Novels Barchester Tower Great Expectations and Villette Essay

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Barchester Tower, Great Expectations, And Villette

Great Expectations is a coming of age novel. This novel is a story of Pip and his initial dreams and resulting disappointments that eventually lead him to becoming a genuinely good man. During his journey into adulthood, Pip comes to realize two diverse concepts of being a gentleman and he comes to find the real gentlemen in his life aren't the people he had thought. Dickens wants us to see the novel as a life's journey, laid out in three chronological episodes of almost precisely equal text length. The first takes us through Pip's childhood and early youth to the moment when he leaves to discover where his newly announced "expectations" will bring him. The second shows the working out of these "expectations" to the moment of their shattering by the arrival of Magwitch. The last leads Pip and Magwitch through struggle and catastrophe and so to death in Magwitch's case and near-death in Pip's. "Expectations" are demolished, and past and future are at last annealed in a sober, responsible present.

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Charlotte Bronte's Villette depicts Lucy Snowe, the narrator of the novel, who flees from an unhappy past in England to begin a new life as a teacher at a French boarding school in the great cosmopolitan capital of Villette. Soon Lucy's struggle for independence is overshadowed by both her friendship with a worldly English doctor and her feelings for an autocratic schoolmaster. Bronte's strikingly modern heroine must decide if there is any man in her society with whom she can live and still be free. Thesis: Both novels tackle the dichotomy between chance and fate, how the protagonists -- namely Pip and Lucy -- build their lives around these two themes. In the case of Dickens' novel, this opposition is manifested through most of the characters and is inextricably linked to the idea of success and what it entails for Pip. Bronte's perspective is rather different. Throughout the novel, coincidence drives much of the plot, such as the serendipitous and unforeseen reunion of Lucy, Dr. John, and Mrs. Bretton in Villette all at the same moment, but Bronte handles the coincidence skillfully, so the reader has little difficulty believing it.

Essay on Novels Barchester Tower Great Expectations and Villette Assignment

The theme of 'chance' is inextricably linked to Pip's character. His expectations are illusory ones because Pip disregards the intermission of destiny. Moreover, virtually every other character in the story experiences disappointment at one time or another. The first in point of time is Miss Havisham, devastated in her joyful expectation as she dresses for her wedding. This blow and the crushing of Magwitch's hope for freedom, engender all that follows. Then we have to consider Joe Gargery's expectation of "what larks" with Pip as he grows to manhood; Mrs. Joe's hopes for benefit from Pip's connection with Miss Havisham; Pumblechook's fatuous confidence that his patronage of the now fortunate Pip will be rewarded; Wopsle's equally unrealistic belief in his future as an actor; Biddy's hopes for lifelong partnership with Pip; Herbert Pocket's parents' mutual disappointments; Miss Havisham's looking forward to an old age warmed by a grateful daughter; Magwitch's fond notion that Pip can be his "gentleman" and that he can see him at it; Compeyson's plans to turn Magwitch in, gain a revenge, and collect a reward; Herbert Pocket's naive belief, with his "wonderfully hopeful" general air, in the efficacy of "looking about me"; Bentley Drummle's baronetcy dream knocked in the head by a horse; Orlick's murderous plans frustrated; and, in a light-hearted, satisfying moment, the listing of Miss Havisham's legacies to her fawning relatives.

As a character, Pip's two most important traits are his immature, romantic idealism and his innately good conscience. On the one hand, Pip has a deep desire to improve himself and attain any possible advancement, whether educational, moral, or social. His longing to marry Estella and join the upper classes stems from the same idealistic desire as his longing to learn to read and his fear of being punished for bad behavior: once he understands ideas like poverty, ignorance, and immorality, Pip does not want to be poor, ignorant, or immoral. Pip the narrator judges his own past actions extremely harshly, rarely giving himself credit for good deeds but angrily castigating himself for bad ones. As a character, however, Pip's idealism often leads him to perceive the world rather narrowly, and his tendency to oversimplify situations based on superficial values leads him to behave badly toward the people who care about him.

Villette analyzes affective estrangement, and provides a profound artistic investigation of the unconscious conditions, habits, logic, and tendencies of a radical and intolerable predicament of lovelessness. Bronte writes: "My mistress being dead, and I once more alone, I had to look out for a new place. About this time I might be a little -- a very little, shaken in nerves. I grant I was not looking well, but on the contrary, thin, haggard, and hollow-eyed; like a sitter-up at night, like an over-wrought servant, or a placeless person in debt." (Bronte 103). This passage announces many of the subsidiary themes of what follows in the novel: the sense of life lived in isolation, transit, and subjection, without adequate social, spiritual, or material resources, the suffering of a nervous derangement that signals to the buried grief of the psyche and divides consciousness from its surroundings, the use of alter egos to express the obsessive misery of alienation on which the text repeatedly insists ("like a sitter-up at night, like an over-wrought servant").

However, what is perhaps most striking about the construction of the novel is its narrative and scenic organization which allows Villette to retain an essential relation to the present moment as an indefinite, unsettled, and uncertain interval. This is dramatically and obviously so, for instance, with the unnamed Lucy on the novel's first page, whom we come across in her godmother's house, but whose family history and circumstances are never made explicit. Although questions about Lucy's kinsfolk, their place of "permanent residence," and their ominous difficulties continue to reverberate in the text, the narrator implacably obscures our lines of inquiry: "In the autumn of the year -- I was staying at Bretton; my godmother having come in person to claim me of the kinsfolk with whom was at that time fixed my permanent residence. I believe she then plainly saw events coming, whose very shadow I scarce guessed; yet of which the faint suspicion sufficed to impart unsettled sadness, and made me glad to change scene and society" (Bronte 62).

The ending of the novel, which combines the strongest intimations of disaster with the weakest provocations of hope, defines in a similar way the state of suspense in which Lucy oscillates between coexisting and contradictory orientations that she is powerless to escape, synthesize, or simplify. Elsewhere, Lucy describes this experience as an intolerable oscillation between what she calls the "stone" of "Fate" and the "idol of Hope" (Bronte 232). Persistently, she is caught in between an abeyant past context and an uncertain future, powerless to compose herself because events may correspond to her deepest wishes or may utterly confound them. Just as, at the beginning of the novel, the narrator shifts attention from her own circumstances onto Paulina and the Brettons, so also, with the closing words of the novel, we hear of the later life of the novel's most marginal characters in place of that of Lucy herself: "Here pause: pause at once. There is enough said. Trouble no quiet, kind heart; leave sunny imaginations hope. Let it be theirs to conceive the delight of joy born again fresh out of great terror, the rapture of rescue from peril, the wondrous reprieve from dread, the fruition of return. Let them picture union and a happy, succeeding life. Madame Beck prospered all… [END OF PREVIEW] . . . READ MORE

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