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Death Beyond Revenge Wuthering Heights
The Victorian Period is often thought of as a time where many new ideas emerged not only in the lives of the people, but also in literature. One such work, Wuthering Heights, created many controversies as well as questions regarding the lifestyles and ideals of the people during this time. Few books have been scrutinized as closely as Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. When the novel was first analyzed, critical opinion deemed the book immoral because of the many controversial issues indirectly addressed in the novel (“Wuthering Heights’’ 6). Emily Bronte, the author, was described as the free spirit within the Bronte family, who were all too familiar with literature. Her sister Charlotte, once described Emily to be “Stronger than a man, simpler than a child’’ (Carey 5). There were many conflicting influences that shaped the character and genius of Bronte. Patrick, her father, was of Irish decent and was known for his picturesque, free-flowing speech, poetry and imagination. Maria, her mother, was a strong Methodist woman, who was also an author. During her life, Maria published several essays, one entitled, ‘‘the Advantages of Poverty in Religious Concerns.’’ Bronte’s mother died of cancer at a very early age, leaving her six children motherless. Another aspect of Bronte’s personality can be seen in the uniqueness of the environment in which she was reared. She grew up in the small village of Haworth, which was isolated, much like the setting of Wuthering Heights, and this contributed to her freeness of spirit. Another
interesting fact about Bronte was her opposition to uniform religion; this is seen to be quite ironic, considering the extremely religious attitude of both of her parents. All of these facts and influences are what contributed to caused Bronte to write the novel Wuthering Heights (Carey 6-7). Wuthering Heights is a story about two families, the Earnshaws and the Lintons. Heathcliff is the adopted son of Mr. Earnshaw, while Catherine is his legitimate daughter and the two are raised together as siblings. Ironically at a young age the two develop a loving relationship. The fact that Heathcliff is merely a servant is the issue that keeps the two from being together, and Catherine decides later to marry Edgar Linton. The jealousy Heathcliff feels from his loss creates a need for revenge, and this contributes to many conflicts within the plot. The stress caused by their situation only gets worse, and after giving childbirth, this stress contributes to the cause of her death. Her daughter, also named Cathy, along with Heathcliff’s son, Linton, grow up together having a similar relation ship to the one Catherine and Heathcliff shared at one point. During the final years of Heathcliff’s life he is haunted by the thoughts of Catherine inside her grave, and later, only after his death is he able to be at peace. Many Victorian themes are reflected within Bronte’s novel, three of which are prevalent, including religion, questions and doubts, and love and loss.
The theme of religion, which is evident throughout the novel, plays an important part in the story’s plot. Just as today, many people look at religion as a way of life and use it as a measure to judge the qualities of others. Throughout the beginning of the
novel, readers can detect the development of a relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine. Since Catherine and Heathcliff had been reared together as brother and sister, this raises serious questions about the validity of incest between them. In today’s society more and more bizarre occurrences are becoming socially accepted, but during the Romantic Period there was little room for controversy in behavior (Bender 156). Another thought evident in the story which can be considered to have religious bearing is the
relationship Heathcliff has with his brother Hindley. The popular Biblical saying, “Love thy neighbor as thy self,” is not one by which the two characters abide. From the day Mr. Earnshaw first brings Heathcliff home from Liverpool, Hindley harbors a deep animosity toward Heathcliff, not to mention the fact that many critics believe Heathcliff to be the illegitimate son of Mr. Earnshaw. During the time when this book was written, the act of being unfaithful to one’s spouse was not acceptable, and this idea only adds to Hindley’s resentment against Heathcliff (MacAndrew 185). Many times throughout the novel, Bronte continues to provide references regarding religious connections, oftentimes alluding to supernatural existence.
The issue goes way beyond the question of enjoying a summer day to become a definition of heaven. The two have different visions of life at its most intense or perfect. Linton, the boy, identifies with traditionally female qualities of passivity and quiescence, where as Cathy identifies with traditionally male qualities of activity and exertion (“Wuthering Heights” 1).
This exemplifies the fact that allusions to religion not only characterize the qualities of the people within the novel, but they also gave Bronte an ingenious method to address indirectly the issues of morality and character traits.
“Not only is Wuthering Heights a powerful love story and a compelling tale of the supernatural, it also offers the reader insightful commentary on issues relating to class and morality” (“Wuthering Heights” 1). The Victorian theme of questions and doubts can be traditionally thought of as pertaining to social status. During this time when social and political issues were changing dramatically, the status of people is what created a hierarchy betwe
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