WHY DID I CHOOSE THIS BOOK?
Since I started to be interested in English literature, I had always heard about Wuthering Heights and Emily Brontë. Everybody I met used to say that even thought it is a really complex novel, it is a must.
Likewise, I met many teachers whose devotion to this book was formidable; in terms of translation, literary criticism or just for the pleasure of reading, all of them coincided that it is a masterpiece.
Due to all these facts, I looked for some information about it although it was useless, I could not understand the complicated plot just by means of an online summary, it was impossible. That is why I decided to buy this novel last summer. Even though I did not read it that summer, it was there, in my shelf, tantalizing me. Finally, I forgot it.
In the early days of this semester, I discovered that for the new literature subject, we will have to choose a book and there it was, Wuthering Heights’ opportunity. Without any doubt, from the first moment, I knew that it would be my choice.
Now, after reading and analyzing this classic, I can truly say that all its renown is worthy. So that, I do not regret about having chose this masterpiece. Moreover, if I have to write another essay, I will do it on Wuthering Heights again.
BIOGRAPHY OF THE AUTHOR
Literature was in Brontë’s blood. Emily was born in Yorkshire on July, 1818. She was the fifth child of Patrick Brontë, an Irish priest, and Maria Branwell, poet and painter. Since Emily was a child, she used to enjoy reading and creating stories with her sisters.
After many travels trough Europe, she discovered her own poetic talent. Joint with her sisters, Anne and Charlotte, they decided to publish a collection of their poetry in 1846. In order to evade all the problems that publishing a book being a woman provoked, they adopted pseudonyms but retaining the first letter of their fist names: Emily as Ellis Bell, Anne as Acton Bell and Charlotte as Currer Bell.
Analyzing the style of our author, it is undeniable the influence of Wordsworth, Walter Scott and Byron on Emily’s poems. Of course, the fact that the three sisters were writers affected also her style.
As a final point to Emily’s biography, I would like to make a connection with the next section, her novel. Wuthering Heights was published almost a year before her death from tuberculosis at the age of thirty.
WUTHERING HEIGHTS: THE BOOK
The context of this masterpiece takes us to the Victorian Age, and for a better understanding it should be convenient to understand the 19th-century fiction novels and the Victorian culture in which the novel was written and published.
Novel became the most popular style in literature during the 19th-century in England. Most of the novels of the age were determined by the Gothic tradition, which marked these novels with the typical elements of the period such as a gloomy and ruined atmosphere or the supernatural. In the list of influenced novels, it is a must to mention, of course, Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
Another issue to be taken into account is the Victorian’s archetypes. In culture, the Victorians were defined by their focussing in appearance and by leaving behind disagreeables topics. Social decorum had to be kept all the time.
Published in 1847, Wuthering Heights was not a really welcome novel. Not too many readers gave an opportunity to the book. It was considered against the Victorian guidelines due to to its inappropriate plot.
Even though the book’s narrative did not depicted any sexual nor blooded scenes, it was the topics of uncontrolled love and cruelty the ones which made the novel to be considered as disproportionated and improper for the age.
However, after Brontë’s death, the novel was reread and analyzed again by different generations of readers and that is when it started to be classified as a classic of the 19th century English literature.
The storyline relates the life of Heathcliff, a mysterious character, from his childhood until his death. It is described his intense love with Catherine Earnshaw, her betrayal of him and how his revenge perdures until the day of the narration.
In this section, the characters of the novel will be classified into different categories and analyzed. As a final part of the description, a brief interpretation of them will be added.
As it is already known, Wuthering Heights is told by the use of multiple narrators. Although it is supposed to be the entire diary of Mr. Lockwood, it is interrupted by the use of reported speech by some characters, also the addition of written documents, such as Isabella’s letter or Catherine’s comments on her books. The embedded literature gives the reader a wide variety of opinions and points of view, although not all of them are believable. In this novel, we find two main narrators: Nelly Dean and Mr. Lockwood.
Nelly Dean: As she grew up with Catherine Earnshaw and her brother, she is immersed in the story that she relates. In the time of the narration she is working as the housekeeper. As far a she is a passionate woman, her speech is infested of feelings. These feelings complicate her narration and sometimes they can alter it, that is the main reason why she is considered as an unreliable narrator in this novel.
