Emily Brontë World Literature Analysis
Brontë shared much with the Romantic poets, whose works she had read during childhood. Underlying all of her own poetry and prose is the Romantic ideal of transcendence, the desire to rise above the domain of time and space that encompasses ordinary human experience. Brontë’s works are filled with human passion and longing that drive toward this goal. In its emotional turmoil, the love between Heathcliff and Catherine in Wuthering Heights exceeds the boundaries of the mortal world and endures beyond the grave. This lack of established borders between life and death provides much of the excitement in the novel, as characters communicate as ghosts and in dreams through the veil of time, in a setting that simultaneously assumes supernatural qualities.
Brontë’s poetry expresses the longing for freedom from the chains of mortality, depicting life as “cold captivity” (in “The Caged Bird”) and death as liberation of the soul. The subject of one of her most renowned poems, “No Coward Soul Is Mine,” is her Romantic desire for a mystical union with the deity, whom Brontë saw as the God both within and without her. In Brontë’s poetry, crossing over the lines of the mortal world establishes a resonance, exemplified in “Remembrance,” where speakers, events, and audience exist in different realms: for example, in the distant past, in the present, and in the realm beyond death. All of Brontë’s poetry and prose is highly imaginative, which points to a final means to freedom in her work: the world of imagination, a gift more highly prized by the Romantics than reason.
Another important Romantic element in Brontë’s work is nature. Growing up in the stormy northern England countryside, Brontë knew the great potential of the tempestuous moorland weather to communicate the vast range of human emotions. Brontë uses the outer world of nature as a metaphor for human nature, that is, as something heavily symbolic, carrying an equivalence to a person’s inner world. There is interplay and even interchange between Brontë’s characters and the natural elements. In Wuthering Heights, Lockwood’s surreal dream of Catherine Earnshaw’s ghost on a stormy night is prompted by the wildly knocking branch against the window pane, which becomes a “little, ice-cold hand!” when he reaches for it. Heathcliff himself assumes enough aspects of the moor in his brutal, remorseless nature that he becomes inextricable from it. The dynamic role of nature also adds much excitement to the action in the drama, continually energizing the characters.
For all the passionate overflow of Brontë’s created worlds, her presentation is highly controlled, giving her work unexpected power and intensity. This aspect of her writing stems not only from the nature of the themes that she explores but even more from her own skill in delivering the material. The narrative of Wuthering Heights is a complex chronological layering, yet Brontë delivers it cleanly and ingenuously, as the narrator is brought under Heathcliff’s roof by the storm and, in a single night, brings three names, three dates, and the ghost of Catherine Linton into view. Likewise, Nelly, the housekeeper who relates the tale to Lockwood, quotes the characters directly without encumbering interpretation or embellishment. Brontë’s own description is always vivid and striking, with no extra words spent, moving her plot forward at a delightfully exciting pace.
Brontë’s poetry exhibits the simplicity and austerity inherent in her style. She uses ordinary, uncomplicated language, direct address, and subtle methods, such as the repetition of single words or alliteration, to create moods and deepen their effects, often achieving a profound lucidity. Even the pauses in her lines work to expand or command a mood, as exemplified by her poem “No Coward Soul Is Mine” with her words to the immortal deity who “Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.” These singly delivered, sibilant words demand the slow pace of deliberation and awe. Likewise, Brontë constructs her literature from natural materials. As a result, her images endure humbly yet vividly in the memory. The...
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