Trivia Quiz for “Villette” by Charlotte Brontë

Trivia Quiz for Villette by Charlotte Brontë (1853)

For West Seattle “Classic Novels (and Movies)” book club, 1/17/21

A. Villette and satire

1. In the voice of her narrator Lucy Snowe, author Charlotte Brontë expresses an “English” opinion on Continental manners and beliefs. Which of the following are criticized in the novel?

a. Catholicism: the dogma and practices                   

b. French clothing styles        

c. The landscape of Belgium (Labassecour)  

d. The physique of Belgians  

e. all of the above

2. For the modern reader, some of the satire seems accidental. Consider the narrator’s claim that “M. Emmanuel was away three years. Reader, they were the three happiest years of my life.” What does she mean by that?

a. she finds happiness without a man            

b. she loves managing a business

c. solitude turns out to be bliss          

d. all of the above

B. The Character of Lucy Snowe

3. Which of the following portraits of the youthful narrator are not found in Villette?

a. “With my usual base habit of cowardice, I shrunk into my sloth, like a snail into its shell.”

b. “Joyful and full of hope, I looked to each day as an exciting adventure.”

c. “Loverless and inexpectant of love, I was as safe from spies in my heart-poverty, as the beggar from thieves”

d. “A keen relish for dramatic expression had revealed itself as part of my nature; to cherish and exercise this new-found faculty might gift me with a world of delight, but it would not do.”

4. True or False:  The narration includes long descriptions of the heroine’s uncertainties and anxieties, because she is supposed to be writing the words as the action transpires.

True  / False

C. The School

5. The school run by Madame Beck is described in ambiguous ways. Which of the following comments are not in Villette?

a. “It is true that madame had her own system for managing and regulating this mass of machinery; and a very pretty system it was.  … ‘Surveillance’ and ‘espionage’—these were her watchwords.”

b. “Here was a great houseful of healthy, lively girls, gaining knowledge by a marvelously easy method, without painful exertion or useless waste of spirits; not, perhaps, making very rapid progress in anything; taking it easy, but still always employed, and never oppressed.”

c. “Disappointment and Poverty awaited all those who remained unwed at age 17; they were cast out to an unknown fate and Madame Beck forbade mentioning their names ever after.”

d. “Not a soul in Madame Beck’s house, from the scullion to the directress herself, but was above being ashamed of a lie; they thought nothing of it.”

6. The relationship between Lucy Snowe and M. Paul Emmanuel strikes modern readers as offensive. Which of the following quotes does not describe him or his actions?

a. “He used to warn me not to study too much, lest ‘the blood should all go to my head’”

b. “He said that, of all the women he knew, I was the one who could make herself the most consummately unpleasant”

c. “his absolutism verged on tyranny”

d. He tells Lucy Snowe: “Limited are your powers, for in tending one idiot, you fell sick.”

D. Style: Classical allusions and flourishes

7. The style of Villette may appear old-fashioned to us because of the author’s reliance on maxims.  Which of the following maxims is not found in this book?

a. “To change the world, we women need first to change ourselves—and then we need to change the stories we tell about who we are.”

b. “There is nothing like taking all you do at a moderate estimate: it keeps mind and body tranquil; whereas grandiloquent notions are apt to hurry both into fever.”

c. “By whomsoever majesty is beheld for the first time, there will always be experienced a vague surprise bordering on disappointment.”

d. “To a feather-brained school girl, nothing is sacred.”

8. Gothic conventions also run through Villette, notably the sad nun who haunts the school and its grounds. What quotes do not describe the tragic ghost?

a.  the ghost was a mirror image of the heroine, “a soon-depressed, easily deranged temperament” that is, a figment of Lucy Snowe’s imagination.

b. “The legend went … that this was the portal of a vault … the bones of a girl whom a monkish conclave of the drear middle ages had here buried alive, for some sin against her vow.”

c. “M. le comte de Hamal was the nun of the attic”

E. Gender roles

9. Villette includes views on women’s behavior that may seem strange to modern readers. Which of the following is considered “dangerous” for a young, single woman?

a. gazing on paintings at an art museum

b. serving as untrained companion to a severely mentally disabled person, with no support


1. e.

