Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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How does Wuthering Heights present the possibilities of women as heroic?

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Tressa Beahan eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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In a different interpretation than the other educator, I would argue that there is only one female hero in the text. Both Isabella and the elder Catherine are victims, in a sense, of the men who prey upon them. Additionally, each is destructive in her own way: a quality that often runs contrary to the notion of heroism.

The younger Catherine does not really perform any acts of courage or heroism either. In the end, the noblewomen in the text are not to be idealized.

However, Ellen “Nelly” Dean stands apart from the rest of the women in Bronte’s novel. Nelly is the only character in the text who is both compassionate toward the Earnshaws, Lintons, and even Heathcliff after he transforms into a sort of villain. Dean is somewhat heroic in that sense that she has the moral fortitude to remain an essentially good person amidst so much pain and chaos.

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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A hero is a person who others see as courageous or bold. In that sense, Catherine Earnshaw could be understood as heroic. She is fearless. She marries Edgar Linton, in large part, as she tells Nelly Dean, to try to save Heathcliff from degradation. After Heathcliff has gone away and mysteriously returns a gentleman, she does her best to pull him into her life. She is willing to defy Linton to protect Heathcliff. In the end, she chooses death rather than a life without Heathcliff. Despite her bouts of madness, she is courageous in death, facing it unflinchingly when she is reunited with Heathcliff for a last meeting. She states boldly that she does not belong in heaven. She believes her happiness will come if, after she dies, God throws her spirit out to wander her beloved moors. The novel relentlessly shows her as strong and fierce in contrast with the weaker Lintons, especially her weak, conventional husband. 

Her daughter Catherine and her sister-in-law Isabella show courage in the face of cruel, abusive marriages. Bronte depicts ways women can be courageous in the face of a patriarchy in which all the power in the social and economic system goes to men.

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