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.
Analysis Of The Motifs In Wuthering Heights By Emily Bronte
Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights, explains the up and downs of love between each character in the book. Describing the tempestuous life of Heathcliff and his interactions with Catherine, the dynamic between the characters is arduous, full of betrayal, hate, and revenge. Bronte displays how emotions drive people to act irrationally, and their decisions, for some, could haunt them forever. When looking at the novel, the nature/weather/seasons motif, we can infer the theme: The human expression of somber emotion inevitably follows suffering.
Throughout the novel, Bronte employs eloquent descriptions of the weather which supports the solemnness of the characters. In the beginning of the novel Mr. Earnshaw “began to fail”, falling ill, breaths away from dying. He eventually “died quietly in his chair one October evening.” encompassed by his grief stricken family. Immediately after his death a “high wind blustered round the house and roared in the chimney” it was described as “wild and stormy, yet it was not cold” The death of Mr. Earnshaw evokes a somber cloud among the family members. They undoubtedly feel complete agony at the loss of their dad, friend, and companion. The emphasis on the sadness is exhibited through the powerful flurry the crossed through the house. Similar to the wind, the earnshaws feelings are chaotic, bearing the weight of the tragic situation. The sadness that overpowers every other emotion is just as the impactful as the wind they had endured, showing the intense somber emotion after experiencing hardships.
Later on in the book, Catherine speaks to her housemaid Nelly who Heathcliff and Catherine are close to. Without realizing Heathcliff in hearing distance, Catherine admits to Nelly that “it would degrade her to marry” Heathcliff. Stunned in sadness and grief he continues to “rise off the bench, and steal out noiselessly” Heathcliff then goes off and disappears. Eventually Nelly and Catherine venture out in the storm to look for Heathcliff. Nelly illustrates that “about midnight” there was “violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building”. The turbulent weather continued to inflict calamity, causing “a portion of the east chimney-stack” to fall, and “sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen-fire”. The heightened weather enables the nature of the scene to be portrayed by the destructiveness of Heathcliff’s brokenhearted departure and the storm. Catherine is devastated by his vanishing, her love for him never left and she would also left heartbroken. She falls into a bleak state since Heathcliff has left her, and she cannot bear to live without him. Heathcliff himself is left broken after hearing the words that cut his heart, after hearing the love of his life said how she would be ashamed to be married to him. The betrayal Heathcliff felt sent him into a downward spiral of anguish. After experiencing the traumatic hardship of being betrayed by a loved one, mournful emotion is inevitable.
Finally, at the end of the book, Cathy goes to visit Linton in the midst of Edgar dying. During their excursion, Catherine’s face “was just like the landscape” the “shadows and sunshine flitting over it in rapid succession” however, the shadows rested longer and the sunshine was more transient”. The solemn emphasis of the drowning shadows and the fleeting sunshine on Catherine’s face portrays the inner struggles she has faced in life, the decision to leave her father’s side and take the unwanted trip to visit Linton. She somewhat trusts Linton for his letters bore few or no indications of his defective character.’ Unknowing that she will inevitably be betrayed by him who buckles under into his father’s threats. The use of nature expresses the pain of losing her last immediate family member and the uneasiness on her trip to visit Linton.
Wuthering Heights is a story full of drama and revenge fueled by one’s personal feelings. Emily Bronte is able to convey a sense of passion is throughout the novel, which is demonstrated through the character and is felt by the reader. The weather/ nature/ seasons motif implements the theme : inevitably, human expression of somber emotion follows suffering.
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.
Wuthering Heights’ biography
The novel commences with Lockwood, a wealthy dweller of Heathcliff’s. Grounded during a snowstorm at Wuthering Heights, Lockwood is attacked and later encountered by a ghost called Catherine. The next day, Heathcliff escorts Lockwood back to Thrushcross Grange. Riled up with curiosity, he implores Nelly Dean to expose him to Wuthering Heights’ and its inhabitants’ concealed history. Nelly Dean’s narration is a catalyst to revealing the main plot line. Recalling the past, we meet Mr. Earnshaw, the original owner of Wuthering heights, father to Hindley and Catherine Earnshaw. Mr. Earnshaw spontaneously decides to walk to Liverpool. This is when the reader is introduced to Heathcliff, an orphan, adopted and favored by Mr. Earnshaw over his own son. As the story progresses, Catherine and Heathcliff become inseparable, but Hindley loathes Heathcliff. Right after Mr. Earnshaw’s passes away, Hindley inherits Wuthering Heights and forces Heathcliff to work in the fields as a way to exact his revenge on Heathcliff.
