Wuthering Heights & How to Read Literature Like a Professor
Books can be very confusing sometimes (especially a book written in the late 1840’s). It’s not deniable that a highschool student can get bored reading these sort of books (the oldies) because not only are most of them really hard to understand but they’re also very descriptive about things sometimes, which can be overwhelming. Well, apparently it’s not just the writer trying to waste ink, it’s actually there with a purpose. How To Read Literature Like A Professor does really well explaining how basically these details matter. It does it by enlightening the reader with other examples in literature. This helps the reader understand what more there is going on in ANY literature work. Making the reading more interesting and more relatable to the reader even if the book is over a century old. In the book Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte’s factors of her specific choice of how and what she decided to describe and write, is what makes her book be able to have intertextuality with How To Read Literature Like A Professor. Wuthering Heights uses the weather and geography to tell the main conflicts without directly addressing them, this confirms the textual analyzation from How To Read Literature Like A Professor in which weather and geography are described for a reason.
Very early on in Wuthering Heights, the reader finds a very lengthy description of Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights is not described very pretty like a beach house, it is actually described as dark, twisty and cold. In the beginning of the novel, Lockwood goes to take a visit to Wuthering Heights and is not very welcomed the first time, in fact Lockwood actually describes the feeling of the unwelcoming sentiment of ‘go to deuce’ (apparently is the oldies way of saying go to hell). But yet, decides to go back after having an unwelcoming experience. On his second visit he is not very welcome (again) and is faced with the conflict of the snowstorm, which ends up getting him stuck there, forcing him to spend the night there. This is very early on in the book and the story hasn’t really officially started but Bronte already gave the reader one of the main conflicts. In how to read literature like a professor, snow can mean as much as rain, there is many ways rain can be seen as, in this case rain/snow can be seen as an obstacle or barrier that prevents Lockwood from getting out of there, almost like pulling him towards Wuthering Heights. This foreshadows the inner conflict of how Mr. Heathcliff is basically trapped in that place. Mr. Heathcliff is never really over the love of his life; Cathy. Even when Mr. Heathcliff does go away for 3 years he ends up coming back, due to the inner conflict with himself. Bronte started this novel by having it start in a future time rather than the actual time of the story, she did this to foreshadow through the weather the future conflict.
There is only two main settings in the novel; Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. These two settings are very different but both have ties to them. Like said before, Wuthering Heights is dark, twisty and cold. In the other hand, Thrushcross is the exact opposite, for example, it is more welcoming than Wuthering Heights. The geography of both places is very different and Bronte takes the time to discuss the geography for a reason. Wuthering Heights is on top of a hill where it is exposed to really bad weather where even the limbs need to stretch out because they crave the sun. Meanwhile, Thrushcross Grange is described as very beautiful and upper class like and is set to be at the valley below the hill. In other words, Thrushcross Grange is not in the stormy weather like Wuthering Heights but rather in a beautiful valley. Bronte also lets the reader know that these places are exactly four miles apart, suggesting that there is not much distance between them. In How To Read Literature Like A Professor, there is a suggestion on how geography can frequently fit into the plot of the story. Bronte writes this information for a reason, she does this to give the reader the information of the conflict of social class and how these two places have relativity. The reader can analyze the difference of classes by the geography of these two places. The home of Edgar Linton is situated in a beautiful valley and a very peace like setting, this represents the upper class. The home of Mr. Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights, is in a hill with terrible weather conditions, that shows that even though now he has money, he is still seen in the lower social class and not in the upper class like the Thrushcross Grange (aka the Lintons), this is specially seen in the eyes of Cathy.
Wuthering Heights and How To Read Literature Like A Professor show how both, weather and geography are the intertextuality between the two books. Bronte does this by writing what may seem unnecessary descriptions but, in reality, she is informing the reader of the bigger conflicts in a different way that is not necessarily direct. The book How To Read Literature Like A Professor, helps the reader look for these conflicts that are not exactly very direct to find, the book does this by providing examples of other literature works with similar descriptions and walks the reader through the thought process in order to understand more about Wuthering Heights.
Plot Summary of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights is a story of two characters, Catherine and Heathcliff. It’s a complicated story of love and passion, with moments of revenge and the supernatural. It begins with a man named Lockwood who is in search of renting a home in Thrushcross Grange. He takes a visit to see his landlord, whose home is a perfect representation of Heathcliff. Not having his opinions swayed by what he sees he still goes through with renting the home.
Later on in the story in a harsh winter, Lockwood becomes ill, by time he asks the housekeeper Nelly to tell him about Heathcliff’s house and his strange behaviors. While she speaks, Lockwood keeps tab inside of his diary. Nelly started speaking about her childhood where she was a servant at the house. At the time, the Earnshaw family lived there, Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw as well as their children.
One day Mr. Earnshaw left and came back with a boy named Heathcliff. Though she hated him at first, Catherine and Heathcliff later became best of friends. Hindley is still very cruel to Heathcliff who is not bothered by it because he’s Mr. Earnshaw’s favorite. Mr. Earnshaw later sent Hindley away to college. Mr. Earnshaw died three years later and Hindley inherited Wuthering Heights. After the death of Mr. Earnshaw’s death Hindley’s anger begins to worsen over time. He comes back with a wife, Frances and proceeds to get revenge against Heathcliff. Once a privileged son, Heathcliff is now a common worker, forced to work in the fields. Though his relationship with Catherine is as strong as it can be. Women weren’t allowed to own any sort of property and this allowed Heathcliff to gain ownership of Thrushcross Grange when he married Isabella, also controlling it completely when he forced Cathy to marry Linton. There was also the mindset that women were helpless creatures who always needed protection. This was shown when Edgar prohibited Isabella to meet Heathcliff. He clearly thought he was protecting her, but he was really stealing her sense of speech and self-freedom.
The most important Gothic element of the novel is its setting. An old house set at the top a single hill, with no other houses around it. It has “grotesque carvings” and rough inhabitants. The inside was just as unwelcoming with rough designs, little light, and cold temperatures. The weather and elements around the house are similar. Strong wind and heavy storms were common. This is the complete opposite to Thrushcross Grange, which is described as “opulent”, “carpeted with crimson”, “beautiful”. The owners of the two houses are complete opposites too.
At the Heights, everyone is tougher while the owners of the Grange are softened and more civilized by luxury. It is a parallel that runs through the whole novel – the passionate Earnshaws versus the civilized Lintons. The Yorkshire moors that the novel is set in are also very Gothic. They are wild; almost with a life of their own and the role they play is crucial in the story. They are a metaphor for all that Catherine and Heathcliff represent; passion, violence and a love that transcends even death. She also hears him mumbling throughout the day speaking to someone who isn’t there. Because he is close to death he feels that her haunting spirit is as close as ever before. The next morning, Nelly was with Heathcliff for breakfast and he asked Nelly if they were alone, as his eyes fix on a person Nelly couldn’t see. He then looks outside the house, and becomes scared from what the ghost told him. Nelly saw nothing and tried again to get him to eat. He later starts addressing Catherine, and speaking to her as though she were alive and present. The closer Heathcliff grows to death, the more contact he seems to have with Catherine’s ghost. Heathcliff gives another clue of Catherine’s haunting when he tells Cathy that even if everyone else hated him, there was still one who would want his company, chasing him always. Nelly enters Heathcliff’s room, his eyes intense at her, and his lips smiling. But he’s dead, and the window to the moors is wide open. His face looks so happy that Nelly tries to close his eyes, but they will not. His expression of joy frozen for eternity.
In the last chapter, we have the final incident of supernatural. Many people believe Heathcliff is a ghost, and some claim to have met him along the moors, by the church, or in Wuthering Heights. Joseph also believes he has seen Heathcliff and Catherine looking out her window on nights. One day Nelly met a shepherd, who was only a young boy. He claimed to have seen Heathcliff and a woman, who would not let him pass on the road. Nelly tries not to believe, but still continues to not go out alone at nights.
