Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 1295
The author of Wuthering Heights (1847), Brontë was one of a trio of sisters whose writings introduced some of the most compelling characters in the history of the novel. Though Brontë completed only one novel, hers is often acknowledged as the greatest of the works by the Brontë sisters: the most complete, with the most expansive vision of both men and women. Her reputation as a difficult, temperamental individual has colored the reception and interpretation of her work, and the intensity and violent passions of Wuthering Heights and its female characters have made it a difficult work for feminist critics to interpret as a woman's novel. Nonetheless, Brontë's depiction of polarized gender differences and women's desire have led to the assessment of Wuthering Heights as an important text in the history of women's writing.
Brontë was born July 30, 1818 in Thornton, Yorkshire, England, the fifth of six children born to Maria Branwell Brontë and the Reverend Patrick Brontë. The family moved to the nearby parson-age at Haworth in 1820, which was her home for her entire life but for intermittent bursts of formal schooling. Her mother died in 1821, leaving Reverend Brontë and Brontë's maternal aunt to raise the children; Brontë was sent to the Clergy Daughter's School at Cowan Bridge in 1825. The dismal conditions at the school led to the death of two of her older sisters, and Brontë returned to Haworth, where her father determined the remaining children—Charlotte, Branwell, Emily, and Anne—should be self-educated and kept apart from the other children of the village. In addition to a diverse reading program, the children spent much time in imaginative play. Emily and her younger sister Anne invented the realm of Gondal, for which they created a romantic legend and history. In 1835, Emily followed Charlotte to Roe Head, a school in East Yorkshire where Charlotte was teaching, but Emily apparently did not thrive there and soon returned home, and Anne was sent to Roe Head in her place. In 1838, Brontë worked as an assistant teacher at the Law Hill School near Halifax, but this too was short-lived. Her time in Halifax likely provided the model for the house of Wuthering Heights, in High Sunderland Hall, and possibly some hints of the story of Heathcliff, in stories about local Halifax legend Jack Sharp. In 1842, she and Charlotte traveled to Brussels to acquire the skills needed to establish a school of their own, but when their aunt died later that year the Brontës returned to Haworth again, and for the rest of Emily's life the parsonage was her residence. In 1845, Charlotte discovered one of Emily's private poetry notebooks, and at Charlotte's urging the three remaining Brontë sisters published a collection titled Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell (1846). The few notices of the book were generally positive, but it sold only two copies. Meanwhile, Emily had been working on Wuthering Heights, which was published in an edition that also included Anne's first novel, Agnes Grey, in December 1847. Charlotte's first novel, Jane Eyre, had been published just two months earlier. Wuthering Heights was not well received, and Brontë began to turn her attention again to poetry. Her work was interrupted by the death of her brother Branwell on September 24, 1848. Branwell had been unhealthy for some time, in part the result of alcoholism, and Brontë had been one of his primary caretakers. By October of the same year, Brontë was ill herself with what appeared to be a cough and cold but was actually tuberculosis. According to popular accounts, Brontë, allegedly strong-willed by nature, refused rest and medical attention. She died on December 19, 1848, and was buried at Haworth.
Brontë authored 193 poems and verse fragments in her life, but none of her poetry compares in reputation to her novel Wuthering Heights, which has become one of the most widely read novels in the English language. The novel chronicles the attachment between Heathcliff, an orphan taken in by the Earnshaw family of Wuthering Heights, and the family's daughter Catherine. The two characters are joined by a spiritual bond of preternatural strength, yet Catherine elects to marry her more refined neighbor, Edgar Linton of Thrushcross Grange. Ultimately, this decision leads to Catherine's madness and death and prompts Heathcliff to take revenge upon both the Lintons and the Earnshaws. Heathcliff eventually dies, consoled by the thought of uniting with Catherine's spirit, and the novel ends with the suggestion that Hareton Earnshaw, the last descendent of the Earnshaw family, will marry Catherine's daughter, Catherine Linton, and abandon Wuthering Heights for Thrushcross Grange. Brontë's narrative style is marked by fierce animal imagery, scenes of raw violence, and supernatural overtones. While Brontë's unique methods of storytelling and artistic craftsmanship have been appreciated by critics, the characters of Heathcliff and Catherine are at the center of the novel's power: ambiguous, sometimes unsympathetic protagonists, they represent not only ill-fated lovers but reflections of the tension between natural and civilized values and between the spiritual and material worlds. The unreliability of the novel's narrators and the uneven morality of its characters render Wuthering Heights problematic when interpreting the book's themes and moral sensibility. Critical interest in the paradoxes of Wuthering Heights led to a modern increase of interest in Brontë's early poetry, particularly the poems of Gondal, which have been read as a creative forerunner of the book. The passionate characters and violent motifs of the Gondal poems reappear in Wuthering Heights, and scholars have begun to connect Brontë's other poetry to her fantasy world of Gondal.
Immediate critical response to Brontë's work mixed admiration for the power of the storytelling with distaste for the harsher, more shocking elements of the novel. When "Ellis Bell" was discovered to be a woman, that distaste tended toward disapproval. Critics suggested that if such writing was strong for a man, it was unseemly for a woman; some critics took a paternalistic tone in suggesting that Brontë lacked feminine discretion. Others, however, could not believe a woman capable of creating a character like Heathcliff. Several reviewers argued that the brutality of Wuthering Heights and the insightful depiction of a male character proved that at least parts of the novel were written by Branwell Brontë. While such gender stereotypes have come to seem obsolete by modern standards, critics have continued to observe that Brontë eludes forms of analysis and interpretation usually applied to women authors. In a 1991 essay, Emma Francis asks, "Is Emily Brontë a Woman?" as a reflection of the challenges in reading Brontë's work from a conventional feminist perspective. Many critics have focused their attention on the circumstances and environment that could have produced such an unusual mind. Mary A. Ward saw the foundations for Brontë's "wildness" of thought in her breeding, in the landscape surrounding her, and in her tendency to withdraw from social life. While some feminist critics have seen in Brontë's self-imposed seclusion an example of the nineteenth-century repression of women's self-expression, Stevie Davies suggests that Brontë led a life of remarkable independence and that the unusual freedom with which she lived allowed her to develop her unique creative vision. But as Carol Senf has observed, the tendency to emphasize Brontë's solitude and interiority has led scholars to miss the author's broader feminist vision. Senf claims that Wuthering Heights also examines the evolution of women's roles in a patriarchal society and imagines the possibility of further changes, a view of women's potential empowerment also observed by Drew Lamonica. The mystique of Brontë's unusual personality has also hindered the study of Wuthering Heights as serious literature. Not until 1926, with C. P. Sanger's study The Structure of Wuthering Heights (see Further Reading), did critics begin to approach the novel as a work of art.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 76
* Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell [as Ellis Bell] (poetry) 1846
† Wuthering Heights [as Ellis Bell] (novel) 1847
* Life and Works of the Sisters Brontë. 7 vols. (novels and poetry) 1899-1903
* The Shakespeare Head Brontë. 19 vols. (novels, poetry, and letters) 1931-38
Gondal Poems (poetry) 1938
The Complete Poems of Emily Jane Brontë (poetry) 1941
* This collection includes works by other members of the Brontë family.
† This edition of Wuthering Heights also includes the novel Agnes Grey, written by Anne Brontë.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 326
EMILY BRONTË (POEM DATE 1846)
SOURCE: Brontë, Emily. "How Clear She Shines." In The Poems of Emily Brontë, edited by Clement Shorter, pp. 31-32. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910.
In the following poem, originally published in the 1846 collection Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, Brontë displays some of the passionate motifs that later appear in Wuthering Heights.
HOW CLEAR SHE SHINES
How clear she shines! How quietly
I lie beneath her guardian light;
While heaven and earth are whispering me,
'To-morrow, wake, but dream to-night.'
Yes, Fancy, come, my Fairy love!
These throbbing temples softly kiss;
And bend my lonely couch above,
And bring me rest, and bring me bliss.
The world is going; dark world, adieu!
Grim world, conceal thee till the day;
The heart thou canst not all subdue
Must still resist, if thou delay!
Thy love I will not, will not share;
Thy hatred only wakes a smile;
Thy griefs may wound—thy wrongs may tear,
But, oh, thy lies shall ne'er beguile!
While gazing on the stars that glow
Above me, in that stormless sea,
I long to hope that all the woe
Creation knows, is held in thee!
And this shall be my dream to-night;
I'll think the heaven of glorious spheres
Is rolling on its course of light
In endless bliss, through endless years;
I'll think, there's not one world above,
Far as these straining eyes can see,
Where Wisdom ever laughed at Love,
Or Virtue crouched to Infamy;
Where, writhing 'neath the strokes of Fate,
The mangled wretch was forced to smile;
To match his patience 'gainst her hate,
His heart rebellious all the while.
Where Pleasure still will lead to wrong,
And helpless Reason warn in vain;
And Truth is weak, and Treachery strong;
And Joy the surest path to Pain;
And Peace, the lethargy of Grief;
And Hope, a phantom of the soul;
And Life, a labour, void and brief;
And Death, the despot of the whole!
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 467
EMILY BRONTË (ESSAY DATE 1846)
SOURCE: Brontë, Emily. "No Coward Soul is Mine." In The Poems of Emily Brontë, edited by Clement Shorter, pp. 81-82. London: Hodder and Stoughton, 1910.
In the following poem, originally published in the 1846 collection Poems of Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell, Brontë offers what many commentators have identified as a reflection of her personality and private beliefs. Charlotte Brontë published it with the preface, "The following are the last lines my sister Emily ever wrote." Emily Dickinson selected the poem to be read at her own funeral.
NO COWARD SOUL IS MINE
No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
O God within my breast,
Almighty, ever-present Deity!
Life—that in me has rest,
As I—undying Life—have power in Thee!
Vain are the thousand creeds
That move men's hearts: unutterably vain;
Worthless as withered weeds,
Or idle froth amid the boundless main,
To waken doubt in one
Holding so fast by Thine infinity;
So surely anchored on
The steadfast rock of immortality.
With wide-embracing love
Thy spirit animates eternal years,
Pervades and broods above,
Changes, sustains, dissolves, creates, and rears.
Though earth and man were gone,
And suns and universes ceased to be,
And Thou were left alone,
Every existence would exist in Thee.
There is not room for Death,
Nor atom that his might could render void:
Thou—Thou art Being and Breath,
And what Thou art may never be destroyed.
Last Updated on May 8, 2015, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 7205
SOURCE: Francis, Emma. "Is Emily Brontë a Woman?: Femininity, Feminism, and the Paranoid Critical Subject." In Subjectivity and Literature from the Romantics to the Present Day, edited by Philip Shaw and Peter Stockwell, pp. 28-40. London: Pinter, 1991.
In the following essay, Francis looks at the avant-garde aspects of Brontë's work to consider how her poetry confounds a conventional feminist reading.
The critical history of Emily Brontë's poetry is a history of evasion. The vast body of work which advertises its subject as 'Emily Brontë' is, in fact, almost wholly engaged with Wuthering Heights (1847) (Brontë 1965). Where her poetry is read, the cacophony of other poetic voices almost invariably invoked when speaking of her work—ranging through the canon of male romanticism and its antecedents such as Milton—is at its loudest. That these comparisons function not to elucidate her poetics, but to avoid encountering them, became abundantly clear in 1986 when Robert K. Wallace published Emily Brontë and Beethoven. Wallace manages to go one better than the usual account of Brontë as an honorary male romantic a decade or more after the event. His variation of the theme—that Brontë was crucially influenced by her knowledge of the 'Byronic' life and works of Beethoven—is argued out within a structure which alternates discussion of Brontë's work with analysis of three of Beethoven's piano sonatas. This effectively drowns out Brontë for at least half the book, in a grotesque reification of the dynamic more generally at work in readings of her relation to romanticism.
I do not believe that the problem is that critics are incapable of understanding the issues Brontë is exploring in her poetry. For example, J. Hillis Miller's essay on Wuthering Heights in Fiction and Repetition (1982) is a sophisticated discussion of the way the novel frenetically generates more and more signs out of its sparse archetypes which, paradoxically, drives the possibility of establishing a central referent for them all, further and further away. The reader becomes as confused and disoriented in her search for a coherent interpretation of the narrative as Lockwood, when he is tormented by the 'swarms of Catherines' he sees after examining the first Cathy's alternative signatures graffitied on the windowsill at Wuthering Heights, and by the ever multiplying sermons of the Reverend Jabes Branderham he dreams of when he tries to sleep after reading her diary (Brontë 1965: 61-73). As I will argue later, this seems to me to be one of the main dynamics the poetry is engaged with. In a book concerned with narrative, it would not, of course, be necessary for Miller to make reference to the poetry at all. But he does invoke it, not to draw this parallel but to deny it. He claims that
Brontë's problem, once she had agreed with her sisters to try her hand at a novel was to bend the vision she had been more directly and privately expressing in the Gondal poems to the conventions of nineteenth century fiction …
(Miller 1982: 46)
That 'vision' cannot be expressed directly or privately and in the attempt to do so becomes distorted and refracted by the conventions of the medium it unsuccessfully attempts to represent itself in; is a form of stress which is extremely urgent in the poetry. It seems extraordinary that Miller makes his argument for the stress attached to the process of representation in Wuthering Heights by a comparison which (fallaciously) denies this stress in the poetry, when an affirmation of it would have substantiated his thesis even more effectively.
Similarly, an essay by Lawrence Starzyk, 'The Faith of Emily Brontë's Mortality Creed' (Starzyk 1973: 295-305),1 which makes a virtue of the contradictions in Brontë's vision and analyses them in terms of her radical theology, chooses to do this by discussion of one of the few poems where identity, representation and argument are comparatively unified—"No Coward Soul is Mine" (Brontë 1985). Starzyk's point is much more clearly made in two other poems about religious experience, "The Prisoner" and "The Philosopher" (Brontë 1985) which I will consider below. Like Miller, he refuses to encounter his own view of Brontë at the point in her texts where the justification for it is being generated.
