Burial, Death, and Resurrection in Villette College

Charlotte Brontë’s Villette revolves around the myriad cycles and seasons of life. Lucy Snowe traverses from place to place, witnessing different stages of life and yearning for her own fulfillment of elusive experiences. Lucy’s introspections focus particularly on death, even comparing people to and calling upon Death as a personified being (lending the novel a significant Gothic undertone). There are four instances in the novel in which Lucy wrestles with the notion of death and burial, and importantly, the resurrection of elements that have seemingly passed away from the realm of the living: Miss Marchmont’s death, Lucy’s experiences in Madame Beck’s garden, and the implied death of Paul Emmanuel.

Early in the novel, Miss Marchmont’s death functions as a sort of ouroboros; only through death will she be reunited with her great love Frank, and thus resurrected by that return to him. The reader is given the sense that once Miss Marchmont dies, she will truly begin to live, and that her true death occurred thirty years before along with Frank’s. This paradox gives the sense that death is a positive rather than a negative experience. Her yearning for this reunion borders on blasphemy, as she tells Lucy, “You see I still think of...

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