A Character of Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights
The Impact of Heathcliff’s Abuse
Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is a peculiar character with outrageous actions and questionable decisions. One must ask themselves, if Heathcliff was destined to be this way because of his genetics, or if the way he was brought up led to this behavior. One obvious reason Heathcliff might be as cold as he is, is due to the abuse he suffered from Hindley as a child. This claim is supported by much research that has been done on the long term effects of child abuse. From analyzing the text, and the research behind the text, it is safe to argue that Heathcliff is the way he is due to the abuse, both physical and emotional, he suffered while growing up.
As Heathcliff grows up in the Earnshaw household he undergoes much physical abuse from Hindley. While Hindley abuses Heathcliff in many ways, one significant occurrence is when he makes Heathcliff a servant after Mr. Earnshaw dies, “He drove him from their company to the servants, deprived him of the instructions of the curate, and insisted that he should labour out of doors instead; compelling him to do so as hard as any other lad on the farm” (Bronte 59). Automatically, this puts Heathcliff in less than ideal physical situations and also creates emotional abuse as it automatically puts Heathcliff in a situation lower than all the other characters, making him more defensive. As more and more situations like this occur, Heathcliff becomes angrier and ultimately more like Hindley, the man he hates so much for abusing him (Carlisle 47-48). He even goes on to abuse the people in his life just like he was abused.
Hindley’s physical abuse is seen through Heathcliff’s increasing violence as the novel progresses. Lockwood notices Heathcliff’s violent tendencies almost immediately, “Heathcliff gradually fell back into the shelter of the bed as I spoke, finally sitting down almost concealed behind it. I guessed, however, by his irregular and intercepted breathing, that he struggled to vanquish an access to violent emotion” (Bronte 45). Even after he goes away and refines himself, Heathcliff has been molded by his abuse, “A half-civilized ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued; and his manner was even dignified: quite divested of roughness, though stern for grace” (Bronte 99). This hardness that has come from his abuse ends up being the only way he can be described. Even Catherine, whom he loves, sees his hardness as who he is as she explains him to Nelly, “Tell her what Heathcliff is: an unreclaimed creature, without refinement, without cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone” (Bronte 104). By everyone viewing him this way, it makes it near impossible for him to escape this label and become a better person.
For the most part, Heathcliff endures the physical abuse better than expected for a child in his circumstances. However, he lets all the anger and pain build up in him so much, that this physical abuse ends up being more of a form of emotional abuse, which of Heathcliff suffers greatly. Much of Heathcliff’s abuse may have stemmed from the fact that he was treated as an outsider since the minute he entered the Earnshaw home, much of which is racial (Lodine-Chaffey 208). “They entirely refused to have it in bed with them, or even in their room; and I had no more sense, so I put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping it might he gone on the morrow. By chance, or else attracted by hearing his voice, it crept to Mr. Earnshaw’s door, and there he found it on quitting his chamber. This was Heathcliff’s first introduction to the family” (Bronte 52). This emotional abuse leads to negative characteristics such as jealousy and vengeance (Carlisle 46). This jealousy and vengeance is also inherited from Hindley, his abuser. Hindley’s jealousy of Heathcliff comes from Mr. Earnshaw love for Heathcliff, which therefore leads to vengeance toward Heathcliff. When Hindley abuses Heathcliff out of jealously, he is involuntarily teaching Heathcliff that jealousy is an acceptable emotion, and that it is ok to act on that emotion in any way that is pleasing (Carlisle 46). This is seen in the novel as Catherine explains, “He has been blaming our father (how dared he?) for treating H. too liberally; and swears he will reduce him to his right place” (Bronte 40). His jealousy continues to make more problems as the story goes on, as it causes him to leave and abuse the others around him.
Besides jealousy and vengeance, Heathcliff lacks typical human nature as a product of his physical and emotional abuse. Joseph Carroll takes an evolutionary psychology stance on analyzing Heathcliff and observes, “In Heathcliff, human nature has been stunted and deformed. Apart from his passional bond with Catherine, his relations with other characters are almost exclusively antagonistic. The capacity for hatred is part of human nature, but so is positive sociality. No other character in the novel accepts antagonism as a legitimately predominating principle of social life” (245). Heathcliff’s unnatural development is seen even farther as he seems to have almost no love for his own son. This is very unnatural, as according to the theory of evolution, the whole purpose of life is to create offspring and take care of them until they go off on their own (Carroll 243). The only time Heathcliff seems to be natural and follow human nature is when he is with Catherine (Carroll 252). This is probably due to the similar problems that him and Catherine share, “Heathcliff is an orphan or an abandoned child. Catherine’s mother—like Emily Brontë’s own mother—dies when she is a child, and her father is emotionally estranged from her. Both children display a hypertrophic need for personal dominance, and their capacity for affectional bonding channels itself exclusively into their relation with one another. Neither Heathcliff nor Catherine ever becomes a socially and sexually healthy adult” (Carroll 252-253). These shared issues between Catherine and Heathcliff forms an unhealthy bond that leads to further abuse of Heathcliff emotionally.
As the story progresses, it becomes clear that the most effective emotional abuse Heathcliff suffers from is from his love, Catherine. While Heathcliff’s whole life revolves around Catherine, he instead is merely just a part of her life as she goes around doing whatever she wants. Nelly points this out to her when she is contemplating marrying Edgar, “Have you considered how you’ll bear the separation, and how he’ll bear to be quite deserted in the world” (Bronte 87)? Catherine emotionally abuses Heathcliff as she allows him to love her more than she will ever love him. While she does love Heathcliff, she sees him as below her, “I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now” (Bronte 86). One of the most interesting aspects of this particular abusive relationship is that Heathcliff is aware of it all along, “I want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally —infernally! Do you hear? And if you flatter yourself that I don’t perceive it, you are a fool; and if you think I can be consoled by sweet words, you are an idiot” (Bronte 112). However, even though he is angry at her, he always loves her and continues the abusive relationship although he knows what it’s doing to him.
Once Heathcliff loses everything he has been living for, it seems that the only way to escape the consequences of his abuse are to die. He is exhausted from the vengeful, painful, life he has lived and gives up his diabolical plans, “My old enemies have beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives: I could do it; and none could hinder me. But where is the use? I don’t care for striking. I can’t take the trouble to raise my hand!…I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing” (Bronte 276). Once his need for revenge is gone, he starts being careless and treats Hareton, the son of Hindley, his abuser, with respect. By helping Hareton, Heathcliff gets in the way of his own goals, “It expressed, plainer than words could do, the intensest anguish at having made himself the instrument of thwarting his own revenge” (Bronte 82). Heathcliff finally realizes that in order to escape all the pain from his abusive life, he must die.
Overall, Heathcliff’s complicated character can be explained so much from the abuse he endured, both physical and emotional. Particularly, his relationship with Catherine which he uses to hold himself together, ends up being the most pivotal part in his downfall. He is unable to have any other goals in life because of this relationship and therefore is crippled by it until he dies. Heathcliff’s story shows important insight into how abuse can happen in various situations and the negative outcomes it can bring.
Love and Relationships in Tess of the D’urbervilles and Wuthering Heights
Compare the ways in which the writers of your two chosen texts present women’s experiences of love. You must relate your discussion to relevant contextual factors.
In both Hardy’s bildungsroman ‘Tess of the D’Urbervilles’ and Bronte’s gothic masterpiece ‘Wuthering Heights’, the theme of love is explored. In both novels, the authors explore whether love can transcend societal expectations and conventions, and consider whether love is truly eternal.