One day Catherine and Heathcliff go to the Thrushcross Grange residence to spy on Edgar Linton and Catherine is bit by one of their dogs. When Catherine and Heathcliff are caught, Catherine is eagerly welcomed and nursed to health, but Heathcliff is shunned and refused permission to spend the night at Thrushcross Grange. This is where Catherine is first introduced to the upper social class and wealth. Slowly and gradually, Catherine and Edgar start to spend more time together and “fall in love”. Catherine realizes to climb up the social class she must marry Edgar, upon hearing this Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights, swears his revenge and disappears for three years. During Heathcliff’s absence, Catherine marries Edgar, even though their union only exists for social class and wealth purposes. Their relationship had already started to wither and Heathcliff’s arrival strained it further. Heathcliff winds up living with Catherine’s brother, Hindley, in Wuthering Heights and elopes with Isabella Linton to inherit her brother, Edgar’s, property. Soon after Heathcliff’s marriage, Catherine gives birth to Edgar’s daughter, Cathy, and dies. Heathcliff vows revenge and ignores the effects of his selfish motives. He wants everything Edgar loves. He desires to gain control of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
In order to exact his revenge, Heathcliff must wait 17 years. Uses his son and forces Cathy to marry him. By this time he has control of the Heights and with Edgar’s death, he has control of the Grange. Through all of this, though, the ghost of Catherine haunts Heathcliff. Tempting him to reunite with her in the afterlife.At the end of the novel, his desires are fulfilled and Hareton and Cathy are going to be united in marriage.
The Exploration of the Gender Question in Wuthering Heights
In Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë explores the gender identity of both herself and her characters. She published the book under the name of Ellis Bell, which many readers took to be that of a man. As critic Nicola Thompson points out, most critics at the time noted the book’s “‘power,’ a characteristic invariably associated in Victorian literary criticism with male authors” (Thompson 346). Indeed, the novel was deemed by some as “too ‘male,’ and perhaps therefore not suited for a ‘feminized’ reading public” (Thompson 361). In a biographical preface to the novel’s 1880 reprint, Emily’s sister Charlotte explains that the sisters chose to write under assumed names to protect themselves from the scrutiny often faced by Victorian female writers. Given the reaction to Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë clearly achieved this objective.
The issue of the author’s gender raises an interesting question about literary interpretation. One feminist outlook is that gender should not affect analysis of a work; the words should be all that matter. Emily Brontë never revealed the book’s true, female authorship, but perhaps it was only her untimely death that precluded her disclosure. We cannot assume from her decision to write as Ellis Bell that she would have supported a genderless interpretation of the novel; rather, we might look at the way Brontë portrays gender in Wuthering Heights to gain a better understanding of her beliefs on this issue. With this perspective, we see that the tumultuous plot of Catherine and Heathcliff’s love affair represents Brontë’s tumultuous struggle for gender identity in a Victorian society consisting of only male or female ideals.
According to Jean E. Kennard, “Brontë’s sense of her sexual identity would have been modeled on what the nineteenth century called ‘sexual inversion,’” (Kennard 19). Kennard defines ‘sexual inversion’ as “not, like homosexuality, only a question of desire, of the choice of sexual object, but implies a much wider range of cross-gender behavior. […] Sexual inversion in women involved […] ‘masculine’ behavior” (Kennard 19). The idea of ‘masculine behavior’ is easily apparent in Brontë’s work. Her writing style not only was considered masculine by reviewers and critics of Wuthering Heights, but fellow villagers described her “more like a boy than a girl” (Kennard 22). Many others who met her described her masculine as well, including a girl she had worked with, a servant, and Ellen Nussey, a close friend of Charlotte Brontë (Kennard 22). Her own father called her “the Major,” a very ‘masculine’ nickname (Kennard 22).
Based upon Kennard’s claims that Brontë’s gender identity was one of ‘sexual inversion,’ one can begin to regard the lives of Catherine and Heathcliff as a representation of Brontë’s ideals of gender and sexuality. Wuthering Heights becomes a reincarnation of Brontë’s own transformations by fulfilling the ideal presented by Charlotte Goodman of the male-female double Bildungsroman in which the “paired male and female protagonist […] appear to function as psychological ‘doubles,’ for each character is intensely involved with the psychic life of his or her counterpart” (Goodman 31).
