An Analysis Of Wuthering Heights By Emily Bronte Research Papers Examples

Type of paper: Research Paper

Topic: Love, Relationships, Literature, Novel, Wuthering Heights, Romance, Society, Sociology

Pages: 5

Words: 1375

Published: 2020/12/25

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Classic English Literature is like today’s version of modern television. Most people today turn on the television for their fix of romance, jealousy and revenge. In the Victorian era, televisions didn’t exist. Instead, people had to rely on books for tales of this nature. The 1847 book Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte may have been just such a tale, but it features unexpected twists in its character representation and ending. It can be said that to some, this novel provided the entertainment that was expected, while to others it opened their eyes to conversations that a conservative society may not have been ready to have. The purpose of this paper is to examine Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and determine whether or not it is best presented as a romantic novel or a realistic depiction of society, and whether or not Catherine and Heathcliff’s romance would have survived Victorian society.
The reality is that Wuthering Heights isn’t your typical romantic novel. As an era, Romanticism was a period in which authors used their platforms to speak out against social injustices. Although Emily Bronte’s novel came just after this movement, she managed to fuse the themes of romance and reality. She did this in order to tell a complex and compelling story to present to her readers. “Indeed women writers were already using novels as a means to treat ironically different aspects of society, to question certain codes and conventions” (Rompteaux 5). Set in Victorian England Wuthering Heights tells a tale of romance, jealousy and revenge. But these themes only rest on the surface of the novel. Underlying the main themes are tales of abuse, bullying and social inequality. The novel toggles between what promises to be a novel of true romance and what represents social norms. It also delves into what critics have classified as gothic in that this novel goes into the realistic way that people tend to deal with each other both romantically and when they are unhappy. The domestic situations of Isabelle and Catherine represent both imprisonment and escape which are two of the themes that represent gothic novels. Also, in classic Gothic form, the relationships between the characters had the tendency to make Victorian readers uncomfortable. However, this novel also represents the destructive and healing power of love. Because of Catherine and Heathcliff’s inability to form a healthy loving relationship their passion for each other ignites a downward spiral of jealousy and revenge on both their parts. Their love for each other and Catherine’s refusal to disregard social norms, leads to a destructive pattern that seems never ending until the end of the novel when the second Catherine (Catherine and Edgars daughter) and Hareton (Hindley and Frances’ son) fall in love after their own rocky start.
Ideally, romantic heroes and heroines go through great feats of bravery and determination in order to overcome obstacles or achieve their desires. The characters in Wuthering Heights both conform and defy this cultural definition of heroics. On the one hand it seems that for his love Heathcliff runs off to become a wealthy man to raise his social status in order to become the ideal man that Catherine would be able to marry. Instead it seems as if him pulling himself up from the bottom of society was just an instrument for revenge. Also, the appearance of Heathcliff himself fits the typical mold of how some females may have viewed their heroes; mean but with a hidden heart of gold that only love can transform. One could almost empathize with Catherine’s plight of unrealized romance until she, in her fits of jealousy, makes herself so sick as to manipulate others into doing her bidding. She also fits the traditional mold in that she can be seen as that genteel lady falls in love with the handsome bad boy. Catherine’s refusal to defy social norms for the sake of love is what makes her the anti-hero in as much as she chose to be rich instead. It seems as if the character of Isabelle who only plays a small role in the story can be seen as the only hero in the story. While she fits the classic example of the Victorian eras ideal woman, she also exhibits the strength to escape from Heathcliff’s cruelty towards her. There is in fact a distinct inability between Heathcliff and Catherine to effectively overcome obstacles. In the face of what society deemed appropriate in class and social equality, true heroes would have found a way to make love conquer all. As a true example of a hero, Heathcliff would have found a way to overcome the abuse he found at Hindley’s hand without resorting to petty revenge tactics. With that being said, the reader is challenged over and over again by the image of Heathcliff as both the romantic hero and the abusive brute.
Let’s imagine that Heathcliff and Catherine were able to defy society’s class restrictions and had actually gotten married. Would Heathcliff and Catherine have been able to make it work as a couple in a conservative Victorian society? Would they have been able to live happily ever after? Although the Victorian era was considered conservative, the divide between the citizens came from social and class inequality and gender issues. The issue of interracial relationships would have had little to do with how they would have been able to cope as a couple during this era. With the detailed way that Emily Bronte told her story, if race had been an issue, it would have played itself out among the pages of Wuthering Heights. Some research shows that interracial relationships in Victorian England may have even been used as a tool for assimilation. It’s not until these citizens migrate to the United States that relationships between races truly becomes an issue. It can be said that the main issue of Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship comes from their inability to separate themselves from one another and grow as individuals. In love, Catherine confesses to Nelly “he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” (Bronte 153), and when Catherine is dead, Heathcliff declares that he “live without [his] soul” (318).
Again, Wuthering Heights is not your typical romantic novel. Let’s face it; a typical romance novel has the protagonists living happily ever after. While not having a necessarily classic ending, Wuthering Heights lends itself to having more of a Shakespearean romantic tragedy ending. Instead of the protagonists finding their happily ever after, they die. The passage of time is the silent character that makes this ending palatable. It speaks to the characters growth or lack thereof. No, it does not have your classic boy meets girl who fall in love and live happily ever after ending. Instead this ending speaks towards the combination of unhappy relationships and the sometimes self-imposed struggles the characters have in order to cope with them. In his January 2015 article entitled “Facets of Time Consciousness in Wuthering Heights” featured in Bronte Studies, Graeme Tytler states: “Certainly it is through their respective attitudes to time, especially clock time, that they, no less than some of the other characters, tell us a good deal about themselves.” Having a classical ending as opposed to the more realistic ending that it does have would have rendered the novel less human. It would have degraded the characters and made their actions seem more foolish than necessary. It also would have served to make the story incredibly boring.
Catherine and Heathcliff definitely do serve as the romantic odd couple, in as much as their love does more harm than it does good. However, it wouldn’t do the characters or the author any justice to call the ending of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights anti-romantic. While Heathcliff and Catherine’s tragedy doesn’t really compare to the romantic tragedy of Romeo and Juliet, it does still carry out a type of warning message for the younger generation (namely the second Catherine and Hareton). Unfortunately for the main characters, vengeance and jealousy did not result in many happy endings. In Wuthering Heights Emily Bronte managed to fuse some romantic ideals in with large doses of reality depicted in the relationships between the characters in the novel. In this paper, the reader was able to see how she presented this mixture to her audience, as well as determine if an actual romance like Heathcliff and Catherine’s would have played itself out in Victorian society. Wuthering Heights has proven to be a great mixture of romance, jealousy and revenge. The novel’s non-traditional ending was just a different style of icing on a classically made cake.

Works Cited

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. n.p. n.d. Project Gutenberg. Web. 17 Mar. 2015.
Rompteaux, Marie. “The Bronte’s and Their Conception of the Masculine Hero: The
Tytler, Graeme. “Facets of Time Consciousness in Wuthering Heights.” Bronte Studies
40.1 (2015): 11-21. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost Web. 19 Mar, 2015.

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