In both novels, the authors consider whether love can transcend social conventions and expectations, through their presentation of marriage. The opposition of passionate and loving relationships versus conventional or mercenary relationships is present in both works. In ‘Tess’, Tess and Angel have a passionate relationship, yet Hardy shows Tess to be ‘physically married’ to Alec due to the rape. Hardy was deeply critical of Victorian society which condemned women for being raped although it was no fault of their own, and this is shown in the novel through the contrast of social versus natural law: ‘She had been made to break a necessary social law, but no law known to the environment in which she fancied herself such an anomaly.’ This emphasises that it is society, not nature, that condemns Tess, and this idea is continued throughout the novel as Hardy uses nature imagery to depict Tess despite her being a ‘maiden no more’. The suppression of that which is natural is evident in Angel’s abandoning of Tess, as her natural love is forbidden due to societal expectations. Angel himself becomes a representation of the conservative Victorian views that Hardy was challenging, as he says ‘You were one person, now you are another. How can forgiveness meet such a grotesque prestidigitation as that?’ Hardy also employs bird imagery as a metaphor for Tess, as she is employed for Mrs D’Urberville to whistle to her caged birds, aligning her with the animals. If Tess is taken to be a bird, it is significant, then, that her early morning courtship with Angel is described using Edenic imagery, creating the image of birds flying freely, whereas near the end of the novel we see the image of birds in a ‘wire cage’ of a machine made by men. Overall, Finally, the discrepancy between the social and natural law can be found in Tess’s execution, when her moral innocence is not recognized by the legal system. Hence, the words at the end of the novel ‘Justice was done’ cannot be interpreted in any other way but as a bitter irony and social criticism on Hardy’s part.
In ‘Wuthering’ the loving and ‘natural’ love is between Catherine and Heathcliff, yet Catherine and Linton join together in conventional and mercenary relationship. Catherine refuses to marry Heathcliff because ‘It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff, now’ and ‘if he and I married, we should be beggars’. As in ‘Tess’, social reality suppresses that which is natural. Due to Heathcliff’s lower class and financial adversities, Catherine would not consider marrying him; Bronte creates an opposition between passionate love and marriage, the former being at odds with a feasible lifestyle. Catherine’s desire to climb up the social ladder leads her to assimilate in her role as Edgar’s wife, a role in which she ultimately suffocates and dies. Her decision to marry Edgar for his greater social status and because she would ‘like to to be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood’ is the decisive catalyst of the tragic events that follow. Just as Hardy does with Tess, Bronte makes it clear that Catherine belongs in nature: as a child she spends her time on the moors. In both novels, the women suffocate in the relationships into which they eventually become part of. In ‘Tess’, Tess must become Alec’s mistress for financial reasons, and in ‘Wuthering’ Catherine stays with Edgar for financial reasons. Therefore, although both authors emphasise the passion and strength of love, love is still not something that can transcend society. In ‘Tess’ this conclusion makes sense as Hardy wrote the novel as a criticism of the patriarchal society he was surrounded by, which placed blame on women for their own exploitation. Indeed, he explored such ideas in other works, such as in his poem ‘The Ruined Maid’. Bronte also criticises a society that forces women to give up love for financial reasons. The inheritance laws of the time excluded women and so they were often forced into a position of having to consider the financial aspects of a relationship rather than freely marrying who they loved.
In both works, the authors also consider whether love is eternal. Bronte certainly presents us with a more optimistic and romantic version of love than Hardy does. In ‘Wuthering’, love is indeed eternal, both in the form of the supernatural, and through the legacy of Cathy and Hareton. At the end of ‘Wuthering’, Lockwood remarks ‘Yet that old man by the kitchen fire affirms he has seen two on ‘em, looking out of his chamber window, on every rainy night’. As mentioned earlier, Bronte presents a version of love that does not transcend societal boundaries. However, after death, Heathcliff and Catherine are reunited and arguably exist within the love between young Cathy and Hareton. Due to the gothic idea of the posthumous reunification of Catherine and Heathcliff, it could be argued that ‘Wuthering’ exists ‘outside’ normal society, or that the supernatural is presented as positive rather than, as is typical in gothic novels, fearsome and morbid. On the other hand, in ‘Tess’ Hardy presents love as finite, through Angel asking Izz Huett to travel with him to Brazil, and the very fact that Liza – Lu probably takes Tess’s place in the relationship with Angel may symbolise as well that no one is really irreplaceable, and that every generation must die to be replaced by a younger one. What is also important here is that in Tess’s death one can see the human powerlessness in struggling with fate and his/her insignificance in the relation with nature. Therefore, once again, love is presented as something that is malleable by external forces.
In both novels, love is also presented as unequal. The male-female relationships embody power imbalances. In ‘Tess’, of course, the biggest example of this is Alec raping Tess, exploiting her position as a working class woman who requires the employment his mother provides. Tess is almost lifeless after the rape: ‘She sat now, like a puppet, replying to his remarks in monosyllables.’ Alec becomes ‘dust and ashes’ to Tess, the lack of colour representing the colourlessness of her life. However, there is also a power imbalance between her and Angel; Angel is not only permitted to claim ‘the woman I have been loving is not you’, but can also afford the luxury of travelling to Brazil to clear his mind. On the other hand, Tess is continually trapped, both by her financial circumstances and her lack of power in the relationship. Similarly, in ‘Wuthering’ we see power imbalances, especially in Heathcliff and Isabella’s relationship. Isabella is subject to domestic abuse under Heathcliff, whose comparison to a ‘mad dog’ and ‘savage beast’ directly contrasts the description of Isabella as a ‘sparrow’s egg’, portraying the extent to which Heathcliff is able to dominate her. Thus, in both novels love is portrayed as unequal and mutual love in relationships does not imply equality.
Gothic Elements and Atmosphere in Wuthering Heights
This essay sets out to explain the convention of the Gothic genre presented in both Wuthering Heights and Villette. The Gothic elements employed by the authors vary and are different from one another. However, this essay aims to review the supernatural elements of Gothic in both novels as a manifestation of mental breakdown, madness and past trauma. In the first half of the essay, I’m going to demonstrate how Charlotte Brontë uses psychological haunting to illustrate an internal splitting in Lucy Snowe. I will thus argue that Lucy Snowe’s illness is due to her environment and the figure of the nun shows a psychological struggle within Lucy Snowe’s mind. In the second half of the essay, I’m going to demonstrate Emily Bronte’s portrayal of intense human emotions demonstrated by acts of madness and supernatural occurring within a Gothic atmosphere. As well as the forbidden love between Heathcliff and Catherine which leads to a Gothic splitting of their psyche that eventually result in their insanity and death.
Psychological Haunting in Charlotte Brontë’s Villette
What contributes mainly to the novel’s reputation as a gothic, is Charlotte’s use of Psychological haunting. Robert B. Heilman in his essay, “Charlotte Brontë’s ‘New’ Gothic” states that, “Charlotte leads away from standardized characterization toward new levels of human reality and hence from stock responses toward new levels of human reality, and hence from stock responses toward a new kind of passionate engagement” (99). David Jones believes that the range of phantasmagorical effects and visual technologies that are deployed create both illusion and revelation, and concealment and exposure, “The phantasmagoria as registered in this novel consistently reveals its Gothic pedigree, its alliance with repressed energies and its paradoxical ability to both deceive the viewer and expose hidden realities: to project light through the world of social appearances and hypocrisy” (Jones 109). In Villette, Gothic conventions operate at the same time as psychological and social conventions (DeLamotte 229).
In her novel, Charlotte Brontë explores homelessness, poverty, physical unattractiveness, sexual discrimination or stereotyping that impose self-burial on women. Snowe rarely voices her protest. She is tormented by the fact that she has bought survival at the price of being invisible. She has been dispossessed not only of meaning and goal, but also of her own identity and power. Snow is bound by the limits of her own mind- a dark and narrow cell (Gilbert and Gubar 403). According to Hume, Gothic has an interest in the characters’ psychology so it displays their reactions towards shocking and terrible situations (283). Thus, it is Snowe’s psychological conflict towards various incidents during the course of the novel that gives birth to the uncanny. Joseph Allan Boone is one among many critics who drew on psychoanalysis in the novel. He noted that, “Brontë employs various strategies to create a narrative in which Lucy’s mental life takes precedence over external reality” (Boone 37).
