Lucy Stowe’s Journey When Lucy Stowe boards a ship to travel to Villette, she is asked Are you fond of a sea-voyage by (the yet to be known) Ms. Fanshaw. Since this was Lucy’s first trip abroad, she answers that her fondness is yet to be experienced. Nonetheless, Lucy’s partiality for the sea is evident throughout the novel. She illustrates her past with a myriad of nautical metaphors and imageries of water that suggests a spiritual connection to the sea. This connection appears to derive from water being the main form of traveling during the 19th Century; and travel through life’s experiences is what we do.
Life is heeded as a journey, so Lucy therefore, is a vessel that endures the tumultuous waters of life’s social stigmas and the stresses of familial relationships, or the calm waters of life’s pleasures. Lucy uses the metaphor of sea travel to demonstrate her familial relationship with Mrs. Bretton; as comparison between a traditional matriarch, and a modern independent lady. She says, The difference between her and me might be figured by that between the stately ship, cruising safe of smooth seas, with it’s full complement of crew, a captain gay and brave. She refers to Ms. Bretton’s allegorically as a person of means. She has a full crew that supports her needs and a captain to guide her; respectfully these terms could allude to the acceptance and support within the social or familial structure as a widow of a wealthy, respected man.
The captain could be an allusion to her son, who even in the adverse circumstances after the loss of their fortune still had him to support her comfortably enough. Lucy goes further to say, the Luisa Bretton never was out of harbor on such a night; her crew could not conceive it. This further signifies that as one ship relates to another, Mrs. Bretton was a woman supported by her social and familial status, and real hardship is unknown to her. Lucy, otherwise, knows the misfortune from which Mrs. Bretton had protection. She symbolizes her own person as a rugged lifeboat thus she lacks a crew and a captain.
If the world was a vast sea and life was a sea journey, this symbolism would capture all that Lucy Stowe is within it: a small, agile, neglected, solitary individual with a hardened exterior, a brave spirit, as self-sufficient will and a buoyant heart. Lucy is essentially a survivor of life’s adventures. Although she is a tough lifeboat in one allegorical reference, in a form of a dream, Lucy becomes an inhabitant of the sea, perhaps the mermaid that she envisions in the mirror’s reflection. She describes her surroundings as somehow like a cave in a sea. The cave beneath miles of water serves as a sanctuary from the storm above, much like the room within the home of Dr. John where she recovers from her near death illness.
It is the shelter provided by a benefactor, the same advantage that Mrs. Bretton has always known. However, Lucy Stowe was never meant to live the fashion normally provided to women and girls of that time. She, as she describes, I somehow must have fallen over-board and the crew as her destined benefactors perished in the storm. Whether Lucy takes the form of a passenger, a mermaid or the sea vessel itself, she portrays all of her senses and her life experiences with symbols and metaphors relating to the sea.
Mrs. Bretton is referred to as a vessel that Lucy passes through her own life journey. The same holds true for Ms. Beck when she says that she moves like a ship dreading breakers (407). The sea and its uncertain placidness or volatility is analogous to Lucy’s view of the world.
She is either safe from the fiercest breakers in the home of Dr. John, or is exposed to the uncertain, stormy dangers of independence which brings briny waves in her throat, or her romantic contentedness is a sea breaking into song with all its waves.