Monday, 4 February 2013


Emily Bronte was a clergyman’s daughter. She grew up in a remote part of England. She didn’t like to travel. When she left home she became ill. She never married and she died at the age of 30 having published her only novel and some poetry. It was one of the most shocking novel in English literature. When it was first published 1847, it created a firestorm of protest. It was called one of the most repellent book ever published. One critic said it should be burnt. The protest only settle down when the second edition came out and the author was revealed to be the daughter of a parson from west-Yorkshire. How had a parson’s daughter created such a threat to civilized society as Heathcliff, a   hero driven by sexual passion and vengeance and instead of a proper Victorian heroine she gave the world a married woman who runs around on the moor in her nightgown with her lover. The reading public was shocked. Shocked. But the novel has never been out of print and has had many film/ TV adaptations:  WUTHERING HEIGHTS.


In the late winter months of 1801, a man named Lockwood rents a manor house called Thrushcross Grange in the isolated moor country of England. Here, he meets his dour landlord, Heathcliff, a wealthy man who lives in the ancient manor of Wuthering Heights, four miles away from the Grange. In this wild, stormy countryside, Lockwood asks his housekeeper, Nelly Dean, to tell him the story of Heathcliff and the strange denizens of Wuthering Heights. Nelly consents, and Lockwood writes down his recollections of her tale in his diary; these written recollections form the main part of Wuthering Heights.
Nelly remembers her childhood. As a young girl, she works as a servant at Wuthering Heights for the owner of the manor, Mr. Earnshaw, and his family. One day, Mr. Earnshaw goes to Liverpool and returns home with an orphan boy whom he will raise with his own children. At first, the Earnshaw children—a boy named Hindley and his younger sister Catherine—detest the dark-skinned Heathcliff. But Catherine quickly comes to love him, and the two soon grow inseparable, spending their days playing on the moors. After his wife’s death, Mr. Earnshaw grows to prefer Heathcliff to his own son, and when Hindley continues his cruelty to Heathcliff, Mr. Earnshaw sends Hindley away to college, keeping Heathcliff nearby.
Three years later, Mr. Earnshaw dies, and Hindley inherits Wuthering Heights. He returns with a wife, Frances, and immediately seeks revenge on Heathcliff. Once an orphan, later a pampered and favored son, Heathcliff now finds himself treated as a common laborer, forced to work in the fields. Heathcliff continues his close relationship with Catherine, however. One night they wander to Thrushcross Grange, hoping to tease Edgar and Isabella Linton, the cowardly, snobbish children who live there. Catherine is bitten by a dog and is forced to stay at the Grange to recuperate for five weeks, during which time Mrs. Linton works to make her a proper young lady. By the time Catherine returns, she has become infatuated with Edgar, and her relationship with Heathcliff grows more complicated.
When Frances dies after giving birth to a baby boy named Hareton, Hindley descends into the depths of alcoholism, and behaves even more cruelly and abusively toward Heathcliff. Eventually, Catherine’s desire for social advancement prompts her to become engaged to Edgar Linton, despite her overpowering love for Heathcliff. Heathcliff runs away from Wuthering Heights, staying away for three years, and returning shortly after Catherine and Edgar’s marriage.
When Heathcliff returns, he immediately sets about seeking revenge on all who have wronged him. Having come into a vast and mysterious wealth, he deviously lends money to the drunken Hindley, knowing that Hindley will increase his debts and fall into deeper despondency. When Hindley dies, Heathcliff inherits the manor. He also places himself in line to inherit Thrushcross Grange by marrying Isabella Linton, whom he treats very cruelly. Catherine becomes ill, gives birth to a daughter, and dies. Heathcliff begs her spirit to remain on Earth—she may take whatever form she will, she may haunt him, drive him mad—just as long as she does not leave him alone. Shortly thereafter, Isabella flees to London and gives birth to Heathcliff’s son, named Linton after her family. She keeps the boy with her there.
Thirteen years pass, during which Nelly Dean serves as Catherine’s daughter’s nursemaid at Thrushcross Grange. Young Catherine is beautiful and headstrong like her mother, but her temperament is modified by her father’s gentler influence. Young Catherine grows up at the Grange with no knowledge of Wuthering Heights; one day, however, wandering through the moors, she discovers the manor, meets Hareton, and plays together with him. Soon afterwards, Isabella dies, and Linton comes to live with Heathcliff. Heathcliff treats his sickly, whining son even more cruelly than he treated the boy’s mother.
Three years later, Catherine meets Heathcliff on the moors, and makes a visit to Wuthering Heights to meet Linton. She and Linton begin a secret romance conducted entirely through letters. When Nelly destroys Catherine’s collection of letters, the girl begins sneaking out at night to spend time with her frail young lover, who asks her to come back and nurse him back to health. However, it quickly becomes apparent that Linton is pursuing Catherine only because Heathcliff is forcing him to; Heathcliff hopes that if Catherine marries Linton, his legal claim upon Thrushcross Grange—and his revenge upon Edgar Linton—will be complete. One day, as Edgar Linton grows ill and nears death, Heathcliff lures Nelly and Catherine back to Wuthering Heights, and holds them prisoner until Catherine marries Linton. Soon after the marriage, Edgar dies, and his death is quickly followed by the death of the sickly Linton. Heathcliff now controls both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. He forces Catherine to live at Wuthering Heights and act as a common servant, while he rents Thrushcross Grange to Lockwood.
Nelly’s story ends as she reaches the present. Lockwood, appalled, ends his tenancy at Thrushcross Grange and returns to London. However, six months later, he pays a visit to Nelly, and learns of further developments in the story. Although Catherine originally mocked Hareton’s ignorance and illiteracy (in an act of retribution, Heathcliff ended Hareton’s education after Hindley died), Catherine grows to love Hareton as they live together at Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff becomes more and more obsessed with the memory of the elder Catherine, to the extent that he begins speaking to her ghost. Everything he sees reminds him of her. Shortly after a night spent walking on the moors, Heathcliff dies. Hareton and young Catherine inherit Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and they plan to be married on the next New Year’s Day. After hearing the end of the story, Lockwood goes to visit the graves of Catherine and Heathcliff. (plot overview from Sparknotes)

