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