I have considered these two writers in the same space as the more outrageous instances of critical bad faith in order to give some idea of the force of the readerly paranoia Brontë's poetry seems to generate. I want to investigate why this might be the case in two ways. First, as a test case, I will give an account of the problems I encountered in my own reading of her poetry; my work on Brontë forms part of a project on nineteenth-century women's poetry. In previous work I had managed to identify a poetics of power and transgression in the poetry of women like Felicia Hemans (1793-1835), Letitia Landon (1802-1838) and Christina Rossetti (1830-1894). They were recuperable for a constructive political reading despite having been encumbered by two very unhelpful critical conventions. They have been read by traditional criticism as most charmingly willing to accept a subordinate poetic role, writing conventional and innocuous lyrics about flowers and piety, leaving the struggle with the collapse of teleology and the philosophical quandary of the relation between subject and object to the Big Boys.2 Latterly, the reading of them produced by certain feminist critics, under the influence of Lacanian theories of women's problematic entry into and hold upon language, surprises itself with the fact that they managed to write at all.3 In the face of the hugely prolific output of, in particular, Hemans and Landon who managed to support themselves and their families from their poetry, such accounts, for me, became incomprehensible. I also realized that their assiduous accession to aesthetic restraint—in relation to the forms of poetic language it was permissible for nineteenth-century women to use (which I will discuss below) and, thus, the positions it was possible for them to take up in the political and philosophical debates happening within nineteenth-century aesthetics—results in a repetition of the contradictions upon which those limits were based, which throws them into crisis.
This form of poetic (and political) triumph emerges from a writing and a reading which begins and ends firmly inside the gendered constraints of nineteenth-century poetics. But as I turned to Brontë, here at last, I thought, was a woman whose poetry deals with transgression in such an explicit way that I could not help but produce a rousing hymn of celebration to a woman's achievement, taking control of poetic language to articulate a programme of liberation. But it was precisely in terms of Brontë as a woman that I encountered problems in my analysis. The readings of her outlined above function around a refusal of Brontë as being what she is. In the readings of her in relation to the male romantics, there is a refusal that she is a Victorian. In the disproportionate emphasis on Wuthering Heights and the avoidance of her poetics at the point where they are most apparent, there is a refusal that she is a poet. As I began to investigate her poetics I experienced the temptation of a similar refusal—of Emily Brontë as a woman. This was not only because of her differences from the poetics of other nineteenth-century women. The terms of the debate about transgression her work led me into, seemed to contain no room for any account of femininity.4 I will refer to the terms of Georges Bataille's (1973) discussion of Emily Brontë in Literature and Evil as representative of the tradition of theorizing transgression Brontë seems to relate to most, but which excludes some of the most crucial aspects of her poetry. Bataille's account brings to light the problems of Brontë's position as the 'avant-gardist' amongst nineteenth-century women poets and the price attached to the radical respectability she has retained among feminist and non-feminist critics.
Second, I will look in detail at "The Prisoner" and "The Philosopher." It is from a stanza of "The Prisoner" that Bataille demonstrates his maxim 'Eroticism is the approval of life up until death'. (Bataille 1973: 4):
Yet I would lose no sting, would wish no torture less;
The more the anguish racks, the earlier it will bless;
And robed in fires of hell or bright with heavenly shine,
If it but herald death, the vision is divine! (stanza 18)
This account of desire, as the desire for the ultimate expenditure of identity in death certainly has some purchase on the poem. But the way in which this view of ecstasy as a kind of collapse is framed, by the context of political oppression it is situated in within the poem, reproduces the strategy present in many of the poems: the identities and moral categories which have been collapsed are redistinguished and redeployed. "The Prisoner" ends with the assertion that the disempowerment of the prisoner's oppressors is the result of (their perception of) an 'overruling' by heaven. This resurrects the recuperative dialectic Bataille celebrates Brontë for refusing. The point of excess, where 'life and death, the real and the imaginary, the past and the future, the communicable and the incommunicable' (Bataille 1973: 15 quoting Breton 1972: 123) and all other oppositional categories spill over into and erase each other, is alongside the reassertion of the power of these oppositions.
When we appreciate the way in which these two accounts of power interact with, and actually depend upon, each other in Brontë's poetics, we are getting close to understanding the issues at stake in the refusal she generates in us.
Is Emily Brontë a Woman?
Contrary to the view unproblematically assumed by traditional twentieth-century criticism and theorized by feminist critics such as Margaret Homans (1980),5 nineteenth-century women were not under psychic or cultural prohibition against the use of poetic language per se. What was demanded of them was that they use a particular form of it—the language of the Beautiful. The aesthetic split between the Sublime and the Beautiful was formally theorized by Edmund Burke (1958) in A Philosophical Enquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful, and had a huge purchase on English poetry throughout the nineteenth century. The prohibition nineteenth-century women poets were under was against the use of the language of the Sublime, which the male romantics used. The vast amount of poetry written by women in the nineteenth century exploring this aesthetic of the Beautiful was not just suffered, it was enormously popular and received a good deal of contemporary critical acclaim. For the most part, the only objections raised against the poetry are at the points when it transgresses the boundaries of the Beautiful. An explicitly gendered account of power is inscribed across this aesthetic demarcation. Power is produced in the Sublime (gendered male) and becomes dispersed in the Beautiful (gendered female). It is produced by the Sublime experience of threatened privation or death. The Beautiful cannot comprehend power because it is a structure of plenitude which does not have this threat of lack inscribed within it (Burke 1958: 54-71). Thus Brontë, who consistently refuses to write within the aesthetics of the Beautiful, places herself in a unique, and apparently attractively decisive, relation to the power up for grabs in nineteenth-century poetics.
It is largely on the basis of this ostensible lack of relation to the aesthetic of the Beautiful and her engagement with the Sublime structure of empowerment that Emily Brontë has retained her reputation as one woman who is unfettered by the 'masculinist' poetics which many feminist critics have seen as a force of symbolic prohibition on the production of other nineteenth-century women poets. Paradoxically, this has lead to a discussion of Brontë's transgressiveness in terms of parallels which have been drawn between her work and the male romantics. It is at this intersection that Bataille situates her triumph:
Reproduction and death condition the immortal renewal of life; they condition the instant which is always new. That is why we can only have a tragic view of the enchantment of life, but that is also why tragedy is the symbol of enchantment. The entire romantic movement may have heralded this, but that late masterpiece, Wuthering Heights, heralds it most humanely.
(Bataille 1973: 11)
Bataille also reminds us that she 'certainly read Byron' (Bataille 1973: 17). To situate my discussion of Brontë's radicalism within the terms of these poetics of transgression is to enter territory where my specifically feminist engagement with the poems, which attempts to speak about Brontë's radicalism in the same space as that of the other nineteenth-century women I am reading, becomes very difficult. Brontë's 'triumph' identified from this perspective is precisely the strategy refused by the other women who interrogate and redefine the limits of their aesthetic permission from within the confines of the Beautiful. I thus forego the possibility of establishing any kind of relation between Brontë's 'feminist' or even 'feminine' poetics and those of almost all other nineteenth-century women poets who refuse strategies of overt transgression, and who will, in this logic, be rendered negligible. Brontë's radicalism will be seen as a function of her lack of or difference from 'femininity'.
The dangers of this are highlighted by the striking similarity between Bataille's portrait of Brontë and that always drawn by traditional criticism of her, which has a large stake in disguising her radicalism. Bataille focuses on her 'courage', 'reserve' and 'devotion' (Bataille 1973: 1):
She lived in a sort of silence which, it seemed, only literature could disrupt. The morning she died, after a brief lung illness, she got up at the usual time, joining her family without uttering a word and expired before midday, without even going back to bed. She had not wanted to see a doctor.
(Bataille 1973: 1)
This discussion of lack of Victorian womanly vulnerability is accompanied in Bataille, as in traditional criticism, by an emphasis on the extremely sublimated nature of her 'passion':
For though Emily Brontë, despite her beauty, appears to have had no experience of love she had an anguished knowledge of passion … keeping her moral purity intact, she had a profound experience of the abyss of evil.
(Bataille 1973: 3)
It hardly needs to be pointed out that this is in complete contrast with the other writers discussed in Bataille's volume, whose implication in the most violent and transgressive forms of sexual practice is located by Bataille at the same point as the emanation of their transgressive philosophy and textual strategy. It is through an analysis of Brontë that Bataille concludes that 'Evil … is not only the dream of the wicked: it is to some extent the dream of the good' (Bataille 1973: 18). This involves him in the alignment of Brontë with Catherine (as against Heathcliff) who he defines as
absolutely moral. She is so moral that she dies of not being able to detach herself from the man she loved when she was a child. But although she knows that Evil is deep within him, she loves him to the point of saying 'I am Heathcliff'.
(Bataille 1973: 8)
This form of goodness, so overdetermined that it can comprehend evil, Bataille terms 'hypermorality' (Bataille 1973: 10). But it is Heath-cliff who craves death in order to repair his attachment to Catherine. In chapter 29 he makes it his business to mutilate Cathy's coffin so that when he is buried next to her their two bodies will mingle in decomposition.
What is at stake in this most uncharacteristic demarcation of identities on Bataille's part is a refusal of femininity and feminine sexuality as nontransgressive. The patriarchal psychic formations implicated in this refusal are too obvious to merit discussion. The point is that she is placed by Bataille in the same isolation from the mass of nineteenth-century women poets as traditional criticism has always placed her, even if he does it for the opposite reason; the wish to recuperate, rather than deny her transgressiveness. It is significant that in this essay Bataille repairs his link with surrealism, which he had broken away from several decades before, in the invocation of Breton's Second Surrealist Manifesto (1972). His quarrel with Breton had been that some surrealist accounts imply that transgression comes about for the individual on a psychic level, detached from social reality, rather than, as Bataille was anxious to emphasize, at the point where 'individual' psychic forces break down into the corporate movement of the 'Popular Front in the streets' (Bataille 1985: 161-168). The following passage comes from the same essay Bataille quotes to elucidate Brontë's conceptualization of the 'point … where life and death, the real and the imaginary' etc collapse into each other:
What could those people who are still concerned about the position they occupy in the world expect from the Surrealist experiment? (It is) in this mental site, from which one can no longer set forth except for oneself on a dangerous but, we think, a supreme feat of reconnaissance.
(Breton 1972: 124)
I cannot help feeling that by re-establishing the proximity of this text to his own work Bataille is gesturing towards a source of justification for his isolationist strategy. To make Brontë's transgressiveness a function of her uniqueness in this way, is to make it a function of her a-sexualism in both senses. Bataille's approach refuses her transgressiveness at the same point as traditional criticism does: her femininity. The transgressive moments which draw me to Brontë's texts, on closer examination repel me, as seemingly incompatible with identifying her in any meaningful way as a woman.
"The Prisoner" (Brontë 1985) is curiously conscious of this dilemma. The woman who experiences what, I would agree with Bataille, is the most intense instance of this ecstasy within the poetry, is a 'marble' (if not plaster) saint, akin to the de-sexualized Emily Brontë thought capable of conceiving her:
The captive raised her head; it was as soft and mild
As sculptured marble saint or slumbering unweaned child.
It was so soft and mild, it was so sweet and fair
Pain could not trace a line nor grief a shadow there. (stanza 7)
The contradiction implicit in this description, that she is both 'soft' and 'hard', is multiplied by the fact that this celebration of her inviolacy comes precisely at the point at which she has been violated:
The captive raised her hand and pressed it to her brow:
'I have been struck', she said, 'and I am suffering now'. (stanza 8)
Readers of "The Prisoner," from Charlotte Brontë (who separated the first three stanzas from the rest of the poem in its 1850 edition) onwards, have been unable to comprehend the apparent disjuncture between different parts of the poem. I want to consider this phenomenon not as a manifestation of some kind of 'failure' but as central to its strategy. The initial encounter between the speaker and the prisoner establishes the dynamic of his relation to her as one of mis-recognition. This lack of encounter occurs throughout the poem. The first three stanzas stand in problematic relation to the rest of the poem. They occur chronologically after, not before the narrative of the prisoner, making it impossible to read the beginning of the poem until we have read the end. The experience it describes seems to bear some relation to the prisoner's ecstasy. It looks to the coming of a 'Wanderer' who is invisible and invulnerable to hostile gazes, as the prisoner's 'messenger of hope' is. But this is not stated explicitly. Disparities in the language used to describe the two experiences throw into doubt whether they are the same. Within stanzas 13-18, the most frequently anthologized because the most seemingly unified section of the poem, are the most acute instances of lack of encounter, this time between experience and its representation. The transition between stanzas 13 and 14 signals that a representation of the ecstatic experience is about to be given: 'visions rise and fall that kill me with desire—/Desire for …'. But in stanza 14 the language of the collapse of identity we expect is employed, but to describe what the ecstatic experience is not. The desire invoked by the 'visions' is 'for nothing known in [the prisoner's] maturer years'. The remaining three lines of the stanza are given over to describing the condition of these 'maturer years', where the prisoner has insisted the experience cannot be situated. But it is at this moment when it is denied that all the elements of ecstasy occur. Time is disrupted and collapsed. Although the 'maturer years' are in the future, what will happen in them is spoken of in terms of history not prophecy: 'when joy grew mad with awe'. This reversal is then reversed again as the future, which is expressing itself as the past, doubles itself by looking towards a further future: 'at counting future tears'. The stanza then throws itself back to the (future) past: 'When, if my spirit's sky was full of flashes warm, / I knew not whence they came, from sun or thunder storm'. The breakdown of the boundary between interiority and exteriority of 'spirit's sky', and of demarcations in the natural world in the confusion of 'sun' and 'thunder storm' is made even more significant by the fact that the experience they are thrown into conflict by, the 'flashes warm', is expressed in a form which inverts the conventional order of noun and adjective.