Emily Bronte
The spirit of Romanticism and its concern with the human soul are still present in Wuthering Heights in the correspondence between the violent passions of the characters and the wild natural landscape. The desolate scenery of the Yorkshire moors, the wind, the storms are all reflected in the psychological conflicts of the characters.
Heathcliff is a sort of "Byronic Hero", moved by irresistible, unrestrained and primitive passion, doomed to the despair of a solitary life and finally tending to a total identity with his love, Catherine. But Heathcliff also resembles the villain of some Gothic novel in his inhuman treatment of his wife, Isabella Linton, and even his son. 
There are other Gothic elements in the novel, such as the sinister atmosphere of Wuthering Heights, surrounded by the wilderness, Catherine's ghost, the dreams and superstition often mentioned. 
There are several opposite principles clashing in the story: love and hate, order and chaos. However, the key opposition is represented by the two houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.  The first reflects his owner, Heathcliff. It is severe, gloomy and brutal in aspect and atmosphere, firmly rooted in local tradition and custom. The second one, the home of the bourgeois Lintons, reflects their conception of life based on stability, genteel refinement, kindness and respectability.Though opposed, they are complementary, they tend to unity. With the marriage between Hareton and young Catherine, they will compose a harmony in the end, after the consummation of Heathcliff's revenge and his death. 
Death is an important theme in this novel. Unlike other Victorian novels, where death is either a moment of forgiveness or the moment in which all the conflicts are settled, in Wuthering Heights, death is not a liberation of the spirit. 
As a whole Wuthering Heights represents a unique achievement in Victorian literature. The novel marked a departure from the observation of society towards the description of the individual personality, and anticipated  the novelists of the early 20th century in narrative technique.

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