One must first view the characters of Catherine and Heathcliff not as two separate beings, but rather as a reflection of one another. In the novel, Catherine confesses this ideal to Nelly: “[Heathcliff’s] more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same […] Nelly, I am Heathcliff—he’s always, always in my mind—not as a pleasure, any more than I am a pleasure to myself—but as my own being” (Brontë 59-60). Catherine herself struggles with society’s ideals of how a proper woman should behave. Her encounters with Edgar Linton forces her into the ‘proper’ image of a Victorian young lady: “a very dignified person, with brown ringlets falling from the cover of a feathered beaver, and a long cloth habit which she was obliged to hold up with both hands […] displaying fingers wonderfully whitened with doing nothing, and staying indoors” (Brontë 37-38). Catherine represents the part of Brontë that desires to survive in a Victorian society in which females can only have feminine traits, and males can only contain masculine traits. Brontë uses Catherine to display the desire to rid herself of masculinity, and as Catherine’s death implies, the inability to do so. Catherine becomes weakened and ill with the attempt to coincide her two loves—Edgar and Heathcliff. Edgar represents her desire to be part of society, while Heathcliff remains the underlying truth of who she truly is. Catherine dies of childbirth, an act that associates itself with proper Victorian women’s duties. Although the tension between Catherine’s masculinity and feminism causes her to weaken, in the end, she dies as she is about to fulfill the Victorian feminine ideal of motherhood.
During the novel, the character of Heathcliff disappears only to return “a tall, athletic, well-formed man […] even dignified, quite divested of roughness though too stern for grace” (Brontë 70). When Catherine passes away, all of the degradation Heathcliff has endured spurs a bitter design for revenge. Heathcliff’s childhood bitterness, his revenge plot, mirrors what one can imagine Brontë’s state while writing Wuthering Heights. The novel’s violence and vulgarity stem from Brontë’s inner revengeful-Heathcliff. As Heathcliff ages and begins to accept his past, he only wishes to be reunited with his Catherine in death. Catherine’s ghost haunts him, he confesses to Nelly: “filling the air at night, and caught by glimpses in every object, by day I am surrounded with her image!” The final reunion of Heathcliff and Catherine in death would end the schism between male and female, just as Brontë wishes to connect her masculine and feminine traits into a third gender, one without limitations.
Catherine and Heathcliff’s separation and desire for reunification reveal a woman who found herself in the undefined middle ground between being a “woman” or a “man.” Goodman states,
“The double form of the Bildungsroman, with its focus on both a male and a female protagonist, appears to be particularly congenial to the woman novelist who wishes to emphasize the way in which a society that rigidly differentiates between male and female gender roles limits the full development of women and men alike […] the male-female Bildungsroman dramatizes the limitations imposed on both the male and the female protagonist in a patriarchal society where androgynous wholeness no longer is possible” (Goodman 31).
However, the ending of Wuthering Heights does not necessarily prove that Brontë ever did find gender unity. Perhaps Wuthering Heights is only a representation of what Brontë wished for, not what she had already accomplished; after all, despite her ‘masculine’ writing she was also considered “conventionally feminine in her artistic passivity and innocence” in her sister’s view (351). While she did not successfully meld the masculine and feminine parts of herself in life, in Wuthering Heights she admirably explored the connection and possible unity between the two.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. Mineola, N.Y.: Dover, 1996.
Goodman, Charlotte. “The Lost Brother, the Twin: Women Novelists and the Male-Female Double Bildungsroman.” NOVEL: A Forum on Fiction. 17: 1 (1983): 28-43.
Kennard, Jean E. “Lesbianism and the Censoring of Wuthering Heights.” NWSA Journal. 8: 2 (1996): 17-36.
Thompson, Nicola. “The Unveiling of Ellis Bell: Gender and the Reception of Wuthering Heights.” Women’s Studies. 24: 4 (1995): 341-367
Catherine and Hareton’s Relationship and Walls Taken Down
In Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë develops a conflict between Catherine Linton and Hareton Earnshaw and uses the resolution of their conflict to resolve that between Catherine and Heathcliff. Though their social classes and upbringings differ, the two cousins possess the same wild spirits and match perfectly. In order to discover their compatibility, however, they must both break down their walls and let go of their bitternesses.