Mr. Lockwood: He started the story as a narrator, writing on his diary the moment when he arrived to Wuthering Heights. His narration conforms a complement to Nelly’s and both of them tell the plot of the book. Lockwood’s words are also considered as unreliable. The fact that he did not live the story from the beginning and his inexperience in love matters ensure that he is an untrustworthy narrator.
All these facts are corroborated by Melissa Fegan, as she explains:
The reader must wonder why Bronte deliberately constructed the narrative in such a way that the story is filtered through the two characters who seem least able to understand or empathize with it – two ‘unreliable’ narrators. An analysis of the characters of Nelly and Lockwood suggests we must look carefully at all the evidence they provide about other characters – and themselves -and fill in the gaps where their comprehension is at fault. The burden of interpretation lies firmly with the reader. (2008: 30).
The first generation
Notwithstanding the importance of the first generation, during the novel they do not play a crucial role, except from Joseph. So that, this section will be very concrete and straightforward.
Mr and Mrs Earnshaw: They are the parents of Catherine and Hindley, the four of them live in Wuthering Heights. One day, Mr Earnshaw brought an orphan to love with them, Heathcliff. During the narration, it is undeniable Mr Earnshaw’ s preference for Heathcliff and the annoyance of Mrs Earnshaw.
Mr and Mrs Linton: Thrushcross Grange’s owners and parents of Edgar and Isabella Linton. In the novel, they are depicted as well-mannered and wealthy people. They both raise up their children in good manners and as sophisticated people. After taking Catherine to their house, Mrs Linton tried to teach her as a refined young girl.
Joseph: A servant at Wuthering Heights during the whole novel. Stevie Davies stated:
He is a gnarled root of the novel’s authenticity. […] He has always been there and he always will be, old as the hills, son of the Ancient of Days, with a mythic and timeless quality that does not conflict with his authenticity as a representative of the working class with its pride in hard graft and contempt for the affectations of gentility. (1994: 149).
The importance of this character should not be underestimated. He has a strange power over the masters of Wuthering Heights.
The second generation
In this section, the two principal characters will be presented: Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. Even though Catherine and Heathcliff are the very principal, there are some others that also must be depicted for a better and correct understanding of the plot.
Edgar Linton: He was Catherine’s husband. In the novel he is described as handsome, and young, and cheerful (Brontë, 2012, p.84). These are the qualities why Catherine married him. Since he is a child, we can perceive his hate towards Heathcliff, as a response of the way he had been educated. In his personality we can feel a tendency to be cold and a strong feeling of unforgiving when his dignity is hurt.
Isabella Linton: Edgar’s sister. She marries Heathcliff, but she didn’t evaluate it before. This act and some others show us the spirit of Isabella. She is a shallow minded and a bit foolish. I could say that she ruined her life by falling in love with Heathcliff. Finally, the horror of her relationship makes her to move out from Wuthering Heights.
Hindley Earnshaw: He is Catherine’s brother. Since Heathcliff is brought to Wuthering Heights, Hindley tortures him due to the favoritism given by Mr Earnshaw towards Heathcliff. He abuses Heathcliff during the whole novel. He got married with Frances and had a son. The dead of this last one drives him into alcoholism and hopelessness. He is one of the personification of revenge and insanity in the novel.
Heathcliff: An enigmatic and mysterious character since the beginning of the narration. An orphan child who is brought to Wuthering Heights by Mr Earnshaw. He fell in a profound love with Catherine, his “sister”, but she declined and married with Edgar. During the novel he is humiliated by almost everybody. Many critics coincide that:
[Heathcliff]exemplifies the effects which a life of continued injustice and hard usage may produce on a naturally perverse, vindictive, and inexorable disposition. Carefully trained and kindly treated, the black gipsy-cub might possibly have been reared into a human being, but tyranny and ignorance made of him a mere demon. (Barker 1997, p. 203).
As Baker states before and I completely agree, the behavior of Heathcliff was built up by all the characters who were evil with him. The truth is that it must be so difficult to be a kind person if everybody is hurting you. All this anger discharges in a final character, who is driven by rancor and during his adulthood looks for revenge.
Catherine Earnshaw: The daughter of Mr and Mrs Earnshaw. She falls in a passionate love with Heathcliff, this love will determine all her life. She found herself reflected into Heathcliff, the fact that they grew up being together and together makes her think her that they belongs to each other, as it is in written in the book, […]he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same (p.87). Despite the fact that she loves him, her desire for social improvement and ambition made her to marry with Edgar Linton. Finally, this dispute between her wild love and her ambition brought misery to both of the men who loved her.