Lucy Snowe's (the name may be viewed as symbolic of the lack of warmth in her nature) problems have been "diagnosed" in various ways by expert readers— in fact, until depth psychology became established, Villette, while meeting with popular success, underwent severe criticism for its unrelieved grimness. Two of the most vocal denigrators were Bronte's contemporaries, Harriet Martineau (an erstwhile friend of Charlotte Bronte), who said the work was "too painful" to read; and the renowned critic, Matthew Arnold, who found it "hideous," "disagreeable," and "convulsed." Today, however, with the advantage of current psychological insights, a number of literary scholars judge the book as Bronte's finest work.
Whatever one's evaluation, there is no question about the profoundly realized image of a pessimistic, unhappy personality. One flaw that has been discovered in the text is the absence of any substantial explanation of how Lucy became so negative in her vision of the world, particularly in regard to personal relationships: "I disclaim, with the utmost scorn, every sneaking suspicion of what are called 'warmer feelings'; women do not entertain these 'warmer feelings' where, from the commencement, through the whole progress of an acquaintance, they have never been cheated of the conviction that to do so would be to commit a mortal absurdity."
The text almost bristles with such pejorative statements about human association (along with...
(The entire section is 1054 words.)
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