retiring from a shore of the upper world - a world so high above the rush of its largest waves, the dash of its fiercest breakers could sound down in this submarine home, only like murmurs and a lullaby. (255)

If the Lucy of chapter 4 is reborn as an autodiegetic, self-conscious narrator, the metaphorical rebirth in volume 2, complete with storm and shipwreck, occurs after another "nightmarish" time of life, when silence and secrecy disguise both her desire and her writing, threatening to nullify her very existence. The two figurative deaths, like the two literal ones, function to move Lucy closer to Bronte's aesthetic and moral values.

But it is "three times in the course of" her life that events have taught Lucy that "these strange accents in the storm" denote death, not two. This third death, I propose, merges the literal and the figurative, bringing Lucy's story and discourse to the conclusion for which the narrative logic has been preparing us. One more pattern emerges in these repeated narrative breaks: Lucy's contemplation of religious rebirth. Perhaps Miss Marchmont's hopes to join her Frank in Heaven spawn this interest, but regardless of its origin, Lucy becomes increasingly concerned with the possibilities of life hereafter. Each passage that voices these religious concerns is marked by the present-tense, muddying the waters of story and discourse once again. Lucy, recovering from her descent into the "abyss" at the end of the first volume, instructs her audience to turn to God for a method of coping with the "pains He has appointed," to wait patiently - like the "weeping and despairing" and the "maimed and mourning millions" who await the herald who will heal the bleeding heart (252). Her words here make sense both in terms of the story events - her unrequited love for Dr. John - and in relation to the discourse, as her knowledge of M. Paul's death might in fact interfere with her telling of the earlier passion for Dr. John.

An even larger, more intense break occurs in the "Reaction" chapter (chapter 21). The verb-tense again changes from past to present, and Reason, "vindictive as a devil," associated with cold and denial, is opposed to Imagination - a "good angel," a "divine Hope" - which is likened to eternal summer and rebirth (308). Subsequent present-tense narration (chapter 38) continues to emphasize Lucy's concern about an afterlife: "Proof of a life to come must be given," Lucy narrates; the next three sentences all begin with "In fire and blood," returning us to the image of Vashti on the stage, just as the capitalized closure of this break - "WE SHALL NOT DIE" - harkens to an art form that lives beyond the moment when death halts life (534). When contemplating Polly's and Graham's marriage, Lucy notes that some real lives

do - for some certain days or years - actually anticipate the happiness of Heaven; and, I believe, if such perfect happiness is once felt by good people . . . its sweet effect is never wholly lost. Whatever trials follow, whatever pains of sickness or shades of death, the glory precedent still shines through, cheering the keen anguish, and tinging the deep cloud. (532)

Lucy, recounting later the "[h]appy hour" in the garden with her beloved, beseeches time to "stay one moment" and "incline to mine that brow of Heaven!"; she implores the "White Angel" to let light linger on darker, succeeding times (588). Lucy's persistent return to the theme of rebirth, as well as the images of storms and shipwrecks and the interplay between Reason and Imagination, continue until her final narrating moments.

And these truly are her last narrating moments. We know as early as chapter 5 that Lucy, with white hair "under a white cap, like snow beneath snow" (105), narrates in her old age, and we will learn, when we turn the last page, that "Madame Walravens fulfilled her ninetieth year before she died" (596). But - "Peace, peace, Banshee - 'keening' at every window!" (596) What time are we in now? Yes, certainly this indicates that moment when, three years after her engagement, the "destroying angel of tempest" (596) achieved his perfect work in M. Paul's death, much as the earlier storm's conclusion corresponded with the end of Miss Marchmont's story and her life. But it seems very much in keeping with the pattern of the progression - as well as with our knowledge that Lucy narrates decades after M. Paul's death - to acknowledge that another storm rages, roaring frenzy at the time of the discourse, setting the scene for the final death. This storm, then, and its foreshadowing of death, provides the occasion for the narrative. It is not just that Miss Marchmont's narrative functions as a mise en abyme, what Ross Chambers calls a "narrational embedding . . . the mirroring within a story of the storytelling relationship itself" (33). Look at how Lucy's words bring together all the strands: vindictive, cold Reason recognizes death, but sunny Imagination produces a "happy succeeding life," probably not the life that would chronologically follow M. Paul's demise (it seems clear that sorrow permeated those years), not even necessarily the life that succeeded - took the place of - that painful reality, the represented world created by Lucy's "impromptu faculty," which writes him back to life.

