Why does Lucy often refer to Madame Beck, the woman bent on surveillance, as an "excellent woman" in Veillette?

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accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is Chapter Nine that you will want to re-read, when we are given a full analysis of this French lady who runs the house where Lucy Snowe is staying. She seems to be quite a ferocious lady in many aspects, and rules her house through "espionage," because she believes that close surveillance is what her charges need to prevent their ruin. Even though Lucy is critical of this belief and of Madame Beck's constant spying, it is clear she holds this character in great esteem. Note her concluding comments about her:

I say again, Madame was a very great and a very capable woman. That school offered her for her powers too limited a sphere; she ought to have swayed a nation: she should have been the leader of a turbulent legislative assembly. Nobody could have browbeaten her, none irritated her nerves, exhausted her patience, or over-reached her astuteness. In her own single person, she could have comprised the duties of a first minister and a superintendent of police. Wise, fir, faithfless; secret, crafty, passionless; watchful and inscrutable; actue and insensate--withal perfectly decorous--what more could be desired?

So, in spite of the rather close scrutiny that she keeps the women that stay with her under, Lucy Snowe is able to look beyond this characteristic to see the depth of character beneath and to see her as being a very strong woman capable of many things.

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