Having (not quite) avoided representing ecstatic experience in this curious way, the prisoner's narrative picks up the description of the prelude to the experience and continues with it for the next two stanzas. The next point of disjuncture comes on the (second) point where the description tries to move into a representation of ecstasy, at the end of stanza 16:
My outward sense is gone, my inward essence feels:
Its wings are almost free—its home, its harbour found;
Measuring the gulf it stoops and dares the final bound.
The battle between the imagery of liberation—'Its wings are almost free', 'it dares'—and that of restriction—'Its harbour found', 'it stoops'—culminates at the end of the stanza, where language is 'bound' inside the stanza, denied entry into the territory of the ecstatic experience which occurs, completely unrepresented, between stanzas 16 and 17. Representation comes back into operation at the point where the recession of ecstasy induces pain.
I do not believe that this avoidance of representing ecstatic experience should be seen as either aesthetic or ethical failure on Brontë's part. "The Prisoner" does not avoid encountering ecstasy. What it does is to deploy the experience and its representation separately. This interrogates, in an extraordinary anticipation of the avant-gardist dilemma, the political purchase of ecstatic experience.
Although this moment of ecstasy is situated at the point of the collapse of identity, encountering it in its represented form means that identity and agency are re-activated as we read the experience. The poem throws the act of reading into sharp relief; in both the emphasis on the lack of full encounter between the prisoner and the speaker persona, and in the problematic mis-reading we are forced to employ in order to reconstruct the ecstatic experience. Bataille's reading of Brontë's transgressiveness is achieved at the cost of desexualizing her in a way which, I have argued, is indistinguishable from the strategy of the most reactionary accounts of her. This is not the inevitable consequence of reading her accounts of the collapse of identity, but some politically charged consequence is inevitable. We can now begin to understand the relation of the first three stanzas to the rest of the poem. They explore, from within the text, what happens when the ecstatic experience is read. Affected by the prisoner's account of her liberation, the speaker of the poem attempts to enter into it himself. That he has misread it becomes apparent in his failure to reproduce the terms the prisoner represented it in. The prisoner's 'messenger' 'comes with western winds', 'evening's wandering airs' and 'that clear dusk of heaven that brings the thickest stars' (stanza 13). It is unclear whether it is the determining movement of these elements which brings the 'messenger', or whether his coming is coincidentally simultaneous with their coming. In the first speaker's perception there is none of this indeterminacy: 'The little lamp burns straight; its rays shoot strong and far / I trim it well to be the Wanderer's guiding star' (stanza 2). There is no doubt here that the material will determine the immaterial. The natural has also become transformed into the artificial. The substantiality of the 'thickest stars' has become transformed into 'lamp', the singular mimic of a star. Whereas the prisoner's stars thicken and burn of their own volition—they 'take a tender fire'—this severely edited version of them in the first speaker's narrative is mutilated further as he 'trims' the lamp. The first speaker situates the coming of his 'Wanderer' at the point when 'all (except himself) are laid asleep' despite the fact that the prisoner is identified with sleep by his admission—he calls her a 'slumbering unweaned child' and her own 'mute music soothes my breast, unuttered harmony / That I could never dream till earth is lost to me'. The 'Wanderer' is identified in more personified terms than the 'messenger' as the presence of the capital letter in his name implies. The prisoner's 'messenger' is mentioned once and then disappears in favour of the depersonalized 'visions'. The 'Wanderer' is retained in the first speaker's account and by the third stanza he has become an 'angel'. The transformation of the prisoner's experience, from the desire for the 'visions' of stanzas 13-16, to the desire for the 'Death' they will 'herald' in stanza 18, also fails to happen in the first speaker's account. He identifies his encounter with the 'Wanderer' or 'angel' wholly with the 'Cheerful', 'soft', pleasurable, interior he looks to draw him into. Violence and pain are identified with the outside, the 'wildering drifts' and 'groaning trees' tormented by the 'breeze'. The prisoner's account not only destroys the demarcation between inside and outside, but the 'visions' bring with them enough pain to 'kill', seemingly by means of the violence they have taken possession of from the 'winds' and 'stars', which are rendered 'pensive' and 'tender', more passive, by the visions' passage through them.
The political effect this (mis-) reading of the prisoner's ecstatic experience has is to activate an explicit master/slave dialectic. The ending of the poem, which propels us back to its opening, asserts the breakdown of the speaker's power over the prisoner. In the first three stanzas we find the speaker conscious of specific social oppression, paradoxically from those his language identifies as his social inferiors:
Frown my haughty sire, chide, my angry dame;
Set yourselves to spy, threaten me with shame;
But neither sire nor dame, nor prying serf shall know
What angel nightly tracks that waste of winter snow. (stanza 3)
The triumph of the prisoner is to construct liberation out of her oppression, to exchange 'short life' for 'eternal liberty'. The experience of her observer demonstrates that the attempt to reproduce the latter half of the equation involves invoking the former: the attempt to transgress involves simultaneously a deeper entry into the economy which resists transgression. At this point where the (inevitable) interaction of identity and its collapse produces paranoia, I will begin my discussion of "The Philosopher" (Brontë 1985), which deals with this structure even more explicitly.
There is indeed, etymologically, a close relationship between paranoia and ecstasy. If ecstasy is to be outside of oneself, then paranoia is to be literally beside oneself: para (alongside, beyond) + noos, nous (mind). In a sense paranoia can be understood as ecstasy experienced from 'within', ecstasy which still fears the loss of self, which has to be 'beside itself' but also has a desperate need to maintain the boundaries of it self's territories.
(Williams 1989: 14)
If 'ecstasy' signifies the process of going beyond the self and the economy which sustains it, then paranoia is the process of (mis-) recognizing, with distress, that transgression. It is the inability to fully relinquish an identity which is collapsing. It is the disruption brought about within the economy ecstatic experience transcends, generated by the attempt to read that experience from a point of view still within that economy. It is the highly-stressed political articulation of ecstatic experience:
O for the time when I shall sleep
And never care how rain may steep
Or snow may cover me. (stanza 2)
Before he utters it, the poem has interpreted the philosopher's expression of desire for the ecstatic collapse of identity as the function of his paranoia. Whilst the philosopher is contemplating the physical suffering he could escape by death, the physical reality he separates himself from is wholly benign and pleasurable:
Enough of Thought, Philosopher;
Too long hast thou been dreaming
Unlightened in this chamber drear
While summer's sun is beaming—… (stanza 1)
This mis-recognition signals that the philosopher is in the same problematic 'paranoid' relation to ecstatic experience as the speaker in "The Prisoner." His 'sad refrain' sets up insurmountable barriers to reaching ecstasy. If
No promised Heaven these wild Desires
Could all or half fulfil—
No threatened Hell with quenchless fires,
Subdue this quenchless will! (stanza 3)
it is impossible to imagine how identity is to be extinguished. The philosopher's appeal to a language of transcendence, to express the urgency of his plea, back-fires on him. The categories of Heaven and Hell have failed, but he can find no new language to replace them which could conceptualize a greater power to erase the need for 'fulfilment' and 'subdual'. Neither does he erase their authority. This is not a demonstrable atheism; the 'promise' and 'threat' of Heaven and Hell are not rendered negligible within the logic of the stanza. The literal meaning of these lines is that, due to the lack of any representative proof of the possibility of an economy beyond Heaven and Hell, the subsistence of identity, which is the inevitable consequence of it, will continue. Any other reading which would see this stanza as looking towards (the possibility of) an alternative economy, depends upon a preconception of that economy's existence and constitution. This mismatch between what we and the philosopher feel the stanza should say and what it actually does say is registered by the overdeterminedly or doubly poetic nature of the two stanzas. In "The Prisoner," the problem of how to represent ecstatic experience is dealt with by deploying the experience and its representation in different places. In these two stanzas of "The Philosopher" the problem is much more urgent. Not only is there a complete failure to represent ecstasy, but the enormous stress generated by trying to represent it creates the need for language to signal itself as present and pre-eminent, by italicizing itself. Similarly, the first speaker's appeal to the philosopher in stanza 1 'what sad refrain / concludes thy musings once again?' invites and expects the repetition of a pre-existent linguistic pattern. These poems seem to allow no escape from the argument that the attempt to represent the collapse of identity is militated against by the process of representation itself.
But as the poem continues, the possibility of encountering, through representation, even the economy of fixed identities disappears. The philosopher recalls his encounter with 'A Spirit' who seems to suggest some way out of this bleak situation. He appeared in a very specific spatial and temporal position, 'I saw a Spirit standing, man / Where thou dost stand an hour ago', (stanza 7). Yet when the philosopher attempts to search for him within this economy of identifiable time and space he finds that the spirit is no longer there:
—And even for that Spirit, Seer,
I've watched and sought my lifetime long;
Sought Him in Heaven, Hell, Earth and Air,
An endless search and always wrong! (stanza 10)
This desperate searching around definable space and time activates the limitless—'endless' and 'always'. The philosopher appeals to the spirit as an alternative to the need for the erasure of identity:
Had I but seen his glorious eye
Once light the clouds that 'wilder me,
I ne'er had raised this coward cry
To cease to think and cease to be. (stanza 11)
But the very condition and motivation of the philosopher's appeal is that the spirit is part of the economy where identity collapses, he is both present and absent, reachable and unreachable in the structure of the poem. The philosopher's search within the economy of identity activates the categories of its dissolution. As was the case in "The Prisoner," the (partial) representation the poem makes of the possibility of this collapse is thus dependent on the activity of the economy which refuses it. The philosopher attributes to the spirit the power of a transformatory gaze. In fact the poem argues that in spite of himself, the philosopher's gaze is transformative. Under pressure of it, the spirit shifts from one economy to another. But this power is dependent upon the philosopher at each stage mis-recognizing the economy he is within. He is perpetually 'beside himself', failing to comprehend and encounter where he is.
This 'paranoia' is fundamental to the strategy of the poem as a whole. Unlike "The Prisoner" which was split between two voices, "The Philosopher" has a triple articulation. We have extremely sparse information about the first speaker. He is identified directly twice by the philosopher, in stanzas 7 and 10, on both occasions immediately after an identification of the spirit. The syntax of the first identification allows for the designation 'Man' to be a qualification of the ontology of the spirit: 'I saw a Spirit standing, Man,' (stanza 7). The fact that he has the closest spatial and temporal contact with the elusive spirit adds to the suggestion that they are identical. The second address identifies him as 'Seer'. Because of the semantic similarity of this category with that of philosopher, a similar collapse occurs between the philosopher and the one to whom he expresses his alienation. So, in a sense, the collapse of identity the philosopher longs for is already happening, and is a symptom of the strength of his despair of it.
Poetics, Politics and Paranoia
The study of transgression happening in these two poems is more complex than Bataille suggests. Alongside an expression of the desire for the collapse of identity, Brontë places an account of the paranoia—the distress registered at this collapse—which is the inevitable consequence of encountering it. In a sense, Brontë is giving us an account of what happens when we try to read her, inside her poems.
In the light of this analysis it becomes possible to see why all readers of Brontë, including me, have experienced such a strong temptation to refuse her poetry. My readerly paranoia, my temptation to make Brontë into a 'special case' because she challenged a category I was determined to invoke in relation to her, arose through trying to place her as a woman in the face of her repudiation of the poetics other nineteenth-century women poets unanimously embrace, and (consequently) the undesirably misogynist conceptualizations of transgression I was forced into. These problems seemed to be unique to the particular context of my reading. But uncovering this dynamic of the production of paranoia which is so central to the poems, indicates the link of my specific problems with those of the other readers of Brontë I cited at the beginning of this paper. It seems that the stronger the temptation Brontë produces to try and identify a particular formation her poetry offers us, and the stronger the critical good faith we are prepared to employ in this attempt, the more the poetry confounds us. But looking closely at, in particular, "The Philosopher" has made me realize how vital it is that I do not abandon her, that I do not deny that she is a woman. In this poem it is at the point where the process of mis-reading is at its most acute that what is being searched for emerges. The desired collapse of identity is articulated by the philosopher's cry of despair of it ever being possible. Translated back onto my reading of Brontë, this means that I do not need to be haunted by her image as a male Romantic, developing a poetics which repudiates femininity.
From a methodological point of view, I also find this concept of reading as a form of paranoia extremely attractive. It seems to me to be a very productive way to conceive the strategy I, as a feminist critic, want to bring to the texts I am working on. A central problem in feminist readings of texts from previous historical periods is that they either place twentieth-century political problems and structures of thought onto texts to which in various ways they are not appropriate, or, alternatively, they attempt to let the text determine its own terms of discussion, which is impossible; but even if it were not, it removes the focus of the reading from the political urgency which originally stimulated it. If, as a feminist critic, I admit myself as terminally paranoid—that is, in distress at the way in which the political questions and demands I carry are being undermined and reformulated by the texts as I am reading them—I will be simultaneously encountering both my own motivation for entering these texts and the way the uniqueness of each text can sustain and enrich this motivation.
This paranoia, this point of crisis in reading which I believe is potential in all texts, but which is inescapable in Brontë's poetry, is an agony which is wholly productive. If Miller, Starzyk, all the other critics of Brontë and my own reading of her would enter into it fully, we would experience fully the power of the political vision we must never be ashamed to own in our relation to the text. But we must also not be afraid to see collapse, in order to have it returned to us in forms we could never imagine without this violence.
- This is the only extended discussion of Emily Brontë, in the periodical Victorian Poetry, which indicates the strength of the refusal to engage with her as a Victorian, generated by her association with romanticism.
- See, for example, Elizabeth Jennings' 'Introduction' to A Choice of Christina Rossetti's Verse, Faber (1970): 'Christina was the least intellectual of the family of two girls and two boys … Her subjects were limited, it is true, but she never made the mistake of writing beyond the limits of her experience' (pp. 11-12).