When Catherine the Second and Hareton Earnshaw first meet, Catherine treats Hareton with disdain and refuses to recognize him as her cousin. She has come into Wuthering Heights with a wall around her heart. She is unhappy about being there and resolves not to befriend its inhabitants. Hareton acts politely in the best way he knows how, and tries to give her his seat by the fire and retrieves books for her off the shelves. She turns down the seat and, according to Zillah, “turned up her nose” (217). She accepts the books from him, but then turns away to read them. Even though she does not thank him, he “felt gratified that she had accepted his assistance” (217). Hareton obviously tries hard to be someone Catherine would respect, but she continues to snub him. After she turns away, he gets really caught up in watching her and reaches out to touch a curl. This forwardness disgusts and infuriates Catherine. She asks him, “How dare you touch me?” and goes on to tell him, “I can’t endure you!” (217-8). He feels foolish and grows timid in her presence. Even though he wants her to read aloud to him, he now fears her too much to ask, so he requests that Zillah ask for him. Catherine responds with another outburst, telling Hareton outright that she does not care about him at all and cannot even bear the sound of his voice. This humiliation is the final straw for Hareton.
In response to her treatment of him, Hareton stops trying to please Catherine. He grows hateful toward her and considers her snobbish and shallow. He “muttered, she might go to hell” (218), and stops refraining from engaging in activities he was formerly told might displease Catherine if they were done on a Sunday, such as cleaning his gun. It hurts his pride too much to care for her when she is hateful back, so he puts up a wall and resolves to be just as hateful, making himself less vulnerable.
Malice breeds malice, and their hatred has a bit of a snowball effect. Catherine snubs Hareton, even when he tries to be polite, so he sees her every action as a statement of her haughtiness. Then she finds him even more barbaric and is even crueler. She makes fun of his illiteracy, and he becomes bitter and embarrassed. Catherine mocks Hareton always “trying to spell and read to himself” and goes on to ridicule his struggles in the attempt (221). Hareton resents the fact “that he should be laughed at for his ignorance, and then laughed at for trying to remove it” (221). Catherine continues by informing Hareton that he has desecrated all of her favorite books through his poor readings of them. He throws the books at her angrily, but she continues to make fun of him.
However, Brontë does not leave Hareton and Catherine in conflict. In fact, through books and reading Catherine and Hareton do resolve their differences. After Nelly’s arrival at Wuthering Heights, Catherine’s attitude and behavior improve, and one day Catherine announces to Hareton, “I should like you to be my cousin” (230). Hareton resists at first, but Catherine persists in explaining that she does not hate him. Finally, to prove her earnestness, she gives him a kiss on the cheek, then sends a book as a peace offering along with the message that she will teach him to read. At this point, Catherine has taken down her own wall and begun to dismantle Hareton’s. She begs for, then accepts, his forgiveness and friendship, and immediately begins reading lessons. Catherine the second and Hareton become friends, and their friendship continues to grow, “though it encountered temporary interruptions. Earnshaw was not to be civilized with a wish; and my young lady was no…paragon of patience; but both their minds tending to the same point…they contrived in the end, to reach it” (232). Eventually, after both walls have been destroyed, they grow to love one another.
In a sense, the resolution of this conflict also resolves the conflict between Catherine the first and Heathcliff. When Cathy’s father first brings wild little Heathcliff home, she resents him because she was expecting a whip as a surprise, not a little boy. However, unlike her brother, Cathy soon realizes Heathcliff’s potential as a playmate. They grow up playing together and sharing everything, and Heathcliff allows himself to fall in love with Cathy. Cathy loves Heathcliff too, but represses those feelings after meeting the Lintons and realizing that socially, Heathcliff is beneath her. Cathy puts up a wall in order to move up in the world, and Heathcliff must do so as well in response in order to avoid getting hurt. She marries Edgar Linton to achieve social status and by doing so, gives up the opportunity to be with Heathcliff, the one she truly loves and is meant to be with. Cathy confesses her motives for marrying Linton to Nelly saying:
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 (59).
Catherine recognizes the depth of her love for Heathcliff, but is still not willing to lower herself. By this time, Heathcliff’s heart has hardened and he has become bitter. He continues to try to steal Catherine back, but after his final visit to her she grows so sick from the stress that she dies. The two lovers never resolve their conflict in life, but after Heathcliff finally dies, a little boy tells Nelly “They’s Heathcliff and a woman, yonder, under t’Nab” (247). Unlike the future generation of lovers, Cathy and Heathcliff’s walls never come down during their lifetimes. Catherine the second and Hareton share the wild spirit possessed by both Heathcliff and the first Catherine. However, the first pair of lovers is not united until their death because Catherine the first did not put aside her feelings of superiority and traded social station for true love. Catherine the second does exchange her haughtiness for unity with Hareton.
Thus, the walls they put up blind Catherine and Hareton to the qualities in each other that so closely resemble qualities in themselves. Catherine puts up a wall first, and thus must take the first step in order for Hareton to see a potential friend in her. However, when both succeed in opening up to the other, Catherine and Hareton discover that more than just a potential for friendship exists. The two are kindred spirits, and the breaking down of their personal walls reveals love.
