The Storms of Villette
In Charlotte Brontë's novel, Villette, Brontë strategically uses the brutality and magnitude of thunder storms to propel her narrator, Lucy Snowe, into unchartered social territories of friendship and love. In her most devious act, the fate of Lucy and M. Paul is clouded at the end of the novel by an ominous and malicious storm. By examining Brontë's manipulation of two earlier storms which echo the scope and foreboding of this last storm -- the storm Lucy encounters during her sickness after visiting confession and the storm which detains her at Madame Walravens' abode -- the reader is provided with a way in which to understand the vague and despairing ending.
A long vacation from school precedes the first storm and it is during this vacation, where Lucy is left predominately alone, that the reader feels the full depth and emptiness of Lucy's solitude. She says, "But all this was nothing; I too felt those autumn suns and saw those harvest moons, and I almost wished to be covered in with earth and turf, deep out of their influence; for I could not live in their light, nor make them comrades, nor yield them affection" (230). After a resulting fit of delirium and depression, Lucy attends confession at a Catholic church solely in order to receive kind words from another human being. It is at this low, after her leaving the church, that the first storm takes shape. Caught without shelter, Lucy falls victim to the storm's brute force. She remembers that she "...bent [her] head to meet it, but it beat [her] back" (236). However, though appearing destructive, this overpowering force serves to deliver her into the hands of Dr. John and his mother, Mrs. Bretton, Lucy's godmother from youth. Mrs. Bretton's subsequent revelation of Lucy's identity opens the door to a much needed intimacy for Lucy. Because of this new companionship, Lucy is able to say that she "...had been satisfied with friendship -- with its calm comfort and modest hope" (304). Without Lucy's time spent at La Terrasse because of falling victim to the storm, this intimacy may never have been reclaimed and the check to Lucy's loneliness may never have occurred.
After many months a second tempestuous storm ravages Villette and draws Lucy into another intimate, yet unexpected bond. Throughout most of the novel, Lucy finds M. Paul to be moody and unreasonable. She states, even after their friendship appears tighter following the delivery of her watchguard to him, "In a shameless disregard of magnanimity, he resembled the great Emperor [Napoleon]" (436). It is not until Père Silas details M. Paul's history to Lucy that she can begin to truly understand M Paul's peculiar character. After this explanation, Lucy's view of M. Paul is transformed. She comments, "They showed me how good he was; they made of my dear little man a stainless little hero...What means had I, before this day, of being certain whether he could...