- This assumption has been axiomatic since the onset of feminist work on nineteenth-century women's texts. Both Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar's The Mad-woman in the Attic, Yale University Press (1979), and Margaret Homans' Women Writers and Poetic Identity, Princeton University Press (1980), take it as read that women are psychically and culturally prohibited from using poetic language. This assumption has remained so inviolate that in 1987 Jan Montefiore could devote her chapter on Christina Rossetti, in Feminism and Poetry, to a Lacanian reading of the sonnet sequence Monna Innominata, arguing that the text expresses the poet's inability to overcome symbolic prohibition in the structure of poetic language.
- In Gender and Genius, The Women's Press (1989), Christine Battersby has pointed out the problems clustered around the use of the term 'femininity' in nineteenth-century aesthetics. Standing in for a particular condition of consciousness and language the romantics sought to achieve in their poetry, it in fact excludes women (as biological and historical subjects) from itself. I am attempting to reclaim this term, using it to signify not just the biological category of 'woman', but at the point in my argument where I attempt to align this category with an account of language which will represent and transgress it.
- See note 3. above.
Bataille, G. (1973), 'Emily Brontë', Literature and Evil, 3-17, (tr. Hamilton, A.), London, Calder and Boyars.
Bataille, G. (1985), 'The Popular Front in the Streets', Visions of Excess, 161-168, (tr. Stoekl, A.), Manchester, Manchester University Press.
Battersby, C. (1989), Gender and Genius: Towards a Feminist Aesthetic, London, The Women's Press.
Breton, A. (1972), 'Second Surrealist Manifesto' (1930), Manifestos of Surrealism, (tr. Seaver, R. and Lane, H. R.), Ann Arbor, University of Michigan Press.
Brontë, E. J. (1846a), 'No Coward Soul Is Mine', in Brontë (1985): 172-3.
Brontë, E. J. (1846b), 'The Prisoner', in Brontë (1985): 170-2.
Brontë, E. J. (1846c), 'The Philosopher', in Brontë (1985): 161-2.
Brontë, E. J. (1965), Wuthering Heights (1847), (ed. Daiches, D.) Harmondsworth, Penguin.
Brontë, E. J. (1985), Selected Brontë Poems, (ed. Chitham, E. and Winnifrith, T.), Oxford, Basil Blackwell.
Burke, E. (1958), A Philosophical Inquiry into the Origins of Our Ideas of the Sublime and the Beautiful (1757), (ed. Boulton, J. T.), Oxford, Basil Blackwell.
Gilbert, S. and Gubar, S. (1979), The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, New Haven, University of Yale Press.
Homans, M. (1980), Women Writers and Poetic Identity: Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Brontë and Emily Dickinson, Princeton (N. J.), Princeton University Press.
Jennings, E. (1970), 'Introduction' to A Choice of Christina Rossetti's Verse, London, Faber and Faber.
Miller, J. H. (1982), Fiction and Repetition, Oxford, Basil Blackwell.
Montefiore, J. (1987), Feminism and Poetry, London, Pandora Press.
Starzyk, L. (1973), 'The Faith of Emily Brontë's Mortality Creed', Victorian Poetry, 11, 295-305.
Wallace, K. (1986), Emily Brontë and Beethoven, Athens, Georgia University Press.
Williams, L. R. (1989), 'Submission and Reading: Feminine Masochism and Feminist Criticism', New Formations 7: Modernism and Masochism, 11-17.
Last Updated on June 12, 2017, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 19292
MARY A. WARD (ESSAY DATE 1899)
SOURCE: Ward, Mary A. Introduction to Wuthering Heights and Agnes Grey, pp. xviii-xxxix. London: John Murray, 1899.
In the following excerpt, Ward discusses the genesis of Wuthering Heights from the influence of German Romanticism to the unique temperament of Brontë herself.
Emily Brontë, like her sister, inherited Celtic blood, together with a stern and stoical tradition of daily life. She was a wayward, imaginative girl, physically delicate, brought up in loneliness and poverty, amid a harsh yet noble landscape of hill, moor and stream. Owing to the fact that her father had some literary cultivation, and an Irish quickness of intelligence beyond that of his brother-clergy, this child of genius had from the beginning a certain access to good books, and through books and newspapers to the central world of thought and of affairs. In 1827, when Emily was nine, she and her sisters used to amuse themselves in the wintry firelight by choosing imaginary islands to govern, and peopling them with famous men. Emily chose the Isle of Arran, and for inhabitants Sir Walter Scott and the Lockharts; while Charlotte chose the Duke of Wellington and Christopher North. In 1829, Charlotte, in a fragment of journal, describes the newspapers taken by the family in those troubled days of Catholic emancipation and reform, and lets us know that a neighbour lent them 'Blackwood's Magazine,' 'the most able periodical there is.' It was, indeed, by the reading of 'Blackwood' in its days of most influence and vigour, and, later, of 'Fraser' (from 1832 apparently), that the Brontë household was mainly kept in touch with the current literature, the criticism, poetry, and fiction of their day. During their eager, enthusiastic youth the Brontë sisters, then, were readers of Christopher North, Hogg, De Quincey, and Maginn in 'Blackwood,' of Carlyle's early essays and translations in 'Fraser,' of Scott and Lockhart, no less than of Wordsworth, Southey, and Coleridge. Charlotte asked Southey for an opinion on her poems; Branwell did the same with Hartley Coleridge; and no careful reader of Emily Brontë's verse can fail to see in it the fiery and decisive influence of S. T. C.
So much for the influences of youth. There can be no question that they were 'romantic' influences, and it can be easily shown that among them were many kindling sparks from that 'unextinguished hearth' of German poetry and fiction which played so large a part in English imagination during the first half of the century. In 1800, Hannah More, protesting against the Germanising invasion, and scandalised by the news that Schiller's 'Räuber' 'is now acting in England by persons of quality,' sees, 'with indignation and astonishment, the Huns and Vandals once more overpowering the Greeks and Romans,' and English minds 'hurried back to the reign of Chaos and old Night by distorted and unprincipled compositions, which, in spite of strong flashes of genius, unite the taste of the Goths' with the morals of the 'road.' In 1830, Carlyle, quoting the passage, and measuring the progress of English knowledge and opinion, reports triumphantly 'a rapidly growing favour for German literature.' 'There is no one of our younger, more vigorous periodicals,' he says, 'but has its German craftsman gleaning what he can'; and for twenty years or more he himself did more than any other single writer to bring the German and English worlds together. During the time that he was writing and translating for the 'Edinburgh,' the 'Foreign Review' and 'Fraser,'—in 'Blackwood' also, through the years when Charlotte and Emily Brontë, then at the most plastic stage of thought and imagination, were delighting in it, one may find a constant series of translations from the German, of articles on German memoirs and German poets, and of literary reflections and estimates, which testify abundantly to the vogue of all things Teutonic, both with men of letters and the public. In 1840, 'Maga,' in the inflated phrase of the time, says, indeed, that the Germans are aspiring 'to wield the literary sceptre, with as lordly a sway as ever graced the dynasty of Voltaire. No one who is even superficially acquainted with the floating literature of the day can fail to have observed how flauntingly long-despised Germanism spreads its phylacteries on every side.' In the year before, (1839) 'Blackwood' published a translation of Tieck's 'Pietro d'Abano,' a wild robber-and-magician story, of the type which spread the love of monster and vampire, witch and werewolf, through a Europe tired for the moment of eighteenth-century common-sense; and, more important still, a long section, excellently rendered, from Goethe's 'Dichtung und Wahrheit.' In that year Emily Brontë was alone with her father and aunt at Haworth, while her two sisters were teaching as governesses. 'Blackwood' came as usual, and one may surely imagine the long, thin girl bending in the firelight over these pages from Goethe, receiving the impress of their lucidity, their charm, their sentiment and 'natural magic,' nourishing from them the vivid and masterly intelligence which eight years later produced Wuthering Heights.
But she was to make a nearer acquaintance with German thought and fancy than could be got from the pages of 'Blackwood' and 'Fraser.' In 1842 she and Charlotte journeyed to Brussels, and there a certain divergence seems to have declared itself between the literary tastes and affinities of the two sisters. While Charlotte, who had already become an eager reader of French books, and was at all times more ready to take the colour of an environment than Emily, was carried, by the teaching of M. Héger acting upon her special qualities and capacities, into that profounder appreciation of the French Romantic spirit and method which shows itself thenceforward in all her books, Emily set herself against Brussels, against M. Héger, and against the French models that he was constantly proposing to the sisters. She was homesick and miserable; her attitude of mind was partly obstinacy, partly, perhaps, a matter of instinctive and passionate preference. She learnt German diligently, and it has always been assumed, though I hardly know on what first authority, that she read a good deal of German fiction, and especially Hoffmann's tales, at Brussels. Certainly, we hear of her in the following year, when she was once more at Haworth, and Charlotte was still at Brussels, as doing her household work 'with a German book open beside her,' though we are not told what the books were; and, as I learn from Mr. Shorter, there are indications that the small library Emily left behind her contained much German literature.
Two years later, Charlotte, in 1845, discovered the poems which, at least since 1834, Emily had been writing. 'It took hours,' says the elder sister, 'to reconcile her to the discovery I had made, and days to persuade her that such poems merited publication.' But Charlotte prevailed, and in 1846 Messrs. Aylott & Jones published the little volume of Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell. It obtained no success; but 'the mere effort to succeed,' says Charlotte, 'had given a wonderful zest to existence; it must be pursued. We each set to work on a prose tale: Ellis Bell produced Wuthering Heights, Acton Bell "Agnes Grey," and Currer Bell also wrote a narrative in one volume'—'The Professor.' For a year and a half Wuthering Heights, in common with 'Agnes Grey' and 'The Professor,' travelled wearily from publisher to publisher. At last Messrs. Newby accepted the first two. But they lingered in the press for months, and Wuthering Heights appeared at last, after the publication of 'Jane Eyre,' and amid the full noise of its fame, only to be received as an earlier and cruder work of Currer Bell's, for which even those who admired 'Jane Eyre' could find little praise and small excuse. Emily seems to have shown not a touch of jealousy or discouragement. She is not known, however, to have written anything more than a few verses—amongst them, indeed, the immortal "Last Lines"—later than Wuthering Heights, and during the last year of her life she seems to have given herself—true heart, and tameless soul!—now to supporting her wretched brother through the final stages of his physical and moral decay, and now to consultation with and sympathy for Charlotte in the writing of 'Shirley.' Branwell died in September, and Emily was already ill on the day of his funeral. By the middle of December, at the age of thirty, she was dead; the struggle of her iron will and passionate vitality with hampering circumstances was over. The story of that marvellous dying has been often told, by Charlotte first of all, then by Mrs. Gaskell, and again by Madame Darmesteter, in the vivid study of Emily Brontë, which represents the homage of a new poetic generation. Let us recall Charlotte's poignant sentences—
Never in all her life had she lingered over any task that lay before her, and she did not linger now. She sank rapidly. She made haste to leave us. Yet while physically she perished, mentally she grew stronger than we had yet known her. Day by day, when I saw with what a front she met suffering, I looked on her with an anguish of wonder and love. I have seen nothing like it; but indeed I have never seen her parallel in anything. Stronger than a man, simpler than a child, her nature stood alone. The awful point was, that while full of ruth for others, on herself she had no pity; the spirit was inexorable to the flesh; from the trembling hand, the unnerved limbs, the faded eyes, the same service was exacted as in health.…She died December 19, 1848.
'Stronger than a man, simpler than a child:'—these words are Emily Brontë's true epitaph, both as an artist and as a human being. Her strength of will and imagination struck those who knew her and those who read her as often inhuman or terrible; and with this was combined a simplicity partly of genius partly of a strange innocence and spirituality, which gives her a place apart in English letters. It is important to realise that of the three books written simultaneously by the three sisters, Emily's alone shows genius already matured and master of its tools. Charlotte had a steady development before her, especially in matters of method and style; the comparative dulness of 'The Professor,' and the crudities of 'Jane Eyre' made way for the accomplished variety and brilliance of 'Villette.' But though Emily, had she lived, might have chosen many happier subjects, treated with a more flowing unity than she achieved in Wuthering Heights, the full competence of genius is already present in her book. The common, hasty, didactic note that Charlotte often strikes is never heard in Wuthering Heights. The artist remains hidden and self-contained; the work, however morbid and violent may be the scenes and creatures it presents, has always that distinction which belongs to high talent working solely for its own joy and satisfaction, with no thought of a spectator, or any aim but that of an ideal and imaginative whole. Charlotte stops to think of objectors, to teach and argue, to avenge her own personal grievances, or cheat her own personal longings. For pages together, she often is little more than the clever clergyman's daughter, with a sharp tongue, a dislike to Ritualism and Romanism, a shrewd memory for persecutions and affronts, and a weakness for that masterful lover of whom most young women dream. But Emily is pure mind and passion; no one, from the pages of Wuthering Heights can guess at the small likes and dislikes, the religious or critical antipathies, the personal weaknesses of the artist who wrote it. She has that highest power—which was typically Shakespeare's power, and which in our day is typically the power of such an artist as Turgueniev—the power which gives life, intensest life, to the creatures of imagination, and, in doing so, endows them with an independence behind which the maker is forgotten. The puppet show is everything; and, till it is over, the manager—nothing. And it is his delight and triumph to have it so.