One of the earliest moments of hesitation in Villette, is Lucy’s buried domestic past and the reader’s uncertainty concerning “the [relevant] factors of silence, solitude, and darkness in her life” (Hennelly 425). Lucy never discusses where she is from, her parents, or what led to her living with the Brettons. When she does discuss what occurred in her childhood it is in storm metaphors: “there must have been a wreck at last. I too well remember a time – a long time, of cold, of danger, of contention. To this hour, when I have the nightmare, it repeats the rush and saltness of briny waves in my throat, and their icy pressure on my lungs” (Brontë 94). This nightmare is the closest the reader gets to an idea of what happened to Lucy’s family. In Villette, she has a difficult time fitting into her new society, unable to reconcile her Protestant ways within Roman Catholic Villette.
The novel’s supernatural incidents begin with the appearance of the nun. According to Vrettos, The nun becomes a metaphor for all acts of displacement in Villette, “a liminal figure that reveals the dual structure and underlying malady” (68). In Gothic literature, the narrator or protagonist almost always spends some time of his or her account attempting to rationalize their ghostly encounters. It is this trope that brings Gothic literature to “[enter] the haunt of the psychological” (Berenbaum 38). Lucy wonders if the vision of the nun is real or the result of nervousness or madness. In reality, it is Lucy’s unrequited feelings that seem to be manifesting themselves in the appearance of this nun. She encounters this uncanny iterations of her main love interest in order to emotionally move away from those unacceptable and unrequited feelings. Therefore, it is possible to connect this ghostly nun with Lucy’s repressed passion, fear and doubts.
When she works as a teacher at Madame Beck’s school, she encounters a nun who is believed to have been buried alive in the garden because she broke her vows of chastity, “for some sin against her vow” (Brontë 131). Her first encounter with the ghost directly follows her musings about Dr. John. After Lucy finally reads the letter from him, she says, “A passing seraph seemed to have rested beside me, leaned towards my heart, and reposed on its throb a softening, cooling, healing, hallowing wing. Dr. John, you pained me afterwards: forgiven be every ill—freely forgiven—for the sake of that one dear remembered good!” (Brontë 276). Later, this joy is interrupted by the appearance of the nun, “Something in that vast solitary garret sounded strangely. Most surely and certainly I heard, as it seemed, a stealthy foot on that floor: a sort of gliding out from the direction of the black recess haunted by the malefactor cloaks. I turned: my light was dim; the room was long – but, as I live! I saw in the middle of that ghostly chamber a figure of all black or white, the skirts straight, narrow, black; the head bandaged, veiled, white (Brontë 325). Later, Lucy is at the height of her hysterical moment: “Reader- tell me I was nervous, or mad; affirm that I was unsettled by the excitement of that letter; declare that I dreamed: this I vow- I saw there- in that room- on that night- an image like- a NUN” (Brontë 325). This description of “an image” is qualified even further by the word “like”; this is not a nun, but it resembles a nun. The supernatural nun is linked to Lucy’s frustrated love for Graham, just as the nun is tied to Lucy’s letters from him (Hirlte 6).
After Dr.John falls in love with Paulina, and as he moves further away from Lucy, her inner splitting becomes more apparent. Ginevra asks Lucy, “Who are you Miss Snowe? […]But are you anybody? (Brontë 394). Lucy’s psyche is not the same as it was when she received her letter from Dr. John, she states: “I felt, not happy, far otherwise, but strong with reinforced strength” (Brontë 381). This reinforced strength comes from no longer needing to depend on Dr. John.
In her second encounter with the nun the scene is once again set with gothic tones. Lucy decides to bury Dr.John’s letter at the base of the pear tree, “One great old pear-tree – the nun‘s pear-tree – stood up a tall dry as skeleton, gray, gaunt, and stripped. A thought struck me – one of those queer fantastic thoughts that will sometimes strike solitary people” (Brontë 379). Her description of the pear tree mirrors her feelings for Dr. John, stripped, now a skeleton. The second nun is linked even more closely to Lucy’s inner workings. Here, Lucy ‘neither fled nor shrieked’; rather, she even stretches out her hand and tries to touch the nun. “I felt if not brave, yet very desperate, and desperation will often suffice to fill the post and do the work of courage. I advanced one step. I stretched out my hand, for I meant to touch her. She seemed to recede. I drew nearer: her recession, still silent, became swift” (Brontë 381). She does not want to drive the spirit away she wants to ask this of it. She seeks an answer. But this question is not so much about the true nature of the phantom as of the identity of herself after the loss of Dr. John (Soya 19). The first two incidents with the nun, place Lucy in a position where she is trying to reconcile her inner and outer realities (Hirtle 80).
The third appearance of the nun is in the middle of Paul’s confession of love. He tells Lucy that they were born under the same star. Here, the supernatural plays a very important role in the relationship of these two because both of them have ‘seen’ the ghost. Not only does the supernatural intercede to confirm the tie between the two, but dignifies it as well. This is because, according to Paul, the apparition’s business is ‘as much with you [Lucy] as with me [Paul]. “I anticipated that. Whether this nun be flesh and blood, or something that remains when blood is dried, and flesh is wasted, her business is as much with you as with me” (Brontë 457). The fact that these two see the nun together is not a coincidence. The nun ‘is born’ from the dark trunk after writhing in labour pains, violently shaking and tearing the leaves of the tree. Both Paul and Lucy witness the symbolic ‘birth’: it is the birth of their new relationship (Brokaw 57). He understands her better than any other character, because he can see Lucy’s repressed personality traits manifesting themselves when no one else in the novel can. When they see the nun together, they share a mysterious bond of kindred nature. It is Monsieur Paul’s similarity with Lucy Snowe that allows him to understand her, and his understanding that allows him to push her towards self-recovery. Monsieur Paul is one of the only characters that is not a double of any traumatic figure in Lucy’s early life. Because of this, he is able to assist Lucy in the self-discovery and self-analysis by which she will eventually cure herself (Brokaw 32).
Lastly, there is a logical explanation forthcoming from the narrator. The nun Lucy grapples with ultimately is nothing more than a long bed bolster, “What dark, usurping shape, supine, long, and strange? … It looks very black, I think it looks – not human … Will it spring, will it leap out if I approach? Approach I must. Courage! One step! My head reeled, for by the faint night-lamp, I saw stretched on my bed the old phantom – the NUN (Brontë 569). Then Lucy destroys the nun; she kills the repressive forces and unchains herself from restrictions, “In a moment, without exclamation, I had rushed on the haunted couch … I tore her up – the incubus! I held her on high – the goblin! I shook her loose – the mystery! And down she fell – down all round me – down in shreds and fragments – and I trade upon her” (Brontë 569).
The significance of the reappearance of the ghostly nun lies not in its unreality, which is discovered near the end of the novel, but rather in Lucy’s reaction to it. She identifies with the nun as a fragment of her suppressed personality. When she is finally able to destroy the nun, she is expressing her conquest of the tendency to suppress. Her description seems victorious in tone: “I could afford neither consternation, scream, nor swoon […] I was not overcome. Tempered by late incidents, my nerves disdained hysteria […] I defied spectra […] In a moment, without exclamation, I had rushed on the haunted couch; nothing leaped out, or sprung, or stirred; all movement was mine, so was all the life, the reality, the substance, the force; as my instinct felt. I tore her up […] I held her on high […] I shook her loose […] and down she fell- down all around me- down in shreds and fragments- and I trod upon her” (Brontë 533). Lucy no longer sees the ghost as an aspect of herself. However, this victory is somewhat short-lived. It is at this point that she discovers that the ghost is a farce. Thus, it is most symbolic of Lucy’s realization of her trauma’s effect on her own personality. She is able to destroy her traumatic repression, and move forth. Some may see Lucy’s oppression and repression as a demonstration of her defeat and resignation, but as Lucy struggles to define herself against patriarchal norms and to find a way of expressing and acknowledging her own emotions (Hause 76). She escapes from Gothic horrors and gains a victory over them, thus, she creates a place for herself in society (DeLamotte 287-288).
