The Lady Doth Protest Too Much: Confession and Villette’s Protestant Lucy Snowe College

Lucy Snowe, the narrator in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette, delivers a narrative that is very much the story that she wants the reader to hear. She explicitly details some facets of her life and leaves others drenched in opaque clouds of metaphor. Within her realm of inconsistent disclosure, one thing is explicitly clear: Lucy believes herself to be the embodiment of the Protestant ideal. She adamantly waves a banner of English Protestantism, in particular, and makes clear her dislike -- bordering on contempt -- of Catholicism. In scholarship of English literature, the novel has been understood as a Protestant form of narrative in which the individual’s right to his own story is paramount. One must outwardly lead the life of a good English citizen; any secrets he harbors may remain between the individual and his maker. Marina MacKay argues that, in Villette, Lucy stays “true to both her national identity and her narrative destiny” (219). However, as the novel runs its course, Lucy is unable to maintain her wall of architected omission and semi-silence; that is, she is unable to maintain control of her own story. Her ultimate outpouring to M. Paul, when “fluent [she tells her] tale” (490) – faults and all – transcends her...

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