Yet, at the same time, Wuthering Heights is a book of the later Romantic movement, betraying the influences of German Romantic imagination, as Charlotte's work betrays the influences of Victor Hugo and George Sand. The Romantic tendency to invent and delight in monsters, the exaltation du moi, which has been said to be the secret of the whole Romantic revolt against classical models and restraints; the love of violence in speech and action, the preference for the hideous in character and the abnormal in situation—of all these there are abundant examples in Wuthering Heights. The dream of Mr. Lockwood in Catherine's box bed, when in the terror of nightmare he pulled the wrist of the little wailing ghost outside on to the broken glass of the window, 'and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bed-clothes'—one of the most gruesome fancies of literature!—Heathcliff's long and fiendish revenge on Hindley Earnshaw; the ghastly quarrel between Linton and Heathcliff in Catherine's presence after Heathcliff's return; Catherine's three days' fast, and her delirium when she 'tore the pillow with her teeth;' Heathcliff dashing his head against the trees of her garden, leaving his blood upon their bark, and 'howling, not like a man, but like a savage beast being goaded to death with knives and spears;' the fight between Heathcliff and Earnshaw after Heathcliff's marriage to Isabella; the kidnapping of the younger Catherine, and the horror rather suggested than described of Heathcliff's brutality towards his sickly son:—all these things would not have been written precisely as they were written, but for the 'Germanism' of the thirties and forties, but for the translations of 'Blackwood' and 'Fraser,' and but for those German tales, whether of Hoffmann or others, which there is evidence that Emily Brontë read both at Brussels and after her return.
As to the 'exaltation of the Self,' its claims, sensibilities and passions, in defiance of all social law and duty, there is no more vivid expression of it throughout Romantic literature than is contained in the conversation between the elder Catherine and Nelly Dean before Catherine marries Edgar Linton. And the violent, clashing egotisms of Heathcliff and Catherine in the last scene of passion before Catherine's death, are as it were an epitome of a whole genre in literature, and a whole phase of European feeling.
Nevertheless, horror and extravagance are not really the characteristic mark and quality of Wuthering Heights. If they were, it would have no more claim upon us than a hundred other forgotten books—Lady Caroline Lamb's 'Glenarvon' amongst them—which represent the dregs and refuse of a great literary movement. As in the case of Charlotte Brontë, the peculiar force of Emily's work lies in the fact that it represents the grafting of a European tradition upon a mind already richly stored with English and local reality, possessing at command a style at once strong and simple, capable both of homeliness and magnificence. The form of Romantic imagination which influenced Emily was not the same as that which influenced Charlotte; whether from a secret stubbornness and desire of difference, or no, there is not a mention of the French language, or of French books, in Emily's work, while Charlotte's abounds in a kind of display of French affinities, and French scholarship. The dithyrambs of 'Shirley' and 'Villette,' the 'Vision of Eve' of 'Shirley,' and the description of Rachel in 'Villette,' would have been impossible to Emily; they come to a great extent from the reading of Victor Hugo and George Sand. But in both sisters there is a similar fonds of stern and simple realism; a similar faculty of observation at once shrewd, and passionate; and it is by these that they produce their ultimate literary effect. The difference between them is almost wholly in Emily's favour. The uneven, amateurish manner of so many pages in 'Jane Eyre' and 'Shirley;' the lack of literary reticence which is responsible for Charlotte's frequent intrusion of her own personality, and for her occasional temptations to scream and preach, which are not wholly resisted even in her masterpiece 'Villette;' the ugly tawdry sentences which disfigure some of her noblest passages, and make quotation from her so difficult:—you will find none of these things in Wuthering Heights. Emily is never flurried, never self-conscious; she is master of herself at the most rushing moments of feeling or narrative; her style is simple, sensuous, adequate and varied from first to last; she has fewer purple patches than Charlotte, but at its best, her insight no less than her power of phrase, is of a diviner and more exquisite quality.
Wuthering Heights then is the product of romantic imagination, working probably under influences from German literature, and marvellously fused with local knowledge and a realistic power which, within its own range, has seldom been surpassed. Its few great faults are soon enumerated. The tendency to extravagance and monstrosity may, as we have seen, be taken to some extent as belonging more to a literary fashion than to the artist. Tieck and Hoffmann are full of raving and lunatic beings who sob, shout, tear out their hair by the roots, and live in a perpetual state of personal violence both towards themselves and their neighbours. Emily Brontë probably received from them an additional impulse towards a certain wildness of manner and conception which was already natural to her Irish blood, to a woman brought up amid the solitudes of the moors and the ruggedness of Yorkshire life fifty years ago, and natural also, alas! to the sister of the opium-eater and drunkard Branwell Brontë.
To this let us add a certain awkwardness and confusion of structure; a strain of ruthless exaggeration in the character of Heathcliff; and some absurdities and contradictions in the character of Nelly Dean. The latter criticism indeed is bound up with the first. Nelly Dean is presented as the faithful and affectionate nurse, the only good angel both of the elder and the younger Catherine. But Nelly Dean does the most treacherous, cruel, and indefensible things, simply that the story may move. She becomes the go-between for Catherine and Heathcliff; she knowingly allows her charge Catherine, on the eve of her confinement, to fast in solitude and delirium for three days and nights, without saying a word to Edgar Linton, Catherine's affectionate husband, and her master, who was in the house all the time. It is her breach of trust which brings about Catherine's dying scene with Heathcliff, just as it is her disobedience and unfaith which really betray Catherine's child into the hands of her enemies. Without these lapses and indiscretions indeed the story could not maintain itself; but the clumsiness or carelessness of them is hardly to be denied. In the case of Heathcliff, the blemish lies rather in a certain deliberate and passionate defiance of the reader's sense of humanity and possibility; partly also in the innocence of the writer, who, in a world of sex and passion, has invented a situation charged with the full forces of both, without any true realisation of what she has done. Heathcliff's murderous language to Catherine about the husband whom she loves with an affection only second to that which she cherishes for his hateful self; his sordid and incredible courtship of Isabella under Catherine's eyes; the long horror of his pursuit and capture of the younger Catherine, his dead love's child; the total incompatibility between his passion for the mother and his mean ruffianism towards the daughter; the utter absence of any touch of kindness even in his love for Catherine, whom he scolds and rates on the very threshold of death; the mingling in him of high passion with the vilest arts of the sharper and the thief:—these things o'erleap themselves, so that again and again the sense of tragedy is lost in mere violence and excess, and what might have been a man becomes a monster. There are speeches and actions of Catherine's, moreover, contained in these central pages which have no relation to any life of men and women that the true world knows. It may be said indeed that the writer's very ignorance of certain facts and relations of life, combined with the force of imaginative passion which she throws into her conceptions, produces a special poetic effect—a strange and bodiless tragedy—unique in literature. And there is much truth in this; but not enough to vindicate these scenes of the book, from radical weakness and falsity, nor to preserve in the reader that illusion, that inner consent, which is the final test of all imaginative effort.
Nevertheless there are whole sections of the story during which the character of Heathcliff is presented to us with a marvellous and essential truth. The scenes of childhood and youth; the up-growing of the two desolate children, drawn to each other by some strange primal sympathy, Heathcliff 'the little black thing, harboured by a good man to his bane,' Catherine who 'was never so happy as when we were all scolding her at once, and she defying us with her bold saucy look, and her ready words;' the gradual development of the natural distance between them, he the ill-mannered ruffianly no-man's-child, she the young lady of the house; his pride and jealous pain; her young fondness for Edgar Linton, as inevitable as a girl's yearning for pretty finery, and a new frock with the spring; Heathcliff's boyish vow of vengeance on the brutal Hindley and his race; Cathy's passionate discrimination, in the scene with Nelly Dean which ends as it were the first act of the play, between her affection for Linton and her identity with Heathcliff's life and being:—for the mingling of daring poetry with the easiest and most masterly command of local truth, for sharpness and felicity of phrase, for exuberance of creative force, for invention and freshness of detail, there are few things in English fiction to match it. One might almost say that the first volume of 'Adam Bede' is false and mannered beside it,—the first volumes of 'Waverley' or 'Guy Mannering' flat and diffuse. Certainly, the first volume of 'Jane Eyre,' admirable as it is, can hardly be set on the same level with the careless ease and effortless power of these first nine chapters. There is almost nothing in them but shares in the force and the effect of all true 'vision'—Joseph, 'the wearisomest self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake the promises to himself, and fling the curses to his neighbours;' old Earnshaw himself, stupid, obstinate and kindly; the bullying Hindley with his lackadaisical consumptive wife; the delicate nurture and superior wealth of the Lintons; the very animals of the farm, the very rain- and snowstorms of the moors,—all live, all grow together, like the tangled heather itself, harsh and gnarled and ugly in one aspect, in another beautiful by its mere unfettered life and freedom, capable too of wild moments of colour and blossoming.
And as far as the lesser elements of style, the mere technique of writing are concerned, one may notice the short elastic vigour of the sentences, the rightness of epithet and detail, the absence of any care for effect, and the flashes of beauty which suddenly emerge like the cistus upon the rock.
'Nelly, do you never dream queer dreams?' said Catherine suddenly, after some minutes' reflection.
'Yes, now and then,' I answered.
'And so do I. I've dreamt in my life dreams that have stayed with me ever after and changed my ideas: they've gone through and through me like wine through water, and altered the colour of my mind. And this one; I'm going to tell it—but take care not to smile at any part of it.'
Nelly Dean tries to avoid the dream, but Catherine persists:—
'I dreamt once that I was in heaven.'
'I tell you I won't hearken to your dreams, Miss Catherine! I'll go to bed,' I interrupted again.
She laughed, and held me down; for I made a motion to leave my chair.
'This is nothing,' cried she: 'I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy! That will do to explain my secret, as well as the other. I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heatchliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him: and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. 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.'
'The angels flung me out into the middle of the heath—where I woke sobbing for joy'—the wild words have in them the very essence and lifeblood not only of Catherine but of her creator!
The inferior central scenes of the book, after Catherine's marriage, for all their teasing faults, have passages of extraordinary poetry. Take the detail of Catherine's fevered dream after she shuts herself into her room, at the close of the frightful scene between her husband and Heathcliff, or the weird realism of her half-delirious talk with Nelly Dean. In her 'feverish bewilderment' she tears her pillow, and then finds
childish diversion in pulling the feathers from the rents she had just made, and ranging them on the sheet according to their different species: her mind had strayed to other associations.
'That's a turkey's,' she murmured to herself; 'and this is a wild duck's; and this is a pigeon's. Ah, they put pigeons' feathers in the pillows—no wonder I couldn't die! Let me take care to throw it on the floor when I lie down. And here is a moor-cock's; and this—I should know it among a thousand—it's a lapwing's. Bonny bird; wheeling over our heads in the middle of the moor. It wanted to get to its nest, for the clouds had touched the swells, and it felt rain coming. This feather was picked up from the heath, the bird was not shot: we saw its nest in the winter, full of little skeletons. Heathcliff set a trap over it, and the old ones dared not come. I made him promise he'd never shoot a lapwing after that, and he didn't. Yes, here are more! Did he shoot my lap-wings, Nelly? Are they red, any of them? Let me look.'
'Give over with that baby-work!' I interrupted, dragging the pillow away, and turning the holes towards the mattress, for she was removing its contents by handfuls. 'Lie down, and shut your eyes: you're wandering. There's a mess! The down is flying about like snow.'
I went here and there collecting it.
'I see in you, Nelly,' she continued, dreamily, 'an aged woman: you have grey hair and bent shoulders. This bed is the fairy cave under Penistone Crags, and you are gathering elf-bolts to hurt our heifers; pretending, while I am near, that they are only locks of wool. That's what you'll come to fifty years hence: I know you are not so now. I'm not wandering: you're mistaken, or else I should believe you really were that withered hag, and I should think I was under Penistone Crags; and I'm conscious it's night, and there are two candles on the table making the black press shine like jet.'
To these may be added the charming and tender passage describing Catherine's early convalescence, and her yearnings—so true to such a child of nature and feeling—for the first flowers and first mild breathings of the spring; and the later picture of her, the wrecked and doomed Catherine, sitting in 'dreamy and melancholy softness' by the open window, listening for the sounds of the moorland, before the approach of Heathcliff and death:—
Gimmerton chapel bells were still ringing; and the full mellow flow of the beck in the valley came soothingly on the ear. It was a sweet substitute for the yet absent murmur of the summer foliage, which drowned that music about the Grange when the trees were in leaf. At Wuthering Heights it always sounded on quiet days following a great thaw or a season of steady rain.
Lines which, for their 'sharp and eager observation,' may surely be matched with these of Coleridge, her master in poetic magic, her inferior in all that concerns the passionate and dramatic sense of life:—
All is still,
A balmy night! and though the stars be dim,
Yet let us think upon the vernal showers
That gladden the green earth, and we shall find
A pleasure in the dimness of the stars.
Of what we may call the third and last act of Wuthering Heights, which extends from the childhood of the younger Catherine to the death of Heathcliff, much might be said. It is no less masterly than the first section of the book and much more complex in plan. The key to it lies in two earlier passages—in Heatchliff's boyish vow of vengence on Hindley Earnshaw, and in his fierce appeal to his lost love to haunt him, rather than leave him 'in this abyss where I cannot find her.' The conduct of the whole 'act' is intricate and difficult; the initial awkwardness implied in Nelly Dean's function as narrator is felt now and then; but as a whole, the strength of the intention is no less clear than the deliberate and triumphant power with which the artist achieves it. These chapters are not always easy to read, but they repay the closest attention. Not an incident, not a fragment of conversation is thrown away, and in the end the effect is complete. It is gained by that fusion of terror and beauty, of ugliness and a flying magic—'settling unawares'—which is the characteristic note of the Brontës, and of all that is best in Romantic literature. Never for a moment do you lose hold upon the Yorkshire landscape and the Yorkshire folk—look at the picture of Isabella's wasteful porridge-making and of Joseph's grumbling rage, amid her gruesome experience as a bride; never are you allowed to forget a single sordid element in Heathcliff's ruffianism; and yet through it all the inevitable end developes, the double end which only a master could have conceived. Life and love rebel and reassert themselves in the wild slight love-story of Hareton and Cathy, which break the final darkness like a gleam of dawn upon the moors; and death tames and silences for ever all that remains of Heathcliff's futile cruelties and wasted fury.