Madness and Supernatural in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights
Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights is a classic example of the Gothic romance. Brontë uses mysteries, often involving the supernatural narrated with horror. In her book, Sexual Personae, Camille Paglia has listed some of the outbreaks of violence and Gothic elements which can be found in the novel. She states that: “We witness or hear of whipping, slapping, thrashing, cuffing, wrenching, pinching, scratching, hair-pulling, gouging, kicking, trampling, and the hanging of dogs. Hindley hopes his horse will kick out Heathcliff’s brains. Catherine, bitten by a dog, would not cry out even ‘if she had been spitted on the horns of a mad cow.’ Isabella shrieks ‘as if witches were running red-hot needles into her.’ Heathcliff ponders ‘flinging Joseph off the highest gable, and painting the house front with Hindley’s blood.’ He throws a tureen of hot applesauce in Edgar’s face. Hindley shoves a carving knife between Nelly’s teeth and threatens to push it down her throat. Nelly fears Heathcliff ‘smashing Hareton’s skull on the steps.’ Heathcliff says of Edgar, ‘I’ll crush his ribs in like a rotten hazel nut!’ The moment Catherine ceased loving Edgar, ‘I would have torn his heart out, and drunk his blood!’ ‘I have no pity!’ Heathcliff cries. ‘The more the worms writhe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails!’ Isabella says Heathcliff is adept at ‘pulling out the nerves with red hot pincers’; he seized her heart, ‘pinched it to death’, and flung it back to her. He hurls a dinner knife at her, cutting open her neck” (Paglia 449-450). When reading Wuthering Heights, all the elements of Gothic and outbreaks of violence mentioned by Paglia, are apparent as frequent as the theme of insanity, of hallucinations, anxiety, and mental breakdown. As explained by Linda Bayer-Berenbaum, “mental and nervous disorders are excellent themes for Gothic stories because the illusions of the deranged often resemble traditional beliefs and superstitions” (38).
Heathcliff one of the Gothic heroes, endures a traumatic and mysterious childhood. Like Lucy Snowe, we are never told where Heathcliff’s parents are or where exactly he comes from or what his past life was like, and this leads to his exclusion throughout the novel, “Cathy was a young lady and the Lintons made a distinction between her treatment and mine” (Brontë 51). The supernatural elements accomplished by Heathcliff’s madness add to the strange gothic atmosphere of the novel. His madness reflects the interweaving themes of the novel; the insanity affects not only the characters themselves but also those close to them. He is tormented by Catherine and his thirst for vengeance. His passion destroys both himself and those around him. He knows that he cannot live without his love, so he resorts to madness to fulfil his need to be one with Catherine. The first incident of Heathcliff’s madness occurs when Mr.Lockwood first stays in the house. Heathcliff does not know that Mr. Lockwood is sleeping in Catherine’s room. Therefore, when he hears the screaming, he thinks it is Catherine’s ghost. He is disappointed to see that it is Mr. Lockwood, and after he asks him to leave, Heathcliff opens the window and calls the spirit of Catherine, “Come in! Come in! He sobbed. Cathy, do come. Oh do- once more! Oh! My heart’s darling! Hear me this time- Catherine, at last!” (Brontë 28).
After Cathy’s death Heathcliff begs her spirit to haunt him, this action is unnatural, he does not wish for her to rest in peace but to exist only to be with him, “Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you–haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe–I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always -take any form-drive me mad” (Brontë 296). While he was preparing Edgar’s coffin, he had the gravedigger open Catherine’s coffin. Desperate to be with her in death, he knocks out one side of her coffin, so that they may lie together for eternity.
Near the end of the book his madness intensifies. After nights of wandering around the moors, and many days without food, Heathcliff has completely lost his senses. When he returns home the night before his death, Nelly hears him say Catherine’s name as though she was with him. There is also a strange happiness in his face, “’Come now,’ I exclaimed, pushing some bread against his hand, ‘eat and drink that, while it is hot: it has been waiting near an hour.’ He didn’t notice me, and yet he smiled. I’d rather have seen him gnash his teeth than smile so. Mr. Heathcliff! Master! I cried, ‘don’t, for God’s sake, stare as if you saw an unearthly vision. Don’t, for God’s sake, shout so loud,’ he replied. ‘Turn round, and tell me, are we by ourselves?’” (Brontë 331). He believes Catherine has been haunting him for years, and now that he is near death, he acts as though Catherine’s spirit is with him.
In the novel, Catherine also shows mental instability. Heathcliff’s fight with Edgar, results in Cathy’s illness; and it seemed to affect her reasoning, as if to be driving her mad. “It terrified me. I thought she was going mad’’ (Brontë 84). Cathy becomes ill because of a discrepancy between her inner and outer realities: she has to choose between living outside of societal norms with Heathcliff and living well within society‘s bounds with Edgar but separated from her soul mate Heathcliff. This discrepancy results in a tearing of her psyche. Cathy‘s struggle with her realities leads to a transference of illness to Heathcliff. With both her psyche and illness split, Cathy cannot fuse her two realities together and recover (Brokaw 30). Catherine refuses all food and drink for several days. She does not understand why she is not getting her way, and becomes paranoid. Catherine goes mad when it is clear that social acceptance of her feelings for Heathcliff is impossible (Haggerty 72).
Perhaps the moment that most obviously exemplifies Cathy‘s estrangement from herself through the course of her illness is the mirror scene. This scene highlights the correlation between the supernatural, or gothic tones, and illness. Cathy thinks that she sees her own ghostly double in the mirror. Nelly narrates the chilling anxiety that Cathy experiences in not being about to recognize herself in the mirror:
It does appear odd – I see a face in it! … Don‘t you see that face? She enquired, gazing earnestly at the mirror.
And say what I could, I was incapable of making her comprehend it to be her own; so I rose and covered it with a shawl.
– It’s behind there still! She pursued, anxiously. ―And it stirred. Who is it? […] Oh! Nelly, the room is haunted! I‘m afraid of being alone” (Brontë 123).
Their love and dependency on each other is obsessive. Their separation causes unbearable force that drives both of them insane. This becomes evident through Heathcliff’s purpose for his revenge, his obsession with Catherine and his relationship with the young generation.
In both Wuthering Heights and Villette, madness and mental breakdown are in part constructed from their traumatic past. Lucy is unable to address her past life and her environment as a foreign Protestant woman in the Roman Catholic intensifies her inner conflict. For Catherine, a socially approved life with Edgar Linton and one outside of societal norms with Heathcliff that her psyche tears and she becomes sick. While Cathy makes a choice (to marry Edgar), Heathcliff is separated from Cathy against his will further tearing his psyche. Cathy, faces problems because her psyche had been previously split between herself and Heathcliff making it impossible to reconcile her realities if Heathcliff is not part of both her inner and outer realities. Heathcliff also has difficulties reconciling his realities after Catherine dies; he cannot adjust to living in a world without her and resorts to madness. The supernatural events in Wuthering Heights are presented more ambiguously than those in Villette; at the end of Wuthering Heights, the supernatural events continue to create moments of hesitation and are not resolved but eventually become accepted. For instance, Lockwood meets a little boy who swears he has seen Heathcliff and Catherine’s ghosts wandering around in the moors. Whereas, in Villette the supernatural events turn out to be uncanny and the reader witnesses a logical explanation for the apparition. The moment Lucy no longer attributes the nun, she is able to question the boundaries of the supernatural experience Lucy’s honest conversations with M. Paul regarding the supernatural events help to quell the moments of hesitation and leads to Lucy’s ability to recover from her illness and reunite her psyche. Whereas Heathcliff does not wish to discover any logical explanation about his madness and the supernatural. He longs for the uncanny to haunt his life and take him with itself; that’s the only way he could finally be united with his love.
A Theme Of Good And Evil In Wuthering Heights By Emily Brontë
Good and evil, despite being two very different and separate deeds, relate with each almost all the time. In essence, society needs one to appreciate the other. Typically, people only take note and appreciate the good in others only after encountering some evil from other experiences. In this context, Emily Brontë, in her book Wuthering Heights, gives a clear contrast between good and evil from the setting, characters, and the supernatural aspects she implements in the novel. For instance, she contrasts two different kinds of parameters in the book; Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. From the book, Thrushcross Grange is depicted as a friendly and welcoming place from expressions like an institution of domestics and grass growing between the flags and cattle were intended only for the hedge cutters. Its representation of the calm and fine weather is symbolic of the good side, which depicts the bright and compassionate side of humanity.
