Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights book cover
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Analyze the ways in which myths and/or folktales are used in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights as content and as complex cultural signifiers. Please quote several examples from text.

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The fairytale most often associated with Wuthering Heights is "Beauty and the Beast," with the beast as Heathcliff and beauty as Catherine Earnshaw.

Heathcliff's dirty, bestial appearance is emphasized when he first arrives: he is said by Nelly to speak in "gibberish," and Mrs. Earnshaw likens him to a "gipsy":

a dirty, ragged, black-haired child; big enough both to walk and talk: indeed, its face looked older than Catherine’s; yet when it was set on its feet, it only stared round, and repeated over and over again some gibberish that nobody could understand. I was frightened, and Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling it out of doors: she did fly up, asking how he could fashion to bring that gipsy brat into the house.

Not only is Heathcliff referred to as dirty and bestial through much of the first half of the novel, the references to him as "black" and a "gipsy" reveal a cultural context of fear of the darker-skinned Other and the association of such people with dirt.

(The entire section contains 507 words.)

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