The "happy succeeding life" logically signifies one more possibility: the life to follow the one from which she narrates, the life about which Lucy's present-tense interjections are markedly concerned. With this meaning, we can better understand why Lucy must "pause: pause at once" (596), why she must rush through the others' fates as if time is running out. It is. The third storm, occurring in Lucy's final moments, "keens" in time with the second as Lucy looks toward a subsequent life, a rebirth, a "rapture" and a "wondrous reprieve from dread" (596). Lucy has had her moment of happiness in the garden, and she anticipates the joy of reunion not here, not in this world, but in Heaven. By telling her story of love, union, separation, and anticipated reunion, Lucy, like Vashti, has shared the pain and the anguish that are destroying her. Lucy's "Farewell" is indeed final, signifying both the end of her "life" and of the conclusion of "her" narrative proper.


Now, to shift the tides of my own narrative, I would like to return to the ideological and narratological concerns that have informed this essay. As my analysis of Villette demonstrates, these issues are inextricably linked: our definitions of narratological tools influence the way we understand key features of a text and our political concerns influence the deployment of particular methods of analysis. Feminism of the 1980s has advanced our understandings of language, patriarchal oppression, and female strategies of resistance. As we move closer to the twenty-first century, increasing demands are being made for a less exclusive, more historically-specific practice, a methodology that will allow us to understand better the production and reception of diverse feminisms. Our ways of thinking about our rhetorical and structural categories cannot remain separate from our feminist goals.(22) To think of the variety of forms and functions un/reliability might take, to relate them not only to each other but to other narrative categories such as self-consciousness, pushes us - and I paraphrase Teresa de Lauretis - to reconsider (again!) those sacred texts of narrative, asking different questions, employing different strategies, allowing for different desires, and disrupting dominant patterns of thinking.

For if nothing else, Villette is disruptive in its contestation of Victorian constructions of women, desire, and representation. Lucy's "Farewell," like Bronte's conclusion, does not equate ending with death. Quite to the contrary, Bronte's form leads us back into the aesthetic experience; only when we learn of M. Paul's demise and Lucy's impending death can we return to the text, seeing more and more subtleties in the beginning and the middle. Villette is process, not product; it is a living exchange that recognizes the subjecthood of both reader and author as Lucy Snowe lives on within us, "up to, within, well nigh beyond the moment when death says to all sense and all being - 'Thus far and no farther!'"


1 Booth initially wrote that "[p]erhaps the most overworked distinction is that of person" but later acknowledged that he was "[p] lain wrong. . . . It had been talked about a lot, more than most aspects of technique, but the talk had been, like mine following the [initial] comment, superficial" (RoF 150, 412). One of Booth's early distinctions is between two types of first-person narrators, the "narrator-agent" who "produce[s] some measurable effect on the course of events" and the narrator who is merely an observer (RoF 153-54).

Booth's first-person narrator resembles Gerard Genette's homodiegetic narrator, who is "present as a character in the story he tells" (RoF 244-45). Genette distinguishes between homodiegesis and heterodiegesis, or those narratives in which the narrator also exists as character in the story and those in which the narrator only exists at the level of the discourse.

2 Booth's definition of unreliability is in chapter 6 of The Rhetoric of Fiction. Chapters 7, 9, and 12 more fully explain the nuances of these categories, as do his later analyses in The Rhetoric of Irony, The Company We Keep, and Critical Understanding (see esp. Ch. 7).

Lanser defines reliability as a "status" issue: while flexible, conventions for status (the relationship between speaker and speech act) observe the text's own rules. The axes of status, such as (but not limited to) reliability and gender, determine the relationship between narrator/story and narrator/implied author.