2. d.

3. b.

4. False

5. c.

6. c.

7. a.

8. a.

9. a.


a twist on Audre Lorde’s fatalism

Audre Lorde once challenged us, saying: “The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, in an essay that stands alone in the annals of feminist thought. It’s the ultimate conundrum, the inflexible status quo: our master patriarchy and its soul-mate capitalism. Their attitudes, expectations, their demands persist. Yet we try.

Lord knows I tried, during my stints in the ND administration. And now I’ve moved on, leaving the next generation of generous women to see what they can do.

Now I’m communicating in a different medium, of fabric instead of faculty meetings. Now I tell my views in the abstract, universal languages of color, shape, and texture, to convey wisdom, build community and share love. Now I use the tools of the mistress.

Yet the tensions live on.

Looking at “Respect” quilt no. 5 this morning in the frosty light, I see a visual response to Audre Lorde. The black arabesque lines of the black-and-white trim (formerly a duvet cover) now appear like wrought-iron filigree, the bars of a black gate, a baroque barricade. These vertical lines of fabric (inspired by the quiltmakers of Gee’s Bend), which are broken by the vibrant squares, reveal my interpretation of “Respect”.

They tell of strong women embracing life. Powerful metaphors–of grinning skulls, dancing feet, peace symbols, girls jumping rope, horses running, clouds, whirlwinds–are unleashed and draw in the eye, capturing the gaze in dream-like intensity. This story is bursting through the wrought-iron gates. And it will persist; it’s well sewn.

Happy hopeful holidays to all!

*Audre Lorde (1934-1992) was a self-described “Black, lesbian, mother, warrior, poet,” who dedicated both her life and her creative talent to confronting and addressing injustices of racism, sexism, classism, heterosexism, and homophobia. The Master’s Tools Will Never Dismantle the Master’s House, a book of feminist essays, was published in 1979.

I came to love her feisty spirit in graduate school in the 1980s, inspired by the radical work I was learning about in Women’s Studies (estab. 1982), with strong, witty professors such as Christine Stansell, Natalie Zemon Davis, Joan DeJean, Kay Warren, and Sandra Gilbert. And that quote, that concept, that challenge, has stayed with me ever since, like a nagging reminder of the work to be done and a depressing reminder of how fragile progress is, how ubiquitous the forces of “order.”

P.S. “Respect” quilt no. 5 is destined to another person who inspires us: renowned artist, quilt-maker and writer Faith Ringgold. More on that to come! I’m hoping to be able to wish her a Merry Christmas and Happy Quilt Day on 12/25… gotta get back to work!


“Respect” quilt no. 2 is here!

Like a proud momma, I’m pleased to show you my new baby, “Respect” quilt no. 2. It’s already sold, but orders are now being taken for nos. 3 & beyond, at the “Election special” rate of only $500 for this unique coverlet or wall-hanging (54″ x 78″) made of designer and African fabrics, cottons and flannel, from Black-owned businesses coast-to-coast. Don’t delay, only 2 more weeks until Election Day… and the end of our special offer.

Just contact Honey Girl B & G! (We specialize in cozy).

art Canadian literature children creativity quilts

quilts: another satisfied client! (and Alias Grace is amazing)

Could’t resist this adorable shot of a new client with her quilt, from Honey Girl Books and Gifts LLC!

Olivia with her quilt June 2019.jpg

If you like quilts, you’ll love the new mini-series we just discovered last night on Netflix: Alias Grace. Based on the 1996 novel by Margaret Atwood, it begins in the 1850s with the testimonial of a beautiful, poised young inmate in a Canadian prison who tells her life story to a kindly doctor. In a wonderful sequence, she and her fellow housemaids make beds in a manorial estate, heaving colorful and original quilts, one after another,  high into the air before smoothing them down in a series of magnificent bedrooms. Every girl needs three quilts in her life, they explain. It’s her power: present in something as innocuous as a wedding quilt, which Grace likens to a battle flag.