Vonnegut’s Approach to Bronte’s Villette

Firstly, a warning: there will be some major spoilers. Charlotte Bronte’s Villette is an amazing novel, and I fully recommend reading it, especially if you’re a fan of Jane Eyre. There will be spoilers for the novel in the explanation of this graph, though, so just be prepared.


This is a graph for Charlotte Bronte’s Villette. You might notice that the story begins fairly low on the Good-Ill line, before it is suddenly interrupted by a completely different and more positive graph. The story begins with the protagonist, Lucy Snowe, giving us some vague but, to our understanding, tragic background that led her to live with her godmother. Almost immediately, though, she shoves the attention off herself and gives us several chapters on a character named Polly, who seems pretty happy in comparison. I interpret the graph as being interrupted because Lucy’s name is almost never mentioned in this section.

When we return to Lucy, she is leaving her godmother to find employment. She finds it with an elderly woman, begins to feel content, and then is thrust into unemployment after her employer dies. Throughout the rest of the story, though, she slowly gets “happier” (or as happy as Lucy Snowe can get, considering how apathetic and depressed she tends to act). She begins to show more emotion and, by the almost-end of the novel, she is actually happy.

And then the man she falls in love with, who is sent out of the country for three years with the promise to return eventually, dies. And so the graph goes:


Unless you’re Charlotte Bronte or imagine the ending in a different way, in which case the graph goes:


The ending of Villette is purposely vague. Bronte suggests in an outside interview that Lucy is happier after her husband dies, even though we as readers imagine losing your husband to be the most heartbreaking and depressing thing that could happen to Lucy. Really, it depends on how you look at it, how you interpret Lucy Snowe and her vague references to herself and her life.


As for a digital story, which may emulate this line as the “conclusion” is vague or currently unknown, I would have to pick Allie Brosh’s blog/book Hyperbole and a Half. While this isn’t a new story (in fact, it’s been two years since it was updated), I still consider it one of the best forms of digital storytelling I’ve come across in my life. Brosh uses a mixture of comedic written description and digitally-created pictures to create little memoirs about her life.

Many of them are hilarious, and have mad me laugh just remembering the first time I ever read them. But there was a long hiatus, and when Brosh began posting again, it was about depression. Most people could consider this a drop in the Vonnegut graph, but, like Villette, it’s kind of vague. It’s a good thing that she was able to post an admittedly funny blog entry on what she was going through, even if the subject matter was upsetting. Still, the fact that she had to experience it at all is negative.

The reason I would describe Brosh’s blog and entries as a digital story is that….it’s probably a pretty clear example of what digital storytelling is, and what we in this class are working on creating. True, maybe it’s strange to call a non-fiction story just a “story”, but they are still stories, so I believe it suits the title perfectly well. She also doesn’t just use text as a form of storytelling, but also pictures, maybe pretty much all her entries multimedia in nature.

3 thoughts on “Vonnegut’s Approach to Bronte’s Villette

  1. I love Charlotte Bronte, so I have to say you picked an awesome story to talk about!! I also really like how you took Vonnegut’s own graph and re-purposed it to go along with the story you were describing, it made everything really clear. What I liked the most, though, was how you talked about the lines of the graph for each character instead of focusing on the story as a whole. It shows just how complex stories really are but still conforms to the approach talked about in the video.

  2. Hey there!
    I have never read any of Bronte’s books (shame on me) but I have seen various film remakes of Jane Eyre. Villette definitely seems pretty somber, I am wondering if that’s just Bronte’s style. Your graphs are very handy and I like that you drew two of them for the ending because the reader doesn’t really know whether the death of the husband is good or bad. I think Vonnegut would agree that this story has a pretty clear shape overall.

    I am so glad I clicked on that link for Allie Brosh’s blog. I assume the drawings are her own and they are a hilarious way to tell a digital story. I just read the one called “Dog” and laughed the whole way through. My laughter may have had something to do with my own dog, who is extremely intelligent in some regards, but completely fails in others.


    1. I fully recommend her books, although yeah, they are pretty depressing sometimes. I believe both Jane Eyre and Villette have some heavy influences from her personal life, so they’re an interesting read in that regard. And, always happy to spread the hilarity of Allie Brosh’s blog!

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