By continuity between narrator and character, Phelan refers to the assumption that the narrator's character - her motives, values, beliefs, race, class, gender, and so forth - must be taken into account when reading the discourse, and the discourse - style, voice, and implicit ideology - must be taken into account when making inferences about the narrator's behavior.

3 Of course some texts might be easily explained within this binary logic, but many are far more complex. Booth is aware, even in 1961, of the potentially problematic consequences of such logic: "[T]he equally pervasive irony-hunt will go on. Once on this road we cannot turn back; we cannot pretend that things are as simple as they once seemed. We may commit absurdities, questioning . . . even the most obviously omniscient and reliable narrators. We are not to be stopped by even the most explicit rhetoric" (RoF 369). Booth here foregrounds the primary concerns of rhetorical theory: first, the commitment to produce criticism that attends to the specific dynamics of the individual text; and second, the value placed on the vital, recursive interaction between text and theory.

I borrow the term "progression" from Phelan, who, in Reading People, Reading Plots, uses it to indicate that narrative is "a dynamic event, one that must move, in both its telling and its reception, through time" (15). Phelan foregrounds concerns with how an author generates, sustains, develops, and resolves readers' interests in narrative and offers a model that accounts for "tensions," or unstable relations in the discourse (between implied author/narrator and reader) and "instabilities," unstable relations in the story (within a character's personality, or between two or more characters).

4 To name just a few of the numerous and diverse forms of feminist literary criticism: Nancy Armstrong's Desire and Domestic Fiction, Barbara Christian's Black Feminist Criticism, Teresa de Lauretis's Alice Doesn't and Technologies of Gender, Nancy K. Miller's The Heroine's Text and Subject to Change, and Elaine Showalter's A Literature of Their Own, as well as various paradigms of reading offered by Judith Fetterley, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Jean Kennard, and Patrocinio Schweickart.

5 While this distinct pattern does emerge from the 1980s critical corpus, I do not mean to suggest that all accounts of Villette written during this decade - give or take a couple years on either end - rely on or discuss only the following concerns about narrative authority, heterosexual union, and reliability.

6 By narrative authority, I mean that which Lanser, in Fictions of Authority, defines as "the intellectual credibility, ideological validity, and aesthetic value given or conferred upon a work, author, narrator, character, or textual practice" (6). Lanser acknowledges both the ability of unauthorized writers to appropriate authoritative textual strategies and the complicity that often accompanies critiques of Western models of authority. I want to emphasize that I use the term "authority" or "autonomy" not to designate a stable or universal product, but rather to indicate a process that destabilizes dominant voices, producing many contestatory "authoritative" discourses rather than one final master narrative.

7 The impact of Lucy's unreliable narration was noted well before the feminist criticisms of the 1980s: in 1927, E. M. Forster determined that the desire to "suppress" information comes "at the expense of Lucy's character" (93). Interestingly, in 1853, two of Bronte's contemporaries wrote her requesting "'exact and authentic information respecting the fate of M. Paul Emanuel!'" (qtd. in Villette 622n2), suggesting that at the time of its initial reception Villette's plot of heterosexual love held the most interest to readers.

8 In addition to those texts I mention in note 4, many of which implicitly find heterosexuality a structure of oppression, see also Helene Cixous, Luce Irigaray, Catharine A. MacKinnon, Adrienne Rich (especially "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence"), and Monique Wittig.

9 Of course Grewal and Kaplan's examples - dominant/dominated, colonizer/colonized, global/local, and center/periphery - differ from Booth's concerns about first/third person, dramatized/undramatized, and so forth; but my larger point is that these two models, presented by strikingly dissimilar people working under immensely different conditions at historically distinct times (that is, the time of The Rhetoric of Fiction and that of Scattered Hegemonies), share the same overall concern for precision, for looking at who deploys what techniques and what effects those structures have on different peoples.

