Characters Discussed (Cyclopedia of Literary Characters, Revised Third Edition)
Lucy Snowe, a quiet, intelligent, and hardworking young English girl whose grave demeanor covers a deeply passionate nature. Orphaned at an early age, she spends her childhood in the homes of distant relatives and with her godmother, Mrs. Bretton. Later, through a varied chain of circumstances, she goes to Villette, a city on the Continent, where she becomes a governess in the household of Madame Beck, the mistress of a boarding school for girls. Before long, Madame Beck gives her a post as a teacher of English in the school. Eventually, with the help of Monsieur Paul Emanuel, another teacher at the school, she secures a school of her own. At the end of the novel, she anticipates marrying M. Paul.
Dr. John Graham Bretton
Dr. John Graham Bretton, called Dr. John, the son of Lucy’s godmother, now living in Villette. He is the kindhearted, handsome young physician who attends Madame Beck’s children. Lucy had known him earlier in her life as a mischievous boy who had little time for girls. His recognition of Lucy comes when he is summoned to revive her after she has fainted while leaving a church. For a time, romance seems about to flower between Lucy and Dr. John, but when Paulina de Bassompierre once more appears in the lives of the Brettons, Dr. John’s heart goes to her. At the end of the novel, Pauline and Dr. John marry.
Mrs. Bretton, John’s mother and...
(The entire section is 1326 words.)
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Naturally, Lucy Snowe is the most significant (and, in some ways, puzzling character, with her mixture of stoic endurance and fearful imaginings) personage in the book. There is little quarrel with the view that Bronte labored hard (and under unhappy conditions: Her two surviving sisters, and fellow authors, Emily and Anne, had just died, and Charlotte was suffering poor health, depression, and a fear of losing her sight—a terror perhaps brought on by her father's cataract surgery) to create a fully developed protagonist. With the exception of the very sketchy antecedent information about Lucy's family and childhood, there is plenty of material with which to form an image of this complex and unhappy young lady.
Some criticism has been applied to the characterization of Dr. John Graham Bretton, seeing him as a "flat" character. It is true that Dr. John has few dimensions and that he does not really change during the course of the action. He starts out as a pleasant, careless boy of sixteen and becomes an agreeable, honorable, but not profound grown man. His infatuation for the pretty but hollow Ginevra is evidence of his lack of substance, although he does finally marry a worthy person, the shy Paulina Home, who has loved him for a long time.
Perhaps the next most interesting female character after Lucy is not Paulina nor Ginevra nor even Mrs. Bretton (John's mother)—though these women are well-conceived characters and serve their plot...
(The entire section is 618 words.)