Wuthering Heights Social Class
Emily Bronts novel Wuthering Heights tells one of the most famous love stories in the English language. Throughout the novel Nelly Dean, a servant at both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, shares the love story between Heathcliff, a gypsy boy who is found on the streets of Liverpool and is rescued by Mr. Earnshaw, and Catherine, the daughter of Mr.
Earnshaw who forms a passionate attachment to Heathcliff. When Heathcliff is lowered to the position of a farmhand and Catherine decides to marry Edgar Linton instead, Heathcliff turns to revenge. He is determined to degrade everyone who sought to degrade him. At the time when this novel takes place, people were born into a class and stayed there: if your parents were rich and respected like Edgar’s, you would be, too; if your parents were servants like Nelly Dean’s, you probably would be one too. Social mobility the idea that you can change your class status (usually for the better)– was not commonplace (Meler). In Emily Bronts novel Wuthering Heights, the theme of social class is shown throughout the novel, creating conflicts for the characters of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
When reading the novel, it is clear to see that the storys setting and characters at both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange supply an unambiguous comprehension of the social contrast between the houses, The Earnshaw’s and Linton’s are both part of a social class named the gentry, which is similar to the upper-middle class (Meler). However, Bront makes it very clear that Thrushcross Grange is a far more superior manor to the farmhouse at Wuthering Heights, While the Heights is depicted as simply typical and “domestic,”(Bront 80) the Grange is described as a “scene of unprecedented richness (Meler). The two houses are neighbors yet they Heathcliff, Catherine, and Hindley live pretty much cut off from the outside world at Wuthering Heights and their only friends are the people that live there(Meler). Heathcliff and Catherines close bond probably comes from this aspect, where they only really had each other when growing up. It is not until Heathcliff and Catherine stumble upon the Linton family in Thrushcross Grange that their relationship begins to change due to the fact that Catherine starts feeling a sort of societal pressure that she did not feel before, Catherine does not consider personal feelings, but instead, she focuses on her outward appearance to society…wealth justifies social class, and Catherine strives to achieve high status (Meler). She regrets this when Heathcliff returns to the Heights, He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man His upright carriage suggested the idea of his having been in the army. His countenance was much older in expression and decision of feature than Mr. Linton’s; it looked intelligent, and retained no marks of former degradation (Bronte 83). During the time he was away from the Heights, Heathcliff worked hard to raise his social rank. No longer could Edgar and Hindley treat Heathcliff like a servant like they did when Catherine first came back to the Heights. Heathcliff, you may come forward,.. You may come and wish Miss Catherine welcome, like the other servants (Bront 47). Heathcliff newly obtained social status gave him the power to own both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. However, he chose to live in Wuthering Heights. … Heathcliff let Thrushcross Grange, and preferred living in a situation and residence so much inferior (Bronte 28). Social class was something he never really cared about. He only ever wanted Catherine to marry him. Though far apart, Thrushcross Granges capitalism of social class destroys the natural and humane elements of Wuthering Heights creating the pressure to need a high social class
In the novel, it is clear to see that how the characters act and present themselves causes many problems with how they are treated. Each house is associated with the behavior fitting their description, The Lintons are relatively firm in their gentrys status but nonetheless take great pains to prove this status through their behaviors. The Earnshaws, on the other hand, rest on much shakier ground socially(Meler). When growing up, Catherine was always a rambunctious child. There were no other ladies around so she was never taught how a lady should act. This made it easier for Catherine and Heathcliff to get along. When stumbling across Thrushcross Grange, Catherine is badly hurt by one of the Lintons dogs. The Lintons bring Catherine inside and thinking that Heathcliff is nothing more than a servant tell him to go away. Instead of leaving, Heathcliff watches,When Heathcliff watches Catherine through the window of Thrushcross Grange he watches the Lintons comb Catherines hair and wash her wounded foot, his purpose is to determine whether she wants to be rescued he waited by the window to determine if Catherine needed him. (Apter 70) Her stay at the Linton house is when Catherine is introduced to the life of being a proper lady. Never once did she think about Heathcliff. Catherine stayed at Thrushcross Grange for five weeks. When she does return, there is no longer a wild, hatless little savage jumping into the house, and rushing to squeeze us all breathless (Bront 46) like the Earnshaws remembered instead there’lighted from a handsome black pony 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 that she might sail in (Bront 46). During her stay she at Thrushcross Grange she forgot all about how Heathcliff acted and presented himself. So when she sees him again she laughs and calls him dirty. Heathcliff is greatly hurt by this and he later asks Nelly to help him look presentable. Heathcliffs manners improve as he becomes a higher class. 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 too stern for grace” (Bronte 83). The son of Hindley, Hareton should be the heir to Wuthering Heights. With land and standing, he ought to be a gentleman. However, Heathcliff refuses to educate him, and everyone else mostly ignores him, so his manners (a very important indicator of class status) are rough and gruff. (Meler) Lower classes do not always get to learn manners and have the ability to present themselves in a dignified way. In the novel, the characters must present themselves well or they will be overlooked and seen as nothing.
Lastly, in the novel, it is clear to see that social status in marriage is a huge part of the social contrast between Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Catherine, throughout the novel, showed different types of love for two different people. Her love for Heathcliff was her everything, it was her identity to love and live for Heathcliff but as soon as she found out how society views Heathcliff, she sacrificed their love and married Edgar Linton in the hopes of saving Heathcliff from Hindley and protecting him from the eyes of the world.”Did it never strike you that if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars? Whereas if I marry Edgar, I can aid Heathcliff to rise and place him out of my brother’s power.” (Bront 71) Catherine thought she could slip beneath passions net and take the offer of Edgars pleasant love, but she is destroyed by her defiance. Her own emotional greed she thought he would be satisfied by her own inward assurance that they were one person. Her passion was so real that marriage to her had no reality. (Apter 72) Catherine was going to marry Edgar because of his wealth and status. By marrying Edgar, it would give her a name she can be proud of and the people would envy her. …he will be rich, and I shall like to be the greatest women of the neighbourhood, and I shall be proud of having such a husband(Bront 69). This marked the lost of innocence for Catherine because she now knows the rules of society. She used to be so close to Heathcliff that she told Nelly I am Heathcliff(Bront 101). Their naturally formed union has been broken by Catherines marriage and now they must struggle for possession of one another. This struggle is a desperate attack; they cannot be gentle with one another; they must be ruthless in their attempt to maintain their hold upon one another(Apter 71). Edgar knew that Catherine loved Heathcliff more than she would ever love him. Because of this he despises Heathcliff and banes his daughter from ever going to Wuthering Heights.His rival destroys his happiness a second time by kidnapping his adolescent daughter, Catherine. The blow is so devastating that Edgar soon dies of grief(Bloom 23). Heathcliff … would not have bothered with Edgar Linton and his family had Catherine not married Edgar(Apter 68).
In Emily Bronts novel Wuthering Heights, the theme of social class is shown throughout the novel, creating conflicts for the characters of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.The characters in the novel are affected by social classes in how they should act, how they are treated, and who they can marry, The social class conflicts added to Heathcliff’s bitterness because he was rejected by his love due to his social class. It drove Heathcliff’s ambition to become wealthier after Catherine marries Edgar instead of him. The social contrast between Heathcliff and Edgar, along with Catherine’s want to be wealthy, ultimately resulted in her marrying the man she was less happy with (Meler). If it wasnt for the social classes seen in the novel, the characters of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange wouldnt have to deal with the struggles they did.
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