Conversely, Wuthering Heights is a depiction of evil. This is evident from its particular characteristics like being dark and stormy. The place is described as being a noteworthy regional adjective, expressive of the atmospheric commotion to which its position is exposed in wild climate. Moreover, Brontë says that “…pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge…by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun’. The description adds on to the notion of evil in Wuthering Heights. The pace showcases the wild and dissolute aspects of nature. The setting contrast appearing between Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights is critical to the novel not only because of what it symbolizes but also because of the contribution it makes to the book. The light and dark, good and evil contrasts aid in providing a greater comprehension of the turmoil faced by the characters in the process of battling with their moral and wicked internal forces.
In Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë displays the constructive morals of conventional, cultured, human behavior, that is believed to be good, contrary to the evil; wicked and rebellious side of humanity by contrasting characters like Catherine and Heathcliff. Catherine and Thrushcross Grange are similar in that she personifies the serenity and light at the Grange with her peace and sparkle. Moreover, she always showed kindness to the people around her. One incidence is when she “…took a hand of each of the children, and brought them into the house and set them before the fire, which quickly put color into their white faces…”. Such simple acts go a long way in depicting someone’s compassion and loving nature. Therefore, Catherine is a clear symbol of good and morality in the novel.
On the other hand, according to Hood, Heathcliff symbolizes Wuthering Heights in that they are both rugged and dark, ferocious, and wild. He is depicted as evil right from the dark color of his eyes and hair. Heathcliff himself desires for a lighter complexion to become a better person clearly outlining the connection with the black color and evil. Moreover, various individuals used words like ‘the devil’ and ‘hell’ to refer to Heathcliff, and the author also uses the word ‘diabolical’ and hellish ‘villain’ throughout the book to emphasize the tremendous evil Heathcliff harbors. Heathcliff himself in most of his conversations used abusive words to refer to people. For instance, when telling Hareton to take Catherine out of the room, he says, ‘Damnable witch! Dare you pretend to rouse him against me? Off with her! Do you hear? Fling her into the kitchen! I’ll kill her, Ellen Dean, if you let her come into my sight again!’. The words go ahead to portray the evil in Heathcliff that makes him even to have thoughts of killing someone.
Furthermore, supernatural instances are introduced in Gothic books to remove the stories from the ordinary, and lead the reader to partially abandon what is factual and go in the fantasy with their imagination as stated by Fořtová. In Wuthering Heights, the supernatural is presented by the introduction of ghosts, that not only frighten the readers, but also inhibits the story and, in conjunction with the villain-hero and occurrence of violence, substantially affect its stream of proceedings. Notably, the appearance of Catherine’s ghost is vital to the novel because it swiftly affects the story’s conclusion. The ghost initially appeared to Mr. Lockwood in a dream right at the novel’s commencement and is carefully linked with the end since it demonstrates Heathcliff’s constant longing to reunite with Catherine. The latter meets Catherine’s ghost, preceding the novel’s end.
It is clear that the appearance of Catherine’s ghost determines the final course of events in the story. This is because Heathcliff’s vengeance, which was the driving force of the novel, loses its purpose and sense, as his affection for Catherine, the primary cause of the retaliation, is no longer unsatisfied. Moreover, just after their reunion, Heathcliff follows her to the grave. Consequently, the story terminates with the demise of Heathcliff, and the residual characters can move on with their lives lacking the terror of Heathcliff’s ferocious deeds as a part of his vengeance. Therefore, the first supernatural act revealing Lockwood’s meeting with Catherine’s ghost represents its essence in the setting of the overall story. Besides, the end of Heathcliff’s life, caused by the appearances of Catherine’s ghost, highlights the finality on his principal behavior – the retaliation of his unsatisfied love – leading his demise, along with the conclusion of the whole novel. The supernatural occurrence clearly shows that in as much as the appearance of a ghost is wrong and frowned upon in most societies; some good came out of it.
In conclusion, Wuthering Heights author successfully and carefully contrasted good and evil in her book. This is from the setting where Thrushcross Grange is depicted as good due to its serenity and tranquility while Wuthering Heights is seen as evil because of its wild and stormy weather. Moreover, the good and evil in humanity are outlined through characters like Catherine and Heathcliff. Catherine is good on seen from her calm nature and acts of kindness contrary to the evil Heathcliff who is a terror to the community due to his violent and abusive conduct in his quest for revenge. Also, the author has incorporated supernatural occurrences in the novel. Catherine appears as a ghost initially and Mr. Lockwood and finally to Heathcliff. Despite the appearance of ghosts seen as wrong and unnatural, Catherine’s ghost positively impacts the ending of the story. Heathcliff reunites with his love and follows her to the grave, thereby enabling the rest of the community to continue with their daily activities without the terror and violence that Heathcliff caused.
Revenge And Justice In Wuthering Heights By Emily Bronte
There is a blurred line between revenge and justice. Is revenge, justice? Is revenge, justified? The difference may be nothing but a shuffling of the same words to make oneself feel morally sound. If we can agree on the idea that revenge is a feeling or act of retribution, and also that justice is no more than a ‘just’ act of retaliation, then we can begin to question the fine structure of moral values and how that affects the definition of these select words.
First and foremost, what makes an action ‘just’? Does it need to be proportional in punishment to the initial act that prompted said justice, or does it need to be morally humane? I would suggest that society is built on propagations of civility and acts of humanity, so to make an action ‘just’ is to mean it is humane, or ‘good’. Meaning that justice is a ‘good’ or for the better act of retaliation, so the line between revenge and justice is whether it is for the good or the bad of the involved parties. The problem with this arises in the true meaning of good and bad. “good and bad are just artificial constructs”. There is no good in bad in nature, things are, simply what you make them. I believe, Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, shows a better distinction of revenge and justice. Rather than just a not so good act of retaliation, revenge, is a force that drives people to behave blinded by their own rage. Another distinction can be made between revenge and justice, the intended outcome. The purpose of revenge, is to restore or shift the balance of power. While conversely the purpose of justice is more about maintaining balance, and less about shifts in power.
Wuthering Heights beautifully shows what revenge is and uses the importance of balance in a closed system (The Earnshaws, and The Lintons) to show this. To create an environment structured around balance Emily Bronte creates a highly dichotomous view of life and all our emotions, love and hate, revenge and justice, even The Heights and The Grange can be identified as part of the role of doubling and balance so often portrayed throughout this novel. The protagonist of this novel is Heathcliff and he deals with many emotions of detestation and betrayal. He deals with his negative emotions by channeling them into feelings of revenge. Revenge is a common theme and the balance developed between revenge and justice is a device employed by Bronte to show how revenge drives people to act blindly out of character.
Heathcliff is an outsider to the Heights, and therefore he is condemned to a life absent of economical class, meaning he has no power in his society. Furthermore he is confined to the social limitations of those who are of no economical class. As a child, Heathcliff was abused by Hindley. Hindley plainly resented the entry of Heathcliff into the Heights and felt he was being treated too kindly considering he was an outsider to The Heights. This is where the cyclical revenge begins, and where the seed is planted in Heathcliff for the desire to plot his ultimate revenge. “He has been blaming our father (how dared he?) for treating H. too liberally; and swears he will reduce him to his right place.” , it seems Hindley craved more attention from Mr.Earnshaw and took out his feelings of neglect on Heathcliff. The empowered, trample the powerless, and then the powerless become the empowered and continue a hypocrisy of trampling the new powerless. This cycle is found in Wuthering Heights and is fueled by the powerlessness thirst for revenge upon the empowered. This is where we see one of those distinctions between revenge and justice. Hindley doesn’t want justice, he wants the powerless lower class, Heathcliff, to not get treatment that Hindley feels only someone of his social class deserves. Hindley mistreating Heathcliff is his means of shifting the power back away from Heathcliff and more towards Hindley.