The Significance of Cycles in Emily Brontë’s Novel
The natural cycles of the universe promote continuity through repetition. Emily Brontë had a very cyclical outlook on life, and uses these cycles throughout Wuthering Heights to exhibit this. The story itself comes full circle and death is a prominent cycle in the story. These two cycles hold extreme importance to the structure of the novel because they cause the reader to see the cynical views of Brontë’s life during the Victorian period.
From the beginning of the novel, life and death are the most important cycles in Wuthering Heights. Lockwood introduces the reader to the supernatural in the first few chapters. in a dream sequence he grapples with the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw. “Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled it’s wrist on the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down,” (Brontë, 20). This brutality between the dead Cathy and Lockwood exhibits Brontë’s views how easily the veneer of civilization can be stripped away. To further her point the ghost moans, “I’ve been a waif for twenty years,” (Brontë, 21). The word waif, meaning orphan, has a significant connection to the lost souls of Heathcliff and Cathy throughout the book, and deepens the readers curiosity about the events that lead up to this haunting. This incident also marks the strong connection between Heathcliff and Catherine, and the significance of Cathy’s room. Lockwood is almost defiling her sacred place, and the ghost comes to seek revenge. The bloody and brutal language used in the quote shows how thin the line is for the ’gentleman’ lockwood to descend into violence.
Although Brontë seems to believe Cathy and Heathcliff’s souls find their heaven on the moors, she goes far enough to say love can go beyond death. This gothic interpretation of events is rooted in a strong belief in the supernatural and the unknown of the afterlife. “Much of Victorian death culture developed out of subconscious reactions to wide-spread death, new scientific discoveries, and popular culture and these fears and anxieties were reflected in much of the Victorian era.” Brontë uses her views on death to shape the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine. On her death bed, Heathcliff says, “Catherine Earnshaw, many you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you— haunt me then!” (Brontë, 130). It becomes evident the narrative structure, introduced to us by Lockwood reveals the veracity —Heathcliff may speak the truth and Cathy may be a ghost, as seen in the beginning.
The parallels between life and death are also significant to the author’s views on the cycles of life. Brontë begins the second half of the novel with the second Catherine’s birth. This is important because it shows the cyclical nature of life. Catherine, the senior, dies but, the younger Catherine is born as somewhat of a reincarnation of her mother. Mrs. Dean says, “The capacity for intense attachments reminded me of her mother,” (Brontë, 146). The author describes both Cathy’s as being similar to emphasize the importance of the novel beginning to come full circle.
Brontë also delves into the pain that death causes others as a reflection of her own life. As a young girl her mother died of cancer and a few years later her two older sisters died. This ever present, cruel, loss in her life shaped the novel. She uses her close experiences with death to give a detailed description of Catherine senior in between life and death. She’s described, “The flash of her eyes had been successes by a dreamy and melancholy softness; they no longer gave the impression of looking at objects around her; they appeared to always be gaze beyond,” (Brontë, 122). The details Brontë uses, like “doomed to decay,” (122) exhibit how detailed an experience Brontë had with death when she was younger.
The notion of death is prevalent throughout the novel and reflects Brontë’s cruel views of the topic. Her continuous use of life and death stems from her childhood, and Victorian era outlooks, but Wuthering Heights, above all, is a book of cycles and patterns. When Lockwood spends the night in Cathy Earnshaw’s old room, he finds the window ledge covered with, “a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small—Catherine Earnshaw, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff, and then again to Catherine Linton,” (Brontë, 15-16). This repetition of names becomes important with the second Catherine, as through her life she is born, married, and remarried to have all of those last names. This important pattern Brontë created exhibits her view of life: everything comes full circle.
Brontë’s cyclical view of life, death, and the afterlife shape the narrative of Wuthering Heights. From Lockwood’s encounter of the supernatural to the marriage of Catherine and Hareton, Heathcliff’s son, the novel is full of cycles and repetitive patterns and behaviors of the characters. Brontë uses the children of the first generation to give the characters a chance to not make the same mistakes as their parents. Although there are some faults, to conclude is the union of the second generation’s souls, which allowed for Catherine and Heathcliff to find peace among the moors.
- Brontë, Emily, and Richard J. Dunn. Wuthering Heights. London: W. W. Norton, 2003. Print.
2. ”Why Were Victorians Obsessed with Death?” The Unhinged Historian. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 Dec. 2016.