Here is what Gilbert and Gubar have to say about Villette:
Villette is in many ways Charlotte Bronte's most overtly and despairingly feminist novel. ... Jane Eyre, though rebelliously feminist in its implications, used a sort of fairy tale structure to enable the novelist to conceal even from herself her deepening pessimism about woman's place in man's society. But Lucy Snow, Villete's protagonist narrator, older and wiser than any of Bronte's other heroines, is from first to last a woman without--outside society, without parents or friends, without physical or mental attractions, without money or confidence or health--and her story is perhaps the most moving and terrifying account of female deprivation ever written.
But what reminded me that I needed to write this post was reading this entry over at Powell's blog:
Even Virginia Woolf considered Villette to be greater than Jane Eyre and it is easy to see why. ... Here Bronte was able to hone and perfect her technique within the framework of an adult fairy tale with a cast of highly complex characters. Villette is Bronte's darkest, most complex novel and its heroine, Lucy Snow, is the anti-Jane.
Funny that they would cast both novels as fairy tales. The non-Disneyfied fairy tales of once upon a time were, of course, very tragic and disturbing (Der Struwwelpeter, anyone? Bluebeard!?) So this classification kind of fits the bill. Fairy tales and gothic lit intertwine in really interesting ways. They both use the fantastical, surreal, and sublime as metaphors for real life situations. (Then again, I guess they've been doing that since the dawn of writing. The first poets and storytellers were totally sci-fi and fantasy writers, amirite?)
So here are some more lovely quotes from Villette that, despite all my talk of doom and gloom, aren't so depressing. I promise.
How seem in the eyes of the God who made all firmaments, from whose nostrils issued whatever of life is here, or in the stars shining yonder--how seem the differences of man? But as Time is not for God, nor Space, so neither is Measure, nor Comparison. We abase ourselves in our littleness, and we do right; yet it may be that the constancy of one heart, the truth and faith of one mind according to the light He has appointed, import as much to Him as the just motion of satellites about their planets, of planets about their suns, of suns around that mighty unseen centre incomprehensible, irrealizeable, with strange mental effort only divided.
How could you read that and not instantly fall in love with Charlotte Bronte? I've had a crush on this dead woman since sixth grade.
Whatever my powers--feminine or to the contrary--God had given them, and I felt resolute to be ashamed of no faculty of his bestowal.
It is right to look our life accounts bravely in the face now and then, and settle them honestly. And he is a poor self-swindler who lies to himself while he reckons the items, and sets down under the head--happiness that which is misery. Call anguish--anguish, and despair--despair; write both down in strong characters with a resolute pen: you will the better pay your debt to Doom. Falsify: insert "privilege:" where you should have written "pain:" and see if your mighty creditor will allow the fraud to pass, or accept the coin with which you would cheat him. Offer to the strongest--if the darkest angel of God's host--water, when he was aked for blood--will he take it? Not a whole pale sea for one red drop.
Okay, well that's a little depressing.
I always, through my whole life; liked to penetrate to the real truth; I like seeking the goddess in her temple, and handling the veil, and daring the dread glance. O' Titaness among deities! the covered outline of thine aspect sickens often through its uncertainty, but define to us one trait, show us one lineament, clear in awful sincerity; we may gasp in untold terror, but with that gasp we drink in a breath of thy divinity; our heart shakes, and its currents sway like river lifted by earthquake, but we have swallowed strength. To see and know the worst is to take from Fear her main advantage.
Which is what I keep trying to tell my 4-year-old niece, in regards to spiders. Face your fear...and you'll find out they're just small, fuzzy trapeze artists.