The mistreatment of Heathcliff resulted in him and Catherine to grow closer as “they forgot everything the minute they were together again: at least the minute they had contrived some naughty plan of revenge.”, Catherine made Heathcliff’s misery more bearable and soon Heathcliff and Catherine fall for each other. This results in a conundrum for Heathcliff as his pursuit of his chosen lover, Catherine, is halted by his social class. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton’s is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire. Catherine claims to love Heathcliff but his lack of social class is enough for her to turn her back on Heathcliff. So not only was he abused because he was an outsider, he soulmate betrayed him. Though surprisingly or maybe not so surprisingly, Heathcliff doesn’t ultimately want revenge on his beloved Catherine, he wants revenge on Edgar. ‘’I seek no revenge on you,’ replied Heathcliff, less vehemently. ‘That’s not the plan. The tyrant grinds down his slaves and they don’t turn against him; they crush those beneath them.’’, Heathcliff recognizes the hierarchical structure and how those on top constrict those beneath to stay on top. This correlates with the idea that revenge is a power thirsty hate fueled state. Heathcliff craves revenge because he wants to turn the tables on everyone who did him wrong and make them powerless.
Revenge isn’t just an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth, it has a deeper meaning. It is the ultimate system that runs unlawful societies. It is the exchange of power from one to another. Justice doesn’t carry this same effect as justice is the system that runs lawful societies. It maintains order, it keeps power as evenly distributed as it was previously in society. Emily Bronte shows this deeper meaning of revenge in Wuthering Heights through the protagonist in that he expresses and acts on pure revenge throughout the story and manipulates the people around him to take and give power to the people of his choice and puts them where he feels they belong.
The Importance and Interpretation of Setting in the Novel
Wuthering Heights is a timeless classic in which Emily Brontë presents two opposite settings. Wuthering Heights and its occupants are wild, passionate, and strong while Thrushcross Grange and its inhabitants are calm and refined, and these two opposing forces struggle throughout the novel.
Wuthering Heights is out on the moors in a barren landscape. Originally a farming household, it sits “[o]n that bleak hilltop [where] the earth was hard with a black frost” (14). Because winds constantly buffet the house, “the architect, [built] it strong; the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defend with large jutting stones” (10). Even the name suggests its wildness: ” ‘Wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed to” (10). The innards of Wuthering Heights “lay bare to the inquiring eye. Above the chimney were sundry villainous old guns, and a couple of horse-pistols: and by way of ornament, three gaudily painted canisters disposed along its ledge, the chairs, high-backed, primitive structures, painted green; one or two heavy black ones lurking in the shade” (11). Both the outside and inside of Wuthering Heights are clearly exposed to tumult and wildness.
In addition, the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights are stormy and wild. Hindley Earnshaw beats Heathcliff–the adopted, “dark-skinned gypsy” (11)–who, with strong fortitude, “would stand Hindley’s blows without winking or shedding a tear” (42). In one particular instance, Hindley throws an iron weight at Heathcliff, “hitting him on the breast, and down he fell, but staggered up immediately, breathless and white” (43). Moreover, as owner of Wuthering Heights, Hindley becomes fond of drunken rages. At the sight of Hindley coming home drunk, Nelly Dean takes the shots out of the gun, “which he was fond of playing with in his insane excitement” (75) and tries to hide Hareton from his drunken father. Just as Nelly is hiding Hareton in the cabinet, Hindley storms home and accuses Nelly of keeping his son away from him, finally threatening her with a carving knife. And when Hareton neglects to kiss his father, Hindley picks up the frightened boy, denouncing, “I’ll break the brat’s neck” (76). Then, carrying him up the stairs, Hindley puts Hareton over the banister and releases him, only scarcely caught by Heathcliff. Obviously, Hindley acts with wild passion, often times resulting in violence.
Growing up in this wild and stormy household, Heathcliff also takes on these attributes. After Hindley gambles the house away and dies, Heathcliff becomes the master, belittling Haretona destined gentleman of the area–to a lowly, uneducated, friendless servant, often beating him as Hindley did himself. Besides beating Hindley’s son, Heathcliff also strikes young Cathy in a fit of rage: “with this liberated hand, and, pulling her on his knee, administered with the other a shower of terrific slaps on both sides of the head” (258), and when Nelly attempts to stop him, Heathcliff silences her by “a touch on the chest” (258). Like their surroundings, the occupants of Wuthering Heights are strong, rugged, and stormy.
In contrast to Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë created another setting. Thrushcross Grange. Unlike the isolated Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange is close to the town and civilization and was established by country squires and landed-gentry. With ornate gardens and numerous trees, Thrushcross Grange is well landscaped and sheltered from wild elements. Compared to the primitive, gaudy furnishings of Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange contains ornate decorations; Heathcliff describes it: “ah! it was beautifula splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson-covered chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold, a shower of glass-drops hanging in silver chains from the center, and shimmering with little soft tapers” (51). A “huge, warm, cheerful apartment” (15), Thrushcross Grange represents rest, repose, delicateness, and calmness.
Just as the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights parallel their home, so too do the inhabitants of Thrushcross Grange. Edgar and Isabella Linton both grow up at Thrushcross Grange as calm, reposed children. Catherine is forced to stay at Thrushcross Grange when Skulker, the Lintons’ dog, bites her. This serene place transforms her into a much calmer, mannerly person. And when she marries Edgar Linton, she brings some storminess from Wuthering Heights to this restful abode. For instance, Catherine and Heathcliff, both originating from Wuthering Heights, goad Edgar into “[striking] him full on the throat a blow that would have leveled a slighter man” (115). After Catherine’s death, Edgar Linton cares for young Cathy and educates her, unlike the fate of the abandoned children at Wuthering Heights. Similar to their dwelling, the inhabitants of Thrushcross Grange are calm, leisurely, and refined.
The sharp contrast between these two settings is a main theme of the novel. On one hand, Wuthering Heights represents a wild, rugged, strong place while Thrushcross Grange signifies a serene, calm, delicate abode. Emily Brontë does not want us to relate these two settings with good and evil but rather with two extreme forces. These two forces clash throughout the novel, and only in the end do their rumblings subside, when these two opposing houses mediate, as they are joined in love.
The Depiction of Hindley’s Search for Justice
Justice and revenge are two similar terms between which exists a very thin line. Both have the intention of correcting some wrong action, whether physical or intangible. The difference lies within how action is taken against the wrongdoer: revenge is emotion-driven, personal, and intentionally harmful, whereas justice seeks rational, fair balance without unnecessary suffering. Despite their dissimilarities, justice and revenge are considered to be exactly the same in Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights, especially by the antagonist Hindley Earnshaw.
Hindley is the only biological son in the Earnshaw family, and as “a boy of fourteen,” he is nearly fit to be a man (Brontë 37). His family are landowners who own servants that “[hang] about the farm ready for anything that anybody would set [them] to” (Brontë 36). Because they live on a farm and not in an elite mansion like Thrushcross Grange, they aren’t exactly part of the upper class, but their ownership of servants demonstrates that the family is still financially well-off. Besides his societal standing, Hindley appears to have a serene family life. Hindley’s father, Mr. Earnshaw, clearly dotes on him, referring to him as “[his] bonny man” and allowing him to “choose what [he would] like” Mr. Earnshaw to get for him on his trip to Liverpool (Brontë 36). All in all, Hindley has a great life: he’s a white young man whose home life is financially stable and loving.
Hindley’s life is forever altered when “a dirty, ragged, black-haired child” is rescued from the Liverpool streets by Mr. Earnshaw (Brontë 37). Nothing is known about the boy, except that he was “starving, and houseless, and as good as dumb” (Brontë 37). Even so, the boy is integrated into the family and “christened him…‘Heathcliff’…[after] the name of a son who died in childhood” (Brontë 38). From that point on, Heathcliff steadily rises to the rank of his foster father’s favorite. His high status, protected by Mr. Earnshaw, gives Heathcliff the power to manipulate his siblings into giving him whatever he desires. He repeatedly blackmails and provokes his older foster brother Hindley. Hindley is then enraged and humiliated that he can’t fight back because he’d face his father’s wrath if he “attempted to impose upon, or domineer over, [Mr. Earnshaw’s] favourite” (Brontë 41). Being Mr. Earnshaw’s only biological son, Hindley was once held in very great esteem—until he was replaced by Heathcliff as the “favourite” (Brontë 38). From the beginning, young Hindley “[regards]…Heathcliff as a usurper of his parent’s affections and his privileges” (Brontë 38) and as time goes on, his resentment only increases.
