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Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Dream of the Past

During the "long vacation" period in which students and teachers are permitted to leave the pensionnat for eight weeks, Lucy, having no family to visit, remains at the establishment, growing lonely with only a servant as a companion.  This is a harrowing situation for Lucy, who has shown that while she does not need much interaction, she does need to be around life, even if only for observational purposes.  Nevertheless, being alone, Lucy describes herself during this vacation as being "torn, racked, and oppressed in mind," (Ch. 15) in which state she visits a Catholic confessional.  Though her confession is never fully disclosed, Lucy tells the priest she had "a pressure of affliction on my mind," (Ch. 15) later expanding with the following:

I cannot put the case into words, but my days and nights were grown intolerable: a cruel sense of desolation pained my mind: a feeling that would make its way, rush out, or kill me--like (and this you will understand, Dr. John) the current which passes through the heart, and which, if aneurism or any other morbid cause obstructs its natural channels, seeks abnormal outlet. I wanted companionship, I wanted friendship, I wanted counsel. I could find none of these in closet or chamber, so I went and sought them in church and confessional. As to what I said, it was no confidence, no narrative. I have done nothing wrong: my life has not been active enough for any dark deed, either of romance or reality: all I poured out was a dreary, desperate complaint. (Ch. 17)

Lucy does not like being alone because it forces her to reflect on a past she would like to forget.  When others are around, she can thing about their lives and apects of their character, though such reflection causes her to appear to the reader judgmental.

Her collapse at the end of Part One is caused by her recollection of the past with the priest .  When she returns to consciousness at the beginning of Part Two, she is faced by objects of the past, though not from a haunting past but from a comforting past:

Where was I? Not only in what spot of the world, but in what year of our Lord? For all these objects were of past days, and of a distant country. Ten years ago I bade them good-by; since my fourteenth year they and I had never met. I gasped audibly, "Where am I?" (Ch. 16)

She has been carried to the Villette residence of the Brettons, and though the residence is in a different country, the comforting atmosphere has crossed the Channel as well, Lucy calling it a "living stream" (Ch. 16) in a "salubrious climate." (Ch. 17)  After a second day with the Brettons, Lucy comments:  "I felt happier, easier, more at home. That night--instead of crying myself asleep--I went down to dreamland by a pathway bordered with pleasant thoughts."  (Ch. 17)  This is a welcome contrast to the afflicting atmosphere of the vacant school.

The above painting is Dream of the Past (1857) by John Everett Millais.

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