The Madwoman in the Attic Questions and Answers
by Sandra Ellen Mortola, Susan Gubar

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Could you please explain how Wuthering Heights realizes, in Gilbert and Gubar's reading, a rewriting of canonical male texts such as Milton's Paradise Lost?

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In The Madwoman in the Attic, Gilbert and Gubar read Wuthering Heights as inverting masculine mythologies in general, especially the story of the Fall of Man. Their type of feminist criticism is primarily concerned with power dynamics between the sexes, identifying the masculine as powerful and the feminine as powerless. Heathcliff is therefore seen as feminine, despite his aggressively masculine conduct, because, like women, he lacks any legitimate, socially-reinforced source of power.

Edgar Linton is the legitimate heir and the guardian of masculine culture in the novel, with Thrushcross Grange as his seat of power. Gilbert and Gubar see Heathcliff and Cathy’s rebellion against the patriarchal order he represents as a feminist revision of the story of the Fall as related by Milton in Paradise Lost. Heathcliff and Cathy, an illegitimate (therefore feminine) man and a woman are able to create a non-masculine, non-hierarchical society within Wuthering Heights, even if it includes no one but themselves. In Milton’s terms, they reign in hell rather than serving in heaven. This experiment is doomed to failure, but it has the sympathies of the author and perhaps the reader, just as Milton’s Satan has often been read by critics such as William Blake as a more attractive and sympathetic character than his omnipotent God. In Wuthering Heights, nature is seen as superior to civilization and anarchy to culture, inverting and attacking the masculine social order and creating an alternative “feminist mythology.”

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