Hindley hates Heathcliff for two reasons: one, Heathcliff is “as dark as if [he] came from the devil,” while the Earnshaw’s all possess white skin (Brontë 37). Racism was alive and well in the early 1800’s (in fact, slavery hadn’t even been abolished yet in England during this novel’s timeframe, and it is referred to by Heathcliff himself in Chapter 11). From this, and because Heathcliff is described as “dusky” (Brontë 54) and called a “gipsy” (Brontë 40) several times throughout the novel, it can be inferred that Hindley’s prejudice against Heathcliff is stirred by racism.
However, Hindley’s rage is more than skin-deep: he primarily despises Heathcliff because the latter boy snatched away Mr. Earnshaw’s affection and Hindley’s seat of power. Hindley feels that he is entitled to more power and love than Heathcliff because he was raised as a gentleman, whereas Heathcliff was picked up off the streets. The class structure was extremely important in 19th century England, and the dark-skinned orphan boy Heathcliff violates all rules of conduct by maintaining power over his older, white brother.
Heathcliff’s reign doesn’t last forever. When Mr. Earnshaw dies and is replaced by his eldest son Hindley as the family’s father figure, Hindley takes his opportunity to knock Heathcliff down to the lowly rank of “any other lad on the farm” (Brontë 46). Hindley “[drives Heathcliff] from [the family’s] company to the servants…[and] deprived him of the instructions of the curate” (Brontë 46). Hindley was never really deprived of his comfortable societal status or any necessities; he simply received less attention and more criticism than Heathcliff. Hindley’s goal isn’t treating Heathcliff the same as he was when he was a child; Hindley takes his childhood neglect too personally, and wants Heathcliff to feel even more degraded than Hindley himself had. Heathcliff is an impressionable young man during this time, so he thinks Hindley’s revenge is the only way to correct injustice. From then on, he devotes his life to searching for justice in the form of revenge, first on Hindley and later on the Edgar Linton as well. Thus, the events of the rest of the book can be traced back to Hindley’s inaccurate understanding that revenge and justice are equal.
Hindley’s search for justice isn’t even successful because “Heathcliff [bore] his degradation pretty well” with the help of his foster sister Cathy (Brontë 46). Later on, it would be Cathy, not Hindley, who makes Heathcliff feel ashamed of his ploughboy status. Abusing Heathcliff doesn’t bring Hindley happiness, either, or bring back his father’s attentions; Hindley becomes a drunk, Mr. Earnshaw stays dead in the earth, and Heathcliff eventually carries out his own plans of revenge against Hindley that result in the alcoholic’s death. The story of Hindley’s miserable, vengeful life and Heathcliff’s repetition of revenge serve to remind readers that justice and revenge are not the same concepts, and one cannot receive justice through revenge.
The last page in Emily BrontÃ«’s Wuthering Heights leaves the reader with many new connections and symbols, as well as a feeling of satisfaction that peace has been restored to the Earnshaw and Linton families. The three members of the older generation have reunited to relive their childhood and enjoy each other’s company once again. The reader finishes the book confident that Heathcliff has matured and come to agree with the other characters, that Catherine rests peacefully in the spiritual underground with the two men in her life who mean the most to her, and that Cathy lives happily with Hareton in the real world, free from the conflict and disorder caused by Heathcliff. Lockwood stresses that Heathcliff’s transformation and honorable departure resolved the disputes between all three groups.
As he approaches the last few days of his life, Heathcliff finally experiences the feelings of peace and harmony that evaded him in his early years as an inhabitant of Wuthering Heights. Bitter about the loss of Catherine, Heathcliff dedicates his life to the destruction of the family lineage and to gaining revenge for his dissatisfaction. Alone, a failure, he patronizes both Cathy and Hareton with malicious rules and brutal punishments. With thoughtful insight into Heathcliff’s motivation for torturing the young couple, Cathy remarks that “[his] cruelty rises from [his] greater misery!”(219); Heathcliff handles his own unhappiness by releasing aggression onto others. An intruder to the family, Heathcliff never fits in with his kin, and remains an unhappy outcast on through adulthood. Heathcliff ultimately realizes that he relates to none of his family members and no longer belongs at Wuthering Heights, but as a result, heaven enters his sight and overwhelms him with an unfamiliar feeling of joy. When Heathcliff confesses to Nelly “I have nearly attained my heaven, and that of others is altogether unvalued…by me”(255), he reveals that he recognizes peace in his soul for the first time, that he no longer possesses the desire to harm Cathy or Hareton, and that he has completed his life and no longer covets others’ joy. At last, Heathcliff lays down to rest in tranquility – near the moors, the only place he belongs.
In the second half of the book, Catherine experiences a dreadful conflict that directly parallels Heathcliff’s. Dying in the midst of a dispute with her own heart, Catherine remains in Wuthering Heights at the request of Heathcliff, determined to haunt him until his death. Not long before she dies, Catherine gives birth to her own reincarnation, and names that daughter Catherine after herself. Cathy never gets to know her mother, but Heathcliff immediately recognizes a distinct similarity between the two women that compels him to treat the younger Cathy as he treated her mother. Heathcliff’s last plea to Catherine, “may you not rest, as long as…I am living”(130), places an enormous responsibility on his beloved sister, and also reveals his determination to interfere with the course of nature, his self-centered dedication to creating turmoil. Heathcliff refuses to allow Catherine to act on her own will: on the night of Heathcliff’s death, when Catherine’s ghost cuts the dying Heathcliff’s arm by pulling at it through the window, the conflict endured by the two families ends once and for all. As a result, Cathy has the freedom to marry Hareton and pursue her own happiness, and consequentially allows her mother to rest peacefully with the thrill of knowing that the Earnshaws have prevailed. In one of the last scenes of the book, when a young boy informs Lockwood that “They’s Heathcliff and a woman, yonder, under t’ Nab”(257), he reaffirms that the two souls rest blissfully, enjoying their chief amusement: the company of the moors. To Catherine, Heathcliff’s passing marks a new beginning in her life after death, an opportunity to enjoy the “slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth” (258).
Unequivocally, death symbolizes a peaceful voyage to the spiritual realm and a reunion of old friends, but it can also lead to new opportunities, or a beneficial change for those left behind. Heathcliff entered Wuthering Heights and the Earnshaw family as a young child, and soon afterwards began to interfere with the predicted destiny of his surrogate family. Linton, Heathcliff’s son with Isabella, presents the only possible way for Heathcliff to become genetically related to the family, but the weak child dies before having an children with Cathy. Declaring “[Linton’s] life is not worth a farthing”(223), Heathcliff hints that Linton lacks the strength to survive, and thus reveals that for the sake of the families, none of his decedents can survive. When Cathy yells at Heathcliff “you cannot make [Linton and I] hate each other!” (219), she offers a concrete example of the disturbance that her uncle has created within the family. The conflicts that Heathcliff instigates damage the family, and his death lifts an enormous weight off of the shoulders of Cathy and Hareton. Cathy Linton can finally marry Hareton Earnshaw, changing her name to Cathy Earnshaw, the same name her mother had as a child. When Lockwood leaves Wuthering Heights for the last time, no evidence remains that Heathcliff ever existed – except for the subtle grave beside Catherine’s own.
Lockwood’s sympathetic portrayal of Heathcliff during the scenes leading up to his death provide the reader with an insightful and conclusive ending to the Earnshaw family’s story. Heathcliff’s acceptance of his inevitable demise allows the people he loves the most to rest once and for all. Heathcliff and Catherine escape through the broken window and lose themselves forever in the spiritual world of the moors, interred together in their natural playground.