But what a death! Heathcliff has tormented and oppressed Catherine's daughter; and it is Catherine's shadow that lures him to his doom, through every stage and degree of haunting feverish ecstasy, of reunion promised and delayed, of joy for ever offered and for ever withdrawn. And yet how simple the method, how true the 'vision' to the end! Around Heathcliff's last hours the farm-life flows on as usual. There is no hurry in the sentences; no blurring of the scene. Catherine's haunting presence closes upon the man who murdered her happiness and youth, interposes between him and all bodily needs, deprives him of food and drink and sleep, till the madman is dead of his 'strange happiness,' straining after the phantom that slays him, dying of the love whereby alone he remains human, through which fate strikes at last—and strikes home.
'Is he a ghoul or vampire?' I mused. 'I had read of such hideous incarnate demons.' So says Nelly Dean just before Heathcliff's death. The remark is not hers in truth, but Emily Brontë's, and where it stands it is of great significance. It points to the world of German horror and romance, to which we know that she had access. That world was congenial to her, as it was congenial to Southey, Scott, and Coleridge; and it has left some ugly and disfiguring traces upon the detail of Wuthering Heights. But essentially her imagination escaped from it and mastered it. As the haunting of Heath-cliff is to the coarser horrors of Tieck and Hoffmann, so is her place to theirs. For all her crudity and inexperience, she is in the end with Goethe, rather than with Hoffmann,1 and thereby with all that is sane, strong, and living in literature. 'A great work requires many-sidedness, and on this rock the young author splits,' said Goethe to Eckermann, praising at the same time the art which starts from the simplest realities and the subject nearest at hand, to reach at last by a natural expansion the loftiest heights of poetry. But this was the art of Emily Brontë. It started from her own heart and life; it was nourished by the sights and sounds of a lonely yet sheltering nature; it was responsive to the art of others, yet always independent; and in the rich and tangled truth of Wuthering Heights it showed promise at least of a many-sidedness to which only the greatest attain.
- For any one who has waded through Hoffmann's Serapion-brüder—which has become for our generation all but unreadable,—in spite of the partial explanation which the physical violence of these tales may perhaps offer of some of the minor detail of Wuthering Heights, there is only one passage which memory will in the end connect with Emily Brontë. The leading idea of the stories which make up the Serapion-collection—if they can be said to have a leading idea—is that all which the imagination really sees—man or goblin, monster or reality—it may lawfully report. 'Let each of us try and examine himself well, as whether he has really seen what he is going to describe, before he sets to work to put it in words.' The vividness of the Romantics,—as compared with the measure of the Classicalists; there is here a typical expression of it, and it is one which may well have lingered in Emily Brontë's mind.
CAROL A. SENF (ESSAY DATE FALL 1985)
SOURCE: Senf, Carol A. "Emily Brontë's Version of Feminist History: Wuthering Heights." Essays in Literature 12, no. 2 (fall 1985): 201-14.
In the following essay, Senf discusses the Victorian interest in the idea of history as a context for Wuthering Heights, countering the prevailing critical view that Brontë's authorial vision was limited only to her own time and place.
Perhaps more than the people of any period before or since, the Victorians were acutely aware of history, an awareness fostered by both intellectual developments and political and social events and one that, at mid-century, resulted in university reform and the establishment of history as a legitimate profession. The immediate result for most Victorians, however, was not a systematic approach to either the past or the present but simply a profound interest in anything that might be included under a broad umbrella called "history."
When first confronted with the artifacts of ancient civilizations, which explorers brought home with them, the Victorians began to think about the past; and they were made even more conscious of the changes that take place over time by what Walter L. Reed calls "theories and events in a world … beyond history … by new scientific theories in biology and geology (Werner, Hutton and Lyell, Lamarack, Cuvier, and Darwin) and of course most profoundly by the political events of the Revolution in France."1 Immersed in a historical period that was changing before their eyes, they attempted to come to grips with the present and even to predict the future. As a result, the nineteenth century was, as Andrew Sanders states, "an acutely historical age" which "believed in the efficacy of the study of the past … avidly collected the relics and the art of the past" and "rejoiced … in the idea of being enveloped by Time, past, present, and future."2
In addition, James C. Simmons explains that people in the nineteenth century became aware that the past was "profoundly different from the present," a realization "nurtured and encouraged by the profusion of historical romances which provided many Victorian readers with their sense of the historical past."3 He adds, however, that writers (he cites Dickens, Kingsley, Edwin Abbott, Dean Frederic W. Farrar, and Cardinals Wiseman and Newman as examples) often used the historical romance "as a medium for the discussion of contemporary problems; the past for them would reflect the present."4 Similarly, Roy Strong, who in Recreating the Past: British History and the Victorian Painter links Victorian history painting to the historical novel and to history itself, reinforces the notion of relevance: "History to the Victorians was practical wisdom. It was presented in nationalistic terms as the evolution of a people and their culture."5 Both Simmons and Strong thus assert that Victorian artists often chose historical subjects that helped them come to terms with their own times.
While many Victorian writers probed the past for subject matter, others revealed their interest in history by focusing on their own time instead of on some remote period. As a result, when one thinks of the great nineteenth-century writers of history, the names Carlyle, Macaulay, Ranke, Michelet, Burckhardt, and Tocqueville come to mind. When one thinks of historical novelists, one is likely to think of Lytton, George Eliot, or Thackeray, but not of Emily Brontë. Sanders, Simmons, and Lukács, for example, don't even mention her in their studies of the historical novel; and Keith Sagar's study of Wuthering Heights restates the prevailing view that she was uninterested in history: "Emily Brontë had no social life, few relationships outside the household, and neither knew now cared about the world beyond Haworth."6 However, another view was expressed by Arnold Kettle who thirty years ago reminded readers that Wuthering Heights takes place "not in a never-never land but in Yorkshire;"7 and recent studies by Terry Eagleton, Rosemary Jackson, David Musselwhite, and Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar also focus on her response to the times in which she lived.8
Although Wuthering Heights will not meet everyone's definition of history, not only because those definitions are both complex and varied, but because history includes so many facets (including the current systematic studies of political and constitutional development, biography, social evolution, and economics), it is, in fact, a profoundly historical work. First, because Wuthering Heights narrates events that took place during a particular period (in this case, the early nineteenth century, when England experienced rapid industrialization and repercussions from the recent revolution in France)9 and because it creates vivid representatives of that period, it meets Hayden White's definition of history: "a verbal structure in the form of a narrative prose discourse that purports to be a model, or icon, of past structures and processes in the interest of explaining what they were by representing them. "10 More important, Wuthering Heights also provides a symbolic reading of the movement of history, one that—like those of Brontë's contemporaries, Macaulay, Marx, and Engels—reveals a belief in evolutionary development: that each age evolves from the previous one and that history itself reveals a gradual and progressive movement for the betterment of man, not only materially but intellectually and spiritually as well. However, Brontë in one way surpasses these historians—by writing a novel that, unique among literature of its time, reveals that this evolution towards a greater social good will not be complete until women enter the mainstream of history.
To argue that Wuthering Heights explores the question of historical evolution is not to argue that Brontë was necessarily influenced by the same thinkers who influenced other Victorians.11 A highly original writer, Brontë assimilated the history that was taking place around her, material from the past, and her own uniquely personal vision. Although a work of genius, Wuthering Heights was not created in an intellectual vacuum, for Brontë was familiar with classical historical texts, including Goldsmith's History of Rome, Hume's History of England, and Scott's Life of Napoleon Bonaparte;12 she was also a pragmatic observer who watched history unfold. An avid newspaper reader like the rest of her family, she had an additional reason for keeping abreast of current events. Because she had taken some of the money that she and her sisters had inherited from their aunt and invested it in the railways, she watched the newspapers carefully and, according to Charlotte, read "'every paragraph and every advertisement in the newspapers that related to railroads.…'"13 Furthermore, as Eagleton explains, she lived during a historical period when the impact of modern industrialism brought far-reaching social consequences to the area where she lived,14 a period in which the power base shifted from rural areas to large industrialized towns and cities. It was a period of intense and sometimes violent confrontations between individuals and classes, a time that resembled the conclusion of Lockwood's first dream when "Every man's hand was against his neighbour."15 Such enormous social changes had a profound effect on the lives of individuals.
To construct a feminist history, it is necessary to combine an interest in history with an interest in women as a unique group of people. There are no letters to indicate that Emily shared Charlotte's interest in "the woman question," but evidence other than Wuthering Heights reveals her interest in women's condition. Gérin, for example, uses Gondal material to suggest Brontë's preoccupation with strong women characters16 and also alludes to Emily's interest in Queen Victoria. Apparently concerned with the manner in which Victoria would use the immense power given to her, Brontë named one of her Gondal heroines Augusta to assert her "regal status" and to comment on "the known fact that the name had been refused the Princess Victoria at her baptism by her uncle George IV because it had sounded ominously imperious in his ears."17
Reading history and newspapers and being interested in Queen Victoria and the condition of women do not make Emily Brontë unique, however, since these interests were shared by other people of her time. The mark of her genius is that she combines so many insights into historical evolution and the condition of women into a highly original work. In Wuthering Heights, when she writes her version of historical development, she incorporates her awareness that most women do not have Victoria's access to power. Thus she concludes her novel with a vision of what might happen if the relationships between the sexes (relationships that give men power over women and certain men power over other men and make women either passive victims or sly manipulators) so familiar to patriarchal history were replaced by something both more feminine and more egalitarian. Moving away from the mythic world of Gondal to the more realistic world of Wuthering Heights, she also chooses a realistic heroine, the younger Catherine, to embody her feminist vision, the final stage in her history. No longer a queen, her heroine has power over only her own life.
Brontë reaches this concluding vision by examining three distinct historical stages in the novel, each represented by a particular family or person: the Earnshaws, yeoman farmers, are the remnants of an earlier historical period;18 the Lintons, landed gentry, are the ruling class at the time the novel was written;19 and Heathcliff, an odd and seemingly contradictory mixture of primitive nature and modern capitalism, is the power of the future.20 A natural man at the beginning, Heathcliff later acquires the tools of patriarchy and uses these tools to bring about his revenge. When he returns after his three-year absence, he is no longer merely a representative of nature. The great unknown, Heathcliff is a product of both an urban and a rural environment. Although both Catherine and Mrs. Dean associate him with the unchanging forces of nature, Mr. Earnshaw apparently finds him in Liverpool; and Heathcliff presumably acquires his later sophistication in the city as well. As both a natural force and a representative of modern capitalistic development, however, Heathcliff opposes the gentry, the group in power at the time the events of the novel take place. In both cases, he is a vital force of unpredictable power.
In addition, in the courtship and projected marriage of Cathy and Hareton, Brontë reveals the peaceful merger of capitalistic economic power with the traditional political power of the landed gentry, a merger that would have been familiar to her contemporary readers. She also adds a feminist twist because their mutual acceptance of one another provides a glimpse of a more egalitarian, more feminine future.
Moreover, although Wuthering Heights suggests that Brontë shares the Victorian belief that history is progressive, it also reveals that, more than many other historians, Brontë realizes that the violence and irrationality of the primitive past have been transformed, not eliminated, in the present.21 She reveals, for example, that violence, which is an integral part of Hindley's power over others, remains in Edgar Linton, the despicable Linton Heathcliff (who acquires his love of power in the city, not from his father), and the effete Lockwood—described by one critic as Brontë's view of "what is wrong with the present state of society."22 Early in the novel, she has Lockwood unwittingly reveal his desire for power, his skill at psychological violence, and his ability to manipulate others when he relates his seacoast experience:
I "never told my love" vocally; still if looks have language, the merest idiot might have guessed I was over head and ears: she understood me at last, and looked a return—the sweetest of all imaginable looks. And what did I do? I confess it with shame—shrunk icily into myself like a snail; at every glance retired colder and farther; till, finally, the poor innocent was led to doubt her own senses.…By this curious turn of disposition, I have gained the reputation of deliberate heartlessness, how undeserved, I alone can appreciate.
Although Lockwood relates this episode as proof that he is unworthy of a "comfortable home," it is evident from the conclusion of the passage that he sees nothing intrinsically wrong in his overt manipulation of the young woman. A complete egotist, Lockwood focuses on his behavior, not on the victim of it. Brontë, however, uses this brief episode both to illustrate a shift in the modern world from physical violence to psychological cruelty and to indicate that men continue to have inordinate power over women. As Gilbert and Gubar comment, "Thus if literary Lockwood makes a woman into a goddess, he can unmake her at whim without suffering himself."23 Brontë is also aware that, although the sheer physical power that men have over other men is diminishing, men still have power over women. The young woman of Lockwood's choice, like Catherine Earnshaw and most other women during this historical period, had apparently learned to consider herself only in relation to men. Having no strong sense of individual identity, she comes to doubt her sanity as well as her intrinsic value when she sees herself through Lockwood's indifferent eyes.
Lockwood's rejection of the young woman at the seacoast is not as openly violent as the behavior of either Heathcliff or Hindley, but it is Brontë's first indication that supposedly civilized men can be both cruel and perverse. Later in the novel, she uses Lockwood's response to the little ghost girl to reveal that the civilized man can be as openly violent as his primitive ancestors:
As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child's face looking through the window. Terror made me cruel; and finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bed-clothes.…
This is one of the most horrifying scenes in the book precisely because Lockwood's violence is so openly directed against a weaker individual and because only a day's residence in the primitive world of the Heights unleashes the violence masked by Lockwood's urbanity. Similarly, when Heathcliff returns, his civilized veneer serves merely to mask the primitive nature of his passions.
The violence of Lockwood and Heathcliff and the presence of ghosts in the novel are Brontë's ways of suggesting that history—although progressive—does not move in a straight line; shadows from the past continue to exert their influence on the present. The cruelty and exploitiveness of the male characters also provide objective reasons for changing patriarchal history by introducing gentleness and cooperation, virtues generally associated with women—in short, of making history more feminine.
