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Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Who are you, Miss Snowe

The light in which M. de Bassompierre evidently regarded "Miss Snowe," used to occasion me much inward edification. What contradictory attributes of character we sometimes find ascribed to us, according to the eye with which we are viewed! Madame Beck esteemed me learned and blue; Miss Fanshawe, caustic, ironic, and cynical; Mr. Home, a model teacher, the essence of the sedate and discreet: somewhat conventional, perhaps, too strict, limited, and scrupulous, but still the pink and pattern of governess-correctness; whilst another person, Professor Paul Emanuel, to wit, never lost an opportunity of intimating his opinion that mine was rather a fiery and rash nature--adventurous, indocile, and audacious. I smiled at them all. If any one knew me it was little Paulina Mary.  (Ch. 26)

Is there anyone in the novel that truly understands Lucy?  I would answer no, because there is so little that she shares with others.  Even the reader knows very little about her past, though there is an indication of a damaging storm she has had to endure.  Nevertheless, several characters make judgments and try to categorize her, as the quote above indicates.  Eventually, Ginevra asks her, "Who are you, Miss Snowe?," an inquiry to which Lucy responds only with a laugh.

For the people Lucy describes above, Lucy has come to exhibit facets of their personalities.  For example, to M. Paul, Lucy appears fiery and rash but he comes across the same way.  As mentioned earlier, Lucy lacks an identity not only to herself but also to others.  Therefore, since she has failed to define herself, other feel the need to define her in a way convenient for themselves.  Paulina (the former Polly, now Countess de Bassompierre) is the only person that has not tried to define Lucy and allows her to be herself, which is why Lucy says Polly knows her best.

In addition to those mentioned in the above quote, Dr. John also tries to define Lucy, who states, "He wanted always to give me a rôle not mine." (Ch. 27)  He mostly views her as a patient and a close companion but nothing more intimate, which explains the fact that he could go three months without speaking to Lucy and not realize it.  At one point he wishes Lucy were a boy so that they could be better friends, a prospect entirely distasteful to Lucy.

The above painting is The Governess (1854) Rebecca Solomon.

1 comment:

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