A Focus Upon Nature in Wuthering Heights
Perhaps one of the most prevalent themes in literature and creative written works in general is a focus upon nature and the natural world that surrounds us. It could be said that writers can easily draw inspiration from an aspect of our world that is so captivating, yet wildly unpredictable. In the rapidly advancing urban settings that dominated the Victorian era, it may have been easy to get lost in the hustle and bustle of daily life.
However, writers managed to find solace by writing works inspired by the environment surrounding them. Two Victorian era writers, poet William Wordsworth and author Emily Bronte, both express these thoughts in their works Ode: Intimations of Immortality, and Wuthering Heights, respectively. While Wordsworths poem and Heights differ dramatically in style, syntax, and format, they both make similar, explicit statements about the way nature influences the individual. Despite the harsh depiction of weather and nature in Wuthering Heights, weather and nature is ultimately what brings Heathcliff and Catherine together, similarly to how Wordsworth finds strength and solace within himself through his experiences in nature.
A common, strongly held theme in Wuthering Heights is the idea that nature and weather plays a largely negative role throughout the novel. While this is often true, there is a deeper connection that Heathcliff and Catherine find through their environment which connects them on a more profound level than other characters throughout the novel. Often overlooked is that fact that both characters were fond of the outdoors and have memorable experiences together at the moors. Much like Wordsworths Ode, they can find solace in their shared love of nature, despite growing jaded and hardened to a seemingly unforgiving world and the negativity surrounding them.
When analyzing Wuthering Heights through the lens of Wordsworth, it is important to get a feel for Wordsworths perception of nature. Victorian-era views of nature were largely positive and became a significant ideal of the society as a whole. Wordsworth was perhaps most well-known at this time for his nature-based poems which held flora and fauna nearly to the point of godliness. For Wordsworth, nature was an important part of the life of the Victorian individual and felt that it was good for the soul to spend time outdoors. For example, in his poem Ode: Intimations of Immortality, Wordsworth paints a picture of ameadow, grove, and stream, / The earth, and every common sight, / To me did seem / Apparlld in celestial light (Wordsworth 1-4). He even goes as far as to say that he feels his heart and soul are one with the nature that surrounds him when he describes his heart is at your festival (Wordsworth 149), the your referring to nature. Perhaps the most important portion from this poem is when Wordsworth describes his uneasiness for how he feels he has become too knowing and jaded by the world around him. Despite these feelings, he reflects on the memories he has held as a from when he was a young boy who was more excited and less hardened by the world. He describes his ability to reflect on these memories as a primal sympathy (Wordsworth 157). It is clear that nature is remarkably important to Wordsworth with the implication that he quite literally may not be able to live a happy life without it. These ideas presented by Wordsworth are central to Emily Brontes depiction of Heathcliff and Catherine. Despite the harsh environment they are forced to live in, and the way Wuthering Heights manipulates their character, they both are able to find their primal sympathy in their environments, primarily the moors.
Severe weather and an unforgiving environment, though not incredibly blatant, do prevail as major themes in Wuthering Heights that manipulate the characters into becoming who they are and make the decisions they choose to make. Weather and nature in literature can tend to be overlooked as a few sentences that establish setting. Bronte, however, chooses to let nature-related themes be one of the driving factors to the plot. The two houses in Wuthering Heights, chaotic & dreary Wuthering Heights and serene & affluent Thrushcross Grange, sit in between a harsh land referred to as the moors. The moors are described as the valley of Gimmerton, with a long line of mist winding nearly to its top (Bronte 74). There is a certain mystery and ambiguity surrounding the moors: a dark and lonely environment, far from any city life, with essentially no flora and fauna. This only compliments the strange, unexplained occurrences in the Wuthering Heights house. Thus far, the moors do not appear to be an environment that Wordsworth would speak so fondly of in a poem. However, the moors play a key role in establishing and developing the romantic relationship between characters Heathcliff and Catherine. Catherine and Heathcliff find themselves to be incredibly similar in character. Heathcliff has had a rough go at life ever since his less-than-perfect childhood; Catherine is prone to changing moods quickly and has a short fuse. The home they live in does not help their situations, as they are consistently affected by the negativity that is always within the house. In a different sense, they are also both deeply connected to nature and the moors. It is no coincidence that Catherine uses nature-related imagery to describe her love for Heathcliff; at one point, she confesses to Nelly that her love for Heathcliff is like the eternal rocks beneath (Bronte 64). Therefore, despite the harshness and mystery of the moors, they become a safe-haven for both characters to express their love for one another and truly release from the harsh realities of their respective worlds and roles, much like Wordsworth does in his escape. Bronte writes the characters from a very Wordsworth-ian perspective in having the characters still find the beauty in the nature they are presented with, despite it not being picture-perfect like Wordsworths.
The two houses and the moors are specifically located in the middle of nowhere because it represents the idea that they are a place where the characters can escape without the pressure from the worries and requirements that are forced upon them in everyday life. While Bronte describes the moors as being a rough and unforgiving place, there is also a mild sense of wonder in what lies within the moors and Catherine and Heathcliff have bonded over this wonder, which also explains why they feel themselves as being so close to one another. They may also feel a strong connection to the moors because they both played there together as children a theme strikingly similar to Wordsworths ability to rethink on memories of nature as a child in order to enjoy it in the present. As mentioned in the previous quote, Catherine perceives her love for Heathcliff as being as eternal as the rocks beneath her, meaning, like their shared love of the moors, their love will last forever.
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