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Saturday, 18 March 2017

Wuthering Heights

                      Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights was Emily Brontë's only novel, and it is considered the fullest expression of her highly individual poetic vision. It contains many Romantic influences: Heathcliff is a very Byronic character, though he lacks the self pity that mars many Byronic characters, and he is deeply attached to the natural world. When the novel was written, the peak of the Romantic age had passed: Emily Brontë lived a very isolated life, and was in some sense behind the times. Wuthering Heights expresses criticisms of social conventions, particularly those surrounding issues of gender: notice that the author distributes "feminine" and "masculine" characteristics without regard to sex. Brontë had difficulties living in society while remaining true to the things she considered important: the ideal of women as delicate beings who avoid physical or mental activity and pursue fashions and flirtations was repugnant to her. Class issues are also important: we are bound to respect Ellen, who is educated but of low class, more than Lockwood.
Any reader of Wuthering Heights should recognize immediately that it is not the sort of novel that a gently-bred Victorian lady would be expected to write. Emily Brontë sent it to publishers under the masculine name of Ellis Bell, but even so it took many tries and many months before it was finally accepted. Its reviews were almost entirely negative: reviewers implied that the author of such a novel must be insane, obsessed with cruelty, barbaric. Emily's sister Charlotte's novel Jane Eyre was much more successful. Emily was always eager to maintain the secrecy under which the novel was published, understandably. She died soon after the publication, and Charlotte felt obliged ­- now that secrecy was no longer necessary -­ to write a preface for the novel defending her sister's character. The preface also made it clear that Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell were, in fact, different people: some readers had speculated that Wuthering Heights was an early work by the author of Jane Eyre. It appears that Charlotte herself was uncomfortable with the more disturbing aspects of her sister's masterpiece. She said that if Emily had lived, "her mind would of itself have grown like a strong tree; loftier, straighter, wider-spreading, and its matured fruits would have attained a mellower ripeness and sunnier bloom." Her apology for Emily's work should be read with the realization that Charlotte's character was quite different from Emily's: her interpretation of Wuthering Heights should not necessarily be taken at face value.
Wuthering Heights does not belong to any obvious prose genre, nor did it begin an important literary lineage. None of its imitations can approach its sincerity and poetic power. However, it has still been an important influence on English literature. With the passing of time, an immense amount of interest has grown up about the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, and they have achieved the status of the centers of a literary cult.

“Let him dare to force you ... There’s law in the land, thank God! there is; though we be in an out-of-the-way place. I’d inform if he were my own son: and it’s felony without benefit of clergy!”
                                                                            Ellen Dean, Page 274
This is one of the only times that a character in Wuthering Heights refers to the people and customs of the world outside Wuthering Heights and the Grange. Besides passing references to Gimmerton, the nearest town, the characters seem to live in complete isolation, which helps to explain their passionate relationships and convoluted family trees. The fact that Ellen thinks of seeking help from the outside world indicates both the direness of the situation when Heathcliff imprisons her and Cathy at Wuthering Heights, as well as her common sense relative to the other characters. This contrasts sharply with Cathy's personality; despite her liveliness, the young girl cannot conceive of a life outside her own insular community, and her greatest ambition as a child was only to see the other side of the hill on the edge of the Grange.

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