Describe Emily Bronte's style (diction, syntax and tone) in Wuthering Heights.

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kristenfusaro | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Assistant Educator

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One of Bronte's many writing talents was her particular use of language. The tone is a description of the speaker's attitude towards his subject, and is best described by an adjective. The tone in Wuthering Heights shifts with the narrator. Our first narrator is Lockwood, and understanding his characterization, he is Heathcliff's new tenant, someone who is excited to be living in new property (Thrushcross Grange). His attitude at the very beginning of the novel can be described as enthusiastic, indicating to the reader the ironic tone, which we can analyze through the use of diction and syntax. In the very first chapter, Lockwood describes the state of Wuthering Heights as:

A perfect misanthrope's Heaven - and Mr. Heathcliff and I are such a suitable pair to divide the desolation between us.

Bronte gives Lockwood the insight to pick up on the isolation of Wuthering Heights, and her decision to use "misanthrope" is ironic because though Lockwood can physically see the setting is spacious and far from the city, he is not yet aware of how misanthropic Heathcliff truly is; Lockwood is much more intuitive than he realizes at the moment. To add to the irony, Bronte's syntax - the use of the dash - demonstrates how Lockwood, again unaware of his true surroundings, compares his jolly self to Heathcliff. Heathcliff is monsterous at this point of the novel (before the flashbacks), and Lockwood is young and jocund, ready to begin his life.

The tone shifts when Lockwood realizes Heathcliff's nature, and he encounters Cathy's ghost, moving from ironic to nervous and desolate, giving the reader an insight on what it is like to be one of Heathcliff's "prisoners."

Nelly becomes the narrator, and she is a bit more objective, having seen Heathcliff and Cathy grow up together. The tone shifts between desperate, compassionate, and a strong sense of foreboding, as Nelly is aware of the true love between Cathy and Heathcliff, along with understanding their final outcomes.

With a focus on diction, Cathy describes her relationships to nature, using words such as "foliage" for Linton and "rocks" for Heathcliff, indicating that her feelings for Linton are temporary and ethereal, while her feelings for Heathcliff are stubborn, unmoving, and surefire.

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