Welcome to a new series on the blog! I’m going to feature my favourite fictional characters, starting this month with… Lucy Snowe from Villette.
‘I had feelings: passive as I lived, little as I spoke, cold as I looked, when I thought of past days, I could feel. About the present, it was better to be stoical; about the future – such a future as mine – to be dead.’
If you haven’t heard of Lucy Snowe before, I’ll forgive you. She’s eclipsed by Charlotte Brontë’s most famous protagonist, Jane Eyre. To my knowledge, Lucy has never been portrayed in a film adaptation, a format that would otherwise have brought her character into the public consciousness. There are some similarities between Jane and Lucy. They are both from disadvantaged backgrounds, have education-related jobs, are hiding secret romantic desires and have strong principles. I find that Lucy, as befits her name, is more of an ice queen than Jane.
Lucy has a vivid inner life, which she rarely lets other characters see. She appears sensible, stoic, unromantic. This is emphasised when she travels from England to Belgium and finds herself among overtly passionate and superstitious foreigners. Among these is the schoolmaster Monsieur Paul Emanuel, whom Lucy falls in love with. The pair are opposites yet they have an entertaining chemistry which is fascinating to follow. Paul is based on a married man whom Charlotte Brontë was in love with at the school where she taught. This suggests that Lucy is based on Charlotte herself.
One of my favourite characters, from one of my favourite books.