What are the major literary links between Poe's "The Raven" and Bronte's Wuthering Heights?

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Ashley Kannan | Middle School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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It is interesting to see the connections that exist between Poe's "The Raven" and Bronte's Wuthering Heights.  Both can be connected in how they evoke a sense of darkness within the human predicament, illuminating the shadows that exist within the human psyche.  One connection between both is that they are written strikingly close to one another.  Bronte writes her story "between October 1845 and June 1846."  Poe publishes "The Raven" in 1845.  The shared window of publication in the mid- 19th Century is one connection between both. It is a connection that is reflective of a period of thought in which the complexities of emotions are seen in both American and British literary traditions.  The intricacies of emotions occupy a central purpose in both works.

As the intricacy of emotion is in both, the theme of love is also shared between both works.  Catherine and Heathcliff share a love that is reflects a passion of the most intense magnitudes.  This can be seen when Catherine recognizes the passionate traits she shares with Heathcliff:  "Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire."  Heathcliff echoes a same experience in his love for her:

Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed you--haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe--I know that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always--take any form--drive me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul! 

This condition of the passion within love is evident in Poe's "The Raven."  The narrator wishes to forget, reflecting the intense love he felt for the departed Lenore:

`Wretch,' I cried, `thy God hath lent thee - by these angels he has sent thee/ Respite - respite and nepenthe from thy memories of Lenore!/ Quaff, oh quaff this kind nepenthe, and forget this lost Lenore!'

In both works, love is shown to be an all- consuming passion.  The depiction of love that is offered in both is one in which there can be no release.  Love takes a hold of the individual and has a transformative effect.  In Heathcliff and Catherine as well as in Poe's narrator, love has constructed a reality in which the individual suffers.  The reality of suffering becomes the direct consequence of love.  It is the condition that grips the individual, ensuring that their present tense is always seen in another light. Both works feature a connection in how love is seen as passionate, an all- consuming reality that burns everyone and everything in its path.

Similarly, both works feature protagonists that find happiness difficult to achieve.  Catherine, Heathcliff, and the narrator all struggle in the wake of love. There is little happiness evident in each of their lives.  Catherine loses herself in the love of Heathcliff and dies in childbirth, after experiencing alienation from others and herself.  In much the same way, Heathcliff is not a happy man by the end of the novel. At the mere dream that Lockwood has, Heathcliff sobs at the window ledge, "Cathy, do come in! My heart’s darling! Hear me this time, Catherine, at last.”  Love's passion has rendered both people fundamentally unhappy.  This same sense of tormenting can be connected to Poe's "The Raven."  The exposition of the poem connects to Heathcliff's pain at the window as the narrator hears the "rapping" at the window and hears the name "Lenore."  The narrator in Poe's poem struggles to forget that which he can only remember. The condition of unhappiness operates as a vital connection between both works.

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