10 M. M. Bakhtin introduces the term "dialogic" to indicate the presence of another's language in the speaker's discourse.

11 Mary Poovey notes a Victorian contradiction "between a sexless, moralized angel and an aggressive, carnal magdalen" that "never completely disappeared from the mid-Victorian representation of women" (11). Lucy's viewing of the Cleopatra and the Angels, and her disdain for both, situates her in a gap between the two dominant versions of women.

12 By double-voicing I mean the presence of at least two voices in one utterance. This term, credited to Bakhtin, is usually used in relation to issues of unreliability: we often declare a narrator unreliable when the implied author's voice undermines the narrator's. In this essay I use double-voicing, distance, irony, and undermining all somewhat interchangeably.

13 In his New Introductory Lectures on Psychology, Freud notes the transference females make from the primary love for the father to appropriate objects (see esp. ch. 5; see also his "The Psychogenesis of a Case of Homosexuality in a Woman"). The substitution of Graham for father as love-object is noted again toward the end of the novel, when Lucy narrates: "Is there, indeed, such happiness on earth? I asked, as I watched the father, the daughter, the future husband, now united - all blessed and blessing" (532).

14 Homodiegesis is any narrative where the narrator also is a character in her story. Genette specifies the autodiegetic narrator as "the hero of his narrative"; the homodiegetic narrator might or might not be autodiegetic (245).

15 Paralipsis is Genette's term for moments when a narrative "does not skip over a moment of time, as in an ellipsis, but it sidesteps a given element" (52).

16 Elizabeth Langland notes how "formulaic" and "ritualistic" behaviors "enabled women constantly to police and maintain their social borders" (33). Langland focuses extensively on middle-class women, but her discussions of "middle-class borders" implicitly relate to those who are situated on the other side of the boundary. For Lucy to marry Dr. John, the boundary between working class and middle class would have to be crossed. Later, when Lucy does become engaged to M. Paul, Madame Beck's negative response to the engagement illustrates the "policing" that Langland discusses.

17 For other accounts of the uses of silence and secrecy, see Magda Gere Lewis, Deidre Lashgar, and Janis P. Stout.

18 For a fuller analysis of the variety of joking and punning that Lucy engages in, see Robert Heilman's excellent essay.

19 An interesting and related point here is that his faults are very much associated with the imperialist overtones of his trip to the Carribean: his piety "made him abandon justice to himself to do the work of craft, and serve the ends of selfishness" (595). While his "tenderness," "affection," and "devotion" clearly situate him outside the traditional qualities associated with Victorian masculinity, his complicity in colonialism indirectly causes his death.

20 Seymour Chatman, in Story and Discourse and Coming to Terms, strictly demarcates vision from voice, or story from discourse. The form of story, or "content," consists of story-events, existents, and their connections; the form of discourse, or "expression," consists of elements shared by narratives in any medium - mood, voice, duration, and so forth. (SD 22-37). For Chatman, discourse space (telling) is not to be confused with story space; he denies that the narrator can inhabit both at the instant of narration (CT 123). My reading of Villette suggests that these boundaries are much more permeable than Chatman allows. See also Harry E. Shaw's challenge to Chatman, "Loose Narrators," Chatman's reply and Shaw's rejoinder, as well as Eva Mokry Pohler's attempt to adjudicate the two (Chatman and Shaw) and Shaw's response to Pohler.

21 The use of flowers as a symbol of acceptance begins when, as Lucy tells us, "bouquets began to be laid on my desk in the morning" (147) by her students. Lucy's association of flowers not with the joy of teaching but with the loss of her beloved leads away from, rather than toward, the conclusion that she found fulfillment as headmistress of her own school.

22 As feminist narratologists continue to grapple with new ways of thinking about rhetorical and structural categories, we remain indebted to the significant contributions made by critics in the 1980s. Susan Lanser, Robyn Warhol, and Nancy K. Miller, among others, not only opened the doors to investigations between formalism and feminism, but remain committed to advancing this area of study.

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Author:Preston, Elizabeth
Date:Sep 22, 1996
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