Brontë is aware that history is more than the objective events, that it is also the subjective narration (or interpretation) of these events. Lockwood, the novel's first narrator, is also the novel's chief historian. Therefore, it is significant that the first word in the text is the date "1801,"24 a date which immediately focuses the reader's attention on Brontë's interest in the recent past. (Had she been interested only in writing a romance, she could have chosen any historical period or even a timeless era, such as those she had used in the Gondal saga. Instead she chooses Yorkshire and a period of significant historical change in England, when the Industrial and French Revolutions made most Englishmen aware of change over time.) Almost immediately thereafter, Lockwood confirms his interest in history by commenting on the antiquity of the house:
I detected the date '1500,' and the name 'Hareton Earnshaw.' I would have made a few comments, and requested a short history of the place from the surly owner, but … I had no desire to aggravate his impatience, previous to inspecting the penetralium.
Initially more interested in the remote past than in the present and curious about the origins of Wuthering Heights, Lockwood is soon caught up in the history of his own times when he is confronted by the strange behavior of Catherine Heathcliff and the even more enigmatic behavior of Heathcliff himself.
Brontë reveals, however, that the historian must understand the past before he can come to grips with the present; and she emulates one method common to nineteenth-century historians when she confronts Lockwood and the reader with a number of artifacts from the past.25 The first, of course, is the house itself, which Lockwood attempts to "read" as the remnant of a past civilization.26 Named for a distant patriarch and therefore literally a relic of the past, the house remains an enigma to Lockwood. More important, however, are the artifacts he discovers at its interior when a snowstorm forces him to spend the night in Catherine Earnshaw's childhood bedroom, the heart of the house.
The first of the artifacts in the bedroom is "nothing but a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small—Catherine Earnshaw, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff, and then again to Catherine Linton" (p. 25). Nothing but a name! Yet that repetition of names is a key that unlocks the mystery of patriarchal history as well as the history of Wuthering Heights. Although she is not a trained historian, Emily Brontë has insights that surpass those of Hume, Macaulay, and John Richard Green,27 historical writers who attempted to expand their readers' understanding of historical development by showing that history includes social as well as political development. Brontë's genius is that she also shows how the lives of women and other groups previously ignored even by these historians can influence the course of historical development.
The story of Wuthering Heights is not the story of Hareton, the patriarch, or even of Heathcliff, the character who initially piques Lockwood's curiosity. It is the almost buried story of Catherine, mother and daughter. Although Lockwood continues to be more interested in Heathcliff and never understands this fact, the reader eventually discovers that decyphering the mystery behind Wuthering Heights necessitates understanding these three names as well as the name over the door—in short, understanding both patriarchal history and women's hitherto buried history. This revelation—that understanding history includes understanding the victims of patriarchal history as well as the patriarchs themselves—makes Emily Brontë seem so much more modern than most Victorian historians. (The most notable exception to this generalization is another woman novelist, George Eliot.)
The second artifact—the marginalia in her book, which Lockwood describes as "faded hieroglyphics"—records a period of innocence in the first Catherine's history before she was aware of the power that patriarchy has over her. The freedom of the marginalia thus contrasts with the names on the windowsill, names that suggest the limited choices—spinsterhood or marriage—available to Catherine.
Lockwood's curiosity about these artifacts, his confrontation with the little ghost girl, his interest in Heathcliff's response, and his romantic fascination with the younger Catherine combine with his illness to bring him to Ellen Dean, the novel's second historian, who explains the significance of the "faded hieroglyphics."
Unlike Lockwood, Mrs. Dean is an "eyewitness" to most of the events in Wuthering Heights. However, while Mrs. Dean should be a more reliable historian, Brontë reveals that both she and Lockwood are to be distrusted because their prejudice in favor of the present makes them ineffectual historians, or at least historians who are guilty of distortion. Lockwood, for example, shows that he is definitely the product of his historical period when he mistakes a brace of dead rabbits for Catherine's house pets. Although, like most gentlemen of his time, he goes hunting—he mentions, for example, his invitation "to devastate the moors of a friend, in the North" (p. 241)—Lockwood is apparently unfamiliar with people who hunt for food instead of sport (or with people who keep game in the front parlor). Accustomed to pampered and protected women with a sentimental attachment to their pets, he is even more uncomfortable with the younger Catherine's recognition that the dogs at the Heights are working animals, retrievers and herding dogs, and with her refusing both his assistance and his offer of companionship. Such behavior (as well as the fact that, while he does not work, he can travel to the seacoast and rent Thrushcross Grange for a year) suggests that he is a member of the landed gentry. (The sons of factory owners and tradesmen at this period were more likely to join their fathers in business.) His overall fastidiousness reveals him as something of a dandy as well.
Ellen Dean, on the other hand, appears to be a simple rustic, but she is actually much more. Characterized by Gilbert and Gubar as "a stereotypically benevolent man's woman,"28 she is also allied with the forces of the landed gentry. For example, when she first begins to tell her story to Lockwood, she makes a curious slip: "Hareton is the last of them, as our Miss Cathy is of us—I mean, of the Lintons" (p. 37). This statement might be interpreted simply as a servant's identification with the family she serves except that Nelly had been reared at the Heights and is currently employed by Heathcliff. Moreover, she identifies herself with the Lintons when she confesses with pride that she is familiar with books—the way by which history is usually transmitted: "I have read more than you would fancy, Mr. Lockwood. You could not open a book in this library that I have not looked into, and got something out of also … it is as much as you can expect of a poor man's daughter" (p. 59). That Nelly is a reader links her conclusively with the bookish Lintons. Furthermore, confessing her familiarity with books may be her way of telling Lockwood and the reader that she is also familiar with the wills and other documents by which patriarchal culture and patriarchal power are transmitted from generation to generation. She certainly knows the law well enough to act for Cathy until the younger woman learns to manage her affairs. A "poor man's daughter" and a servant to the gentry, Mrs. Dean recognizes power when she sees it. More important, being a survivor, she generally sides with that power or, at least, rarely challenges it openly.
Oriented to the present instead of to the past (with Hindley's death Mrs. Dean shifts allegiance from the yeomanry to the gentry) or the future, Lockwood and Mrs. Dean are confused by Heathcliff and Catherine and the primitive forces that they represent. Lockwood initially believes that Healthcliff is simply a man like himself whose "reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of feeling—to manifestations of mutual kindliness" (p. 15), and Nelly's story does not convince him that the forces of raw nature continue to influence the present. Therefore, believing that these primitive forces have been removed forever, he concludes the novel with the pious assertion that the dead are at rest. Similarly, Ellen Dean admits her preference for Edgar over Heath-cliff.29 She is extremely critical of the adult Catherine's desire to be "a girl again, half savage, and hardy, and free" (p. 107); and she doesn't even try to understand the peculiar love that Heathcliff and Catherine feel for one another. Her response to Heathcliff's suffering at Catherine's death is characteristic of her prejudices:
He dashed his head against the knotted trunk; and, lifting up his eyes, howled, not like a man, but like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears.
I observed several splashes of blood about the bark of the tree, and his hand and forehead were both stained; probably the scene I witnessed was a repetition of others acted during the night. It hardly moved my compassion—it appalled me.
Incapable of understanding this asocial passion, Mrs. Dean prefers the younger Catherine because her "anger was never furious; her love never fierce; it was deep and tender" (p. 155). Because she cannot understand the primitive forces in Catherine and Heathcliff, her rendering of events is bound to be distorted.
While the first half of the novel focuses on the past, the second half, which details Heathcliff's revenge, follows a pattern familiar to Brontë's contemporaries. Heathcliff, who represents primitive, natural forces in the first part of the book, comes to resemble many nineteenth-century capitalists after his return; and he uses the sophisticated strategies by which many of them gained economic and political power during the period. His acquisitions of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange is typical of both their using wealth gained through industry or trade to acquire landed property and their marrying into established families to gain respectability or power or both.30
Although recognizing this historical pattern is easy, interpreting its significance is much more difficult. Thus it is not surprising that critical responses to the conclusion of Wuthering Heights have been mixed. Q. D. Leavis, Tom Winnifrith, and John Hewish believe that the old world has yielded to the new while Rosemary Jackson and Gilbert and Gubar believe that the conclusion is the victory of tradition over innovation.31 However, because the text suggests a slightly different view of history, I want to offer a third interpretation of this conclusion, a period that begins with Lockwood's departure from Thrushcross Grange and his return the following year.
Bored with the misanthropic role he had chosen to play and with his attempts to understand Wuthering Heights, Lockwood leaves the area and vows never to pass another winter there. Before departing, however, he concludes with his version of how that history might have ended: "What a realization of something more romantic than a fairy tale it would have been for Mrs. Linton Heathcliff, had she and I struck up an attachment, as her good nurse desired, and migrated together into the stirring atmosphere of the town!" (pp. 240-41). Had Brontë wished merely to reproduce what was happening in England at the time she wrote, this migration from country to city would have been the logical conclusion. However, because that marriage would ignore both Catherine's needs and Lockwood's desire for power over women, it would merely repeat the other unhappy marriages in the novel—the first Catherine's marriage to Edgar or Isabella's even more disastrous marriage to Heathcliff. Wanting to create a version of history that is both more feminine and more egalitarian, a history in which women are no longer the victims of patriarchal history, Brontë concludes her novel with a different kind of marriage.
When Lockwood returns, the new historical epoch has already begun. Heathcliff is dead, and Cathy stands to inherit his fortune, which includes both the Heights and the Grange. Recognizing that economic independence gives women some freedom from masculine power (the first Catherine, having no money of her own, had been more or less forced to make a "good marriage"), Brontë makes her heroine an heiress like the heroines of her sister Charlotte's novels—Jane Eyre, Shirley Keeldar, and Lucy Snow. However, realizing that true power and identity demand more than wealth, Brontë undercuts the importance of wealth in her heroine's future. Thus, she has Cathy plan to marry her cousin Hareton at a period when her fortune would automatically belong to her husband.
Although the projected marriage might appear to be another version of the conventional happy ending which will produce more unhappiness by giving Hareton absolute power over Cathy, it is not, as Leo Bersani states, "as if Emily Brontë were telling the same story twice, and eliminating its originality the second time."32 Bersani is correct to focus on the numerous repetitions in the novel. However, he doesn't recognize that the marriage of Cathy and Hareton provides a unique twist to the familiar plot and illustrates a shift in the history of patriarchal power.
To understand that difference fully, the reader must understand that Hareton and the younger Catherine differ from their predecessors in several important ways. When Cathy enters his life, Hareton is what Heathcliff terms "a personification of my youth, not a human being" (p. 255). Hareton is thus in the same state of graceless nature that Heathcliff was when the first Catherine said that it would degrade her to marry him; however, Hareton is apparently without Heathcliff's greed or his desire for power over others. The younger Catherine is similarly different from her mother and from her two aunts. True heir to the Lintons and therefore conscious of rank and power, she initially treats her boorish cousin like a servant and attempts to make both him and the servants subject to her commands. However, disinfranchised from her economic and social heritage, Catherine soon learns to interpret life differently and to recognize Hareton's human equality. The scene in which she makes peace with him is proof of these changes. Instead of responding with the Earnshaw violence or the Linton manipulation, Catherine plants a friendly kiss on Hareton's cheek to make peace. When this gesture fails to elicit the desired response, she wraps a book as a present and asks Mrs. Dean to be her messenger: "And tell him if he'll take it, I'll come and teach him to read it right … and, if he refuse it, I'll go upstairs, and never tease him again" (p. 248). Rather than try to dominate him or seduce him (an attempt to gain power that is typically used by those without power), Cathy leaves Hareton free to choose.
Hareton chooses to accept her offer, and the two become as oblivious to Heathcliff's threats as the first Catherine and Heathcliff had been to the violence of Hindley and Joseph. Despite the apparent similarities, however, the two relationships are quite different. The love between Heathcliff and Catherine had been primitive, violent, elemental, and frequently as cruel as those natural elements. Catherine confesses, "I am Heathcliff—he's always, always in my mind—not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself—but as my own being" (p. 74). The love between Hareton and Cathy, on the other hand, is more conscious and mature, partially because it begins when they are older, partially because it develops over books. However, unlike the other "readers" in the novel, Cathy and Hareton use these written texts (the legacy of patriarchal culture) to establish a relationship that extends far beyond anything they might have learned directly from the texts or from the human models around them. For example, the pragmatic Mrs. Dean reads books to understand the power she sees around her. The romantics, Lockwood and Isabella, attempt to model their lives on the material they find in popular romances and fairy tales; and Gilbert and Gubar demonstrate that these romantic fictions reinforce the traditional sexual roles that give power to men. Thus Lockwood pretends to worship women, but his "phrases, like most of his assumptions, parody the sentimentality of fictions that keep women in their 'place' by defining them as beneficent fairies or amiable ladies."33 The same works that have taught Lockwood to exert power over women have prepared Isabella to be a passive victim:
Ironically, Isabella's bookish upbringing has prepared her to fall in love with (of all people) Heathcliff. Precisely because she has been taught to believe in coercive literary conventions, Isabella is victimized by the genre of romance. Mistaking appearance for reality, tall athletic Heathcliff for 'an honourable soul'…she runs away from her cultured home in the naive belief that it will simply be replaced by another cultivated setting.34
Another reader, Edgar Linton asserts his power over his wife by ignoring her needs for human warmth and escaping to his library; and Joseph uses the printed word to justify his harsh behavior. In a marvelous scene, which briefly hints at the social and economic power given even to a factotum like Joseph and denied to virtually all women, he "solemnly spread his large Bible on the table, and overlaid it with dirty bank-notes from his pocket-book, the produce of the day's transactions" (p. 249). These people, no matter how well they have learned the lessons of partriarchy and the way to gain power over others, are hardly healthy role models for the people who will initiate a new stage in historical development.
