Chapter six marks the beginning of an internal change for the narrator. She has awakened in this chapter. She has for the first time learned who she is and is beginning to accept the possibility that she didn’t know herself at all.
“The next day was the first of March, and when I awoke, rose, and opened my curtain, I saw the risen sun struggling through the fog. Above my head, able the house-tops, co-elevate almost with the clouds, I saw a solemn, orbed mass, dark-blue-dim—THE DOME. While I looked, my inner self moved; my spirit shook its always-fettered wings half loose; I had a sudden feeling as if I, who had never yet truly lived, were at last about to taste life: in that morning my soul grew as fast as Jonah’s gourd.”
The narrator is refreshed, ready for adventure and a new life. This scene is reminiscent to The Awakening by Kate Chopin. In that novel, the narrator also finds herself through an adventure away from home. The narrator in Villette finds it necessary to establish herself immediately by telling the old gentleman that her uncles had once visited. The narrator does this in order the raise her status in the old man’s eyes. “Having intimated my connection, my position in his eyes was henceforth clear, and on a right footing.” (55). The narrator continues to give us insight about her expectations of London. At the time, London had a reputation for being a dirty city, and somewhat rough. However, the narrator, too much ready for an adventure is very careful to point out that she was pleased with her surroundings.
“The street on which my little sitting-room window looked was narrow, perfectly quiet, and not dirty: the few passengers were just such as one sees in provincial towns: here was nothing formidable; I felt sure I might venture out alone.” (56).
She is thrilled by the excitement of being in the city. She prefers the rush of the business people, hollering on the street and the sights and smells associated with pure action than the quiet pleasure of the park or more sedate sight-seeing. She wants to be in the throes of the action, in the middle of it and hypnotized by it. Perhaps, even lost in it.
“I have seen the West-end, the parks, the fine squares; but I love the city far better. The city seems so much in earnest: its business, its rush, its roar, are such serious things, sights and sounds.” (57).
The narrator chooses to live life to it’s fullest. She is a succulent woman, here. She is one who wants to take life head on, throw up her hat and twirl in the streets. She is leaving where she goes and whom she meets to chance. She is behaving with a new sense of freedom. And that’s what it takes for her to feel as if she is a part of the throbbing heartbeat of the city.
“Descending, I went wandering whither chance might lead, in a still ecstasy of freedom and enjoyment; and I got—I know hot how—I got into the heart of city life.”
She is held back only by her physical and mere mortalness. She is hungry. Yet, even then, she eats more than she had in weeks. And she eats with heartiness because the dishes are “better than the small, dainty messes Miss Marchmont’s cook used to send up to my kind, dead mistress and me, and to the discussion of which we could not bring half an appetite between us” (57).
The narrator is daring, perhaps more so than she has ever been. And her reason is simple; she doesn’t have anything to lose. She had no family back home to weep for her. She had no one to fail. She had no burdens of trying to fit someone else’s mold of how she should behave or react. She was her own woman; she realized this in Chapter Six. Although this passage could be interpreted to mean that the narrator is absolutely alone, one has a sense of completeness in her. She doesn’t feel any grief in her solitary state. She is too excited about the future. She sees the upside of her challenge. The fact that she has no one to fail except herself. She has no obligations to please anyone. She is her own woman. She works for herself and her own well being now. There is no one else to answer to.
“If I failed in what I now designed to undertake, who, save myself, would suffer? If I died far away from—home, I was going say, but I had no home—from England, then who would weep?” (57).
The only crisis and sense of her isolation came when unloading her trunk. The coachman drove off, and the watermen struggled with her bags. The unthinkable occurred when someone touched her. She travels on a pitch-black waterway that reminds her of the river Styx that takes the dead to Shades or Hell. The wind becomes chilly, ominous. She asks her an honest question, and she answers no. She isn’t afraid.
She also sees the bright side of a bad situation. She is asked for six shillings for her passage and the weatherman refuses to let her off the boat until she pays. However, there is no contest. She decides to pay the fair, saying that it is worth the experience.
“…I paid the money, three times that afternoon I had given crowns where I should have given shillings; but I consoled myself with the reflection, “It’s the price of experience.”
She also wins a small victory, stands her ground against a beautiful but selfish cabin mate who thinks it odd that she should board the ship late at night. I suppose that she figured that she would have the accommodations to herself. The narrator swiftly lets her know that she isn’t leaving. She is there to stay. After the stress of her trip, she is ready to relax. “Harassed, exhausted, I lay in a halftrance.” (60).
The narrator observes the Watson. She gives a lively account of this party and in particular, the young bride whom, she thought, should be in tears at the prospect of marrying and old, greasy and broad man.
“Her laughter, I reflected, must be the mere frenzy of despair” (61). When the girl comes up to her, she can’t help but wonder how a lively and beautiful young girl would be so giddy to marry an man who is “like an oil-barrel.”
She stands up to herself to the French girl who thinks that it is a shame to be poor. Her parents have arranged her marriage and she thinks this is perfectly fine. The narrator comes face to face with her opposite. The narrator feels sorry when her voyage is over. At this point in the story, she realizes that her time for rest has past and her true toil begins.
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