Chapter 1: Bretton

What do we learn about the narrator's background and childhood in the opening sections? What important events or explanations seem to have been omitted?

Why do you think no mention is made of her schooling? (probably very little)

Why do you think some information is intentionally withheld?

Are Lucy and the narrator always identical, or do you discern slippages?

What do you make of the choice of the protagonist's name, "Lucy Snowe"?

What is the narrator’s attitude toward her godmother? Toward Polly Home?

Chapters 2 and 3: Paulina; The Playmates

How is the young Polly characterized? (very bright and firm-minded) Her relationship to her father and to Graham Bretton? (affectionate, clinging, assumes womanly roles, 25-26)

What do we learn about Lucy's character and self-image? (dislikes expressions of emotion, 11, 14, 22; respects others when they control these) 

About her attitude toward others, in particular Graham Bretton? Mrs. Bretton? Mrs. Marchmont? (chapter 4)

What do you think of her judgments of the character and manners of others? Are they fair? harsh? Would you describe her character as over-intense?

Does Lucy/ the narrator seem to evolve in these opening chapters? Which aspects of her character seem constant?

What are some features of Bronte's style? Use of imagery? Does she employ irony?

What do we learn from the scenes with Paulina Mary, Mrs. Bretton and her son? Are they fond of one another, and of Lucy?

How does Graham behave towards Lucy? (finds her boring and says so, 17) Toward Polly? (takes her devotion for granted, teases her, 17)

What advice does Lucy offer to Polly about moderating her expectations of response? (25-26, women should not expect to be loved by men as much as they love them)

Do you think this was appropriate advice to give to a young girl?

What role does Lucy tend to assume? (32, views others, a voyeur)

Under what circumstances does Lucy attempt to comfort Polly? Does this represent an emotional shift? (34)

Chapter 4: Miss Marchmont

What has happened to Lucy’s relationship with her godmother? What news does she give of Mrs. Bretton’s financial situation? (35, had lost money)

How does Lucy describe her own appearance? (36)

What characterizes the novel’s descriptions of natural forces, such as wind and storm? What seem to be the qualities of the wind which blows on the night of her death?

Can you see forms of foreshadowing in these early chapters?

What are some advantages the use of the first-person narrator brings to the novel? Are there disadvantages? Is this narrator completely reliable?

Why do you think Lucy's story is not given in chronological order?

What is notable about Miss Marchmont, and her death? What event had added grief to her past?

What may be the purpose of including this episode?

Chapters 5-8: Turning a New Leaf; London; Villette; Madame Beck

What is notable about Lucy Snowe's journey to London? Her trip to Brussells and arrival at the Pensionnat of Madame Beck?
What observations does Bronte seem to make on the class structure of England and Belgium? The circumstances of single women without family?
What importance do servants and officials have in the story? To what social class does Lucy belong, and how is this manifested in her responses?
What do we know about Lucy from her reactions to others during the journey? to the handsome stranger? to Ginevra?
Which aspects of Lucy's story may have been autobiographical? (Bronte attended a school in Belgium, and later became a teacher there.)
What attitudes does Bronte's narrator express toward religion? Toward English, French and Irish national character? Would these views have been common in her time?
What use does the novel make of the French language? Of French-inflected English?
What importance is placed on a character's ability to speak another language?
How is Madame Beck characterized? What is her most surprising trait? Does Lucy resent her surveillance? Which of Lucy's beliefs arouses most resistance in her?
What seem to be some of Bronte's views on the education of the young? What methods does Lucy use to subdue a large class? Do you think these were justified? Are some of the problems she faced still dealt with by teachers today?
What do we learn of the inner life of Lucy? (77) Of her response to challenges?
What does Lucy seem to believe about the behaviors proper to men and women respectively? (77)
How does the fact that Lucy enters a foreign country add interest to the plot?
What are ways in which Lucy's behavior reflects and violates Victorian norms for women? How is she able to negotiate these separate impulses?

Chapter 9, "Isidore"

What religious differences affect Lucy's adaptation to Labassecour?
What critical observations does Lucy make on the educational policies of Madame Beck's establishment? What, if anything, might be said in their defense?
How does Lucy judge her as a mother?
Are elements of humor embedded in the narration?
What do you make of Lucy's relationship to Ginevra? What is at issue in their discussion of clothes?
Does the portrait of Ginevra seem believable and consistent?
Why do you think Lucy pays such close attention to the behavior of someone of whom she disapproves? What seems the author's purpose in including the episode in which Lucy and Ginevra discuss the latter's acceptance of money from "Isidore"?

Chapter 10, "Dr. John"

According to Lucy, what motivates Madame Beck to engage Dr. John as the physician for her pupils?

Whom does Lucy recognize him to be? (98) Why doesn’t she admit to him her suspicions? (99) What seems significant about her long “staring” at him, and how does he respond? (female gaze)

Chapter 11, “The Portresse’s Cabinet”

What seems to be Dr. John’s motive for spending so much time at Madame Beck’s establishment?
What does Lucy hear in the “portresse’s cabinet”?
How has Madame Beck learned of Dr. John’s interest in another? What is her response, and how does Lucy judge this? Is Madame Beck’s problem a foreshadowing of her own?

Chapter 12, “The Casket”

What legend is associated with the garden behind the Rue Fossette?

What draws Lucy to the alley near the boy’s college? (secluded) What weather precedes the events of this chapter?

Why is Lucy attracted to the thunderstorm? What emotions render her restless? (110, desire for some outlet)

What are implications of the metaphor of Jael and Sisera? (surprisingly violent, embodies difficulties of repression)

What message is dropped down from the casket, and how does Lucy interpret it?

What are the comic aspects of the letter? (not intended for Lucy, insults her at length)

What apparently causes Dr. John’s entrance into the garden, and how does Lucy respond to him? (113, assumes he is looking for letter and hands it to him)

How could Dr. John have known of the letter’s existence, who had sent it, and to whom? Why does he wish Lucy not to reveal its existence to Madame Beck?

How does Dr. John react to the message in the casket? How do they both react to the entrance of Madame Beck into her own garden? (conspirators together; he escapes)

How does Lucy interpret Madame Beck’s friendly sentiments as she walks with Lucy in the garden that night?

How do you interpret Lucy’s great interest in Dr. John’s romantic involvements? Her desire to aid him in pursuing another? (frustrated attraction and vicarious attachment)

Chapter 13, “A Sneeze Out of Season”

What is Lucy’s reaction to tales of saints and martyrs? (repelled, finds them exaggerated)

What is Lucy’s reaction to finding Madame Beck in the act of examining her drawers? (feels sadness  that she has no secrets to discover, 119) Why doesn’t she indicate her presence? (ensuing quarrel would cost her her job)

What plan of Madame’s is foiled by her sneeze? (she was listening behind the door to Lucy’s conversation with Dr. John)

What had Dr. John begun to reveal to Lucy? (object of his attachment) Why is it important to the plot that she continue in ignorance?

What psychological effect is created by so much secrecy and spying? (curiosity, heightened tension and interest)

What had been Rosine’s role in all this? (123, had let Dr. John into garden)

What seems Lucy’s attitude toward Dr. John? (123, best man in Christendom)

What do Lucy and Dr. John observe during their time together? (a second letter drops)