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Day 3

Villette by Charlotte Brontë

Chapters IV–V

November 17, 2022 by Yiyun Li

This is why I place Villette above many novels, including Jane Eyre. Nothing in life—love, loss, travail, triumph—is idealized. Reality never fits into a neat narrative arc.

Though I forced myself to realize evils, I think I was too prosaic to idealize.

Eight years pass in two pages in Chapter IV, just as Jane Eyre at Lowood: “I remained an inmate of its walls, after its regeneration, for eight years: six as pupil, and two as teacher.” A master class from Brontë in not lingering or dramatizing.

A rare parenthesis: the narrator places her age at the time of the narrative closer to the dying Miss Marchmont. (Brontë had lost all five siblings by now.)

(I speak of a time gone by: my hair… now… white, under a white cap, like snow beneath snow.)

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