Although Brontë is silent about the titles of the books Cathy and Hareton discuss, practically any book would have reinforced the human role models found in their society. Even though they are victims of patriarchal power, Cathy and Hare-ton reject the role models they saw around them or found in books, refusing to follow them blindly. Therefore, as the first members of a more egalitarian historical stage, they are different from their contemporaries because their relationship is based on cooperation and trust rather than on dominance. Eagleton notices this difference although he seems unaware of its larger significance: "The culture which Catherine imparts to Hareton in teaching him to read promises equality rather than oppression, an unemasculating refinement of physical energy."35 Thus the younger Catherine and Hareton—strong individuals nonetheless—use their strength to support, not to manipulate, the other. In this way, they are unlike their equally strong ancestors.
By using literal genealogy to symbolize economic and cultural development, Brontë shows how one historical stage evolves naturally into the next. Despite apparent repetitions, the conclusion is unlike the beginning; and it provides a glimpse—merely a glimpse—at a feminist version of history. For example, the Hareton Earnshaw who prepares to leave Wuthering Heights is not the same Hareton whose name is carved over the door; and Cathy is his strong and equal partner, not his nameless bride. Her history will not be scrawled at the interior of the house—hidden from the world—as her mother's had been: it will not be a faded hieroglyphic, but the articulate history of an equal partnership.
Free of oppressive models, Cathy and Hareton represent the next stage of historical development. As a result, Brontë shows that they are not haunted by the past in the same way as Heathcliff and the other characters, including the pragmatic Ellen Dean. Although pretending not to believe that Heathcliff and Catherine walk the moors, she tells Lockwood about the shepherd boy who claimed to see them; and she refuses to stay at the Heights at night. Having rid themselves of their oppressive past, Cathy and Hareton are, as Lockwood grumbles jealously at the conclusion, "afraid of nothing" (p. 265), including the ghosts of an oppressive past.
Having rid themselves of the burden of the past, Cathy and Hareton must leave Wuthering Heights, the masculine house with its hidden feminine center. The move to Thrushcross Grange is not an entirely satisfactory move in terms of historical theory even though Bersani demonstrates that "the Lintons are somewhat squeezed out" by the union of Cathy and Hareton.36 Eliminating the Lintons may be Brontë's way of combining the best of the old with the best of the new. It may also be a concession to the direction in which history was moving at the time Brontë wrote. To ask her to do more is to insist that she write the kind of feminist Utopian fiction that was written by Charlotte Perkins Gilman or the kind of science fiction currently being written by feminist writers such as Ursula LeGuin. Such writers have had to leave their society—even their planet—behind. Brontë attempts something much more revolutionary in suggesting that the next stage of historical evolution, the stage of equality, will develop naturally and logically from the old. Having Cathy and Hareton move to Thrushcross Grange is her way of suggesting that they do not have to leave their old world behind.
Having seen too many of the problems associated with traditional marriage, both as symbol and as reality, modern feminists are usually uncomfortable with the anticipated marriage of Cathy and Hareton. However, seeing that it differs from the other marriages in Wuthering Heights, readers should see it as a softening—a feminizing—of patriarchal history, and therefore, as the first tentative step toward a less oppressive world for both men and women.
- Walter L. Reed, "A Defense of History: The Language of Transformation in Romantic Narrative," Bucknell Review, 23 (1977), 42.
Georg Lukács also credits the French Revolution with making people aware of historical progression: "It was the French Revolution, the revolutionary wars and the rise and fall of Napoleon which … made history a mass experience.… During the decades between 1789 and 1814 each nation of Europe underwent more upheavals than they had previously experienced in centuries. And the quick succession of these upheavals gives them a qualitatively distinct character, it makes their historical character far more visible than would be the case in isolated, individual instances: the masses no longer have the impression of a 'natural occurrence.'" Georg Lukács, The Historical Novel, trans. Hannah and Stanley Mitchell (Atlantic Highlands, NJ: Humanities Press, 1962), p. 23.
- Andrew Sanders, The Victorian Historical Novel 1840-1880 (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1979), p. 1.
In his study of the Victorian historical novel, James C. Simmons documents the nineteenth-century interest in history: "The volume of historical research swelled to such proportions that … for the thirty-five year period between 1816 and 1851 books on history and geography far outstripped fiction, titles in the latter category being a full third fewer than in the former." James C. Simmons, The Novelist as Historian: Essays on the Victorian Historical Novel, Studies in English Literature, 88 (The Hague: Mouton, 1973), p. 31.
- Simmons, p. 27.
- Simmons, p. 21.
- Roy Strong, Recreating the Past: British History and the Victorian Painter (New York: Thames and Hudson, 1978), p. 32.
Lukács also connects the interest in history with nationalism when he discusses Scott's historical novels: "He is a patriot, he is proud of the development of his people. This is vital for the creation of a real historical novel, i.e. one which brings the past close to us and allows us to experience its real and true being. Without a felt relationship to the present, a portrayal of history is impossible" (p. 53).
- Keith Sagar, "The Originality of Wuthering Heights," in The Art of Emily Brontë, ed. Anne Smith (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1976), p. 121.
- Arnold Kettle, "Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights," in Twentieth Century Views of Wuthering Heights, ed. Thomas A. Vogler (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall, 1968), p. 28.
- Terry Eagleton, Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1975); Rosemary Jackson, "The Silenced Text: Shades of Gothic in Victorian Fiction," The Minnesota Review, 13 (1979), 98-112; David Musselwhite, "Wuthering Heights: the unacceptable text," in Literature, Society and the Sociology of Literature (Proceedings of the conference held at the University of Essex, 1977), pp. 154-60; Sandra M. Gilbert and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, 1979).
- John Kenyon, The History Men: The Historical Profession in England Since the Renaissance (Pittsburgh: Univ.of Pittsburgh Press, 1983) also links the Victorian interest in history to the French Revolution: "As the careers of men like Macaulay, Carlyle, and Froude show, there was an enormous appetite for history in Victorian England, and a new belief in its importance. The movement for university reform in general at last forced modern history into the degree syllabus.…The international reputation of Mommsen and Ranke drew attention to England's comparative backwardness. At the same time the French Revolution was a cataclysmic interruption of the orderly development of human history, calling for an explanation which presumably historians were best equipped to give" (p. 144).
- Hayden White, Metahistory: The Historical Imagination in Nineteenth-Century Europe (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins Univ. Press, 1973), p. 2.
- Winifred Gérin does make one interesting connection between Macaulay and Brontë: "From his various literary contacts (and Branwell still had some, like Macaulay, Hartley Coleridge, Edward Baines, from his Bradford days) he learnt that fiction was the most profitable form of literary hack work at the time." Emily Brontë: A Biography (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971), p. 180.
- Winifred Gérin, Charlotte Brontë: The Evolution of Genius (New York: Oxford Univ. Press, 1967), p. 24. Gérin also mentions the books that Mr. Brontë used to teach his daughters: the Bible, Magnall's Historical Questions, Lindley Murray's Grammar, and Goldsmith's Geography (p. 22). Certainly the first two books would have reinforced the children's interest in history.
- Gérin, Emily Brontë, p. 163; she cites Charlotte's letter to Miss Wooler on April 23, 1845.
- Eagleton notes: "The Brontës' home, Haworth, was close to the centre of the West Riding woollen area; and their lifetime there coincided with some of the fiercest class-struggles in English society.… Their childhood witnessed machine-breaking; their adolescence Reform agitation and riots against the New Poor Law; their adulthood saw the Plug strikes and Chartism, struggles against the Corn Laws and for the Ten Hours Bill" (p. 3). One of the first to notice the historical origins of Wuthering Heights, which he calls "an expression … of the stresses and tensions and conflicts … of nineteenth-century capitalist society," (p. 42) Kettle comments on an interesting exhibit in the Haworth museum: "a proclamation of the Queen ordering the reading of the Riot Act against the rebellious workers of the West Riding" (p. 42). Less interested in industrialism, Gérin also comments on contemporary influences: "… in August 1845 Bran-well was sent to Liverpool in the care of John Brown after his dismissal by the Robinsons. It was the time when the first shiploads of Irish immigrants were landing at Liverpool and dying in the cellars of the warehouses on the quays. Their images, and especially those of the children, were unforgettably depicted in the Illustrated London News.… The relevance of such happenings within a day's journey of Haworth … cannot be overlooked in explaining Emily's choice of Liverpool for the scene of Mr Earnshaw's encounter with Heathcliff" (pp. 225-26).
- Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights, ed. William M. Sale, Jr. (New York: Norton Critical Editions, 1963), p. 29. All future quotations will be to this edition and will be included in the text.
- Gérin, Emily Brontë, pp. 22-23.
- Gérin, Emily Brontë, p. 23.
- Gilbert and Gubar observe that Wuthering Heights is "close to being naked or 'raw' in Levi Strauss's sense—its floors uncarpeted, most of its inhabitants barely literate, even the meat on its shelves open to inspection …" (pp. 273-74).
- Following their argument that Wuthering Heights is a myth of the war between nature and culture, Gilbert and Gubar explain that Thrushcross Grange is "clothed and 'cooked': carpeted in crimson, bookish, feeding on cakes and tea and negus" (p. 274).
- Gilbert and Gubar argue that Heathcliff's general aim "… is to wreak the revenge of nature upon culture by subverting legitimacy" (p. 296).
- Leo Bersani comments on the numerous repetitions in the novel: "There are obvious differences between the two situations, but in each case children are tyrannized or neglected (or both) by a man grief-stricken at the loss of a loved woman. And this similarity tends somewhat to dilute Heathcliff's originality. When we look at the novel in this way, certain configurations of characters begin to compete for our attention with the individual characters themselves." A Future for Astyanax: Character and Desire in Literature (Boston: Little, Brown and Co., 1969), p. 199.
- Irving H. Buchen, "Metaphysical and Social Evolution in Wuthering Heights," The Victorian Newsletter, 33 (1967), 18.
- Gilbert and Gubar, p. 289.
- Charles Percy Sanger states that the date was what first brought him to study the book more closely. Sanger, who also wrote Rules of Law and Administration relating to Wills and Intestaces, demonstrates that Brontë knew the laws of property and inheritance. His article is included in the "Essays in Criticism" section of the Norton Critical Edition of Wuthering Heights, pp. 286-97. A more recent article by Barbara Gates shows that Brontë was also familiar with both the law and the lore of suicides. "Suicide and Wuthering Heights," The Victorian Newsletter, 50 (1976), 15-19.
- Kenyon mentions at least two historical methods when he explains that Macaulay's "technique was thus entirely divergent from that of his contemporary Ranke, who forcefully argued that the sources must be allowed to tell their own story.…[It] was the historian's function to establish and evaluate these sources, which would then impose their own pattern on his narrative; in fact, the material would construct its own story. This ideal, which was never fully realized, even by Ranke himself, nevertheless dominated the historical thinking of the nineteenth century" (p. 85).
- A number of critics have focused on "reading" in the novel. Included in this group are Musselwhite and Carol Jacobs, "Wuthering Heights: At the Threshold of Interpretation," Boundary 2, 7 (1979), 49-71.
- According to Kenyon, Green was "the first historian of England who tried to give equal weight to social as well as political development, and to include art and literature" (p. 161). Kenyon also refers to the Scottish reaction against narrative or biographical history in the previous century: "John Logan, in his Elements of the Philosophy of History, published in 1781, deprecated the current preoccupation with the achievements of great men—'All that legislators, patriots, philosophers, statesmen and kings can do,' he wrote, 'is to give a direction to that stream which is for ever flowing.' The great Adam Ferguson, in his Essay on the History of Civil Society (1767) had already sketched out a 'total' history, covering commerce, social habits and the arts as well as politics and war.…The brief general chapters on trade and social trends tacked by Hume onto his account of each reign were a hesitant step in the same direction …" (pp. 57-58). Such historians were working along the same lines as Brontë.
- Gilbert and Gubar, p. 291.
- Gilbert and Gubar call Nelly Dean "patriarchy's paradigmatic housekeeper, the man's woman who has traditionally been hired to keep men's houses in order by straightening out their parlors, their daughters, and their stories … and she expresses her preference by acting throughout the novel as a censorious agent of patriarchy" (pp. 291-92).
- John Hewish relates a true story of a Halifax man on whom Brontë may have modeled Heathcliff. This man was taken into the household as a dependent nephew, but "he was clever and unscrupulous enough to gain control of their business" in much the same way that Heathcliff gained control of the Linton and Earnshaw land. "Heathcliff, to the extent that he is a villain of property melodrama … may owe something to this man." Emily Brontë: A Critical and Biographical Study (New York: St. Martin's Press, 1969), p. 47.
- Leavis's article, "A Fresh Approach to Wuthering Heights" is found in the "Essays in Criticism" section of the Norton Critical Edition of Wuthering Heights, pp. 306-321; Tom Winnifrith, The Brontës and Their Background: Romance and Reality (New York: Barnes and Noble, 1973).
- Bersani, p. 222
- Gilbert and Gubar, p. 261.
- Gilbert and Gubar, p. 288.
- Eagleton, p. 28.
- Bersani, p. 199.
DREW LAMONICA (ESSAY DATE 2003)
SOURCE: Lamonica, Drew. “Wuthering Heights: The Boundless Passion of Catherine Earnshaw.” In “We are three sisters”: Self and Family in the Writing of the Brontës, pp. 95-117. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 2003.
In the following excerpt, Lamoncia interprets Wuthering Heights from the perspective of family relations, seeing Catherine’s struggle as an attempt to free herself from the role of a token of exchange between two households. Lamonica contends that in Catherine, Brontë offers a feminist commentary on the potential for female selfhood outside of traditional family and social structures.
Female identity, both in the late-eighteenth-century Yorkshire setting of Wuthering Heights and in the mid-nineteenth-century culture in which Emily Brontë wrote, was bound to a family. Women were socially recognized in their roles as daughters, sisters, wives, and mothers, leading to the now-popular designation of Victorian women as “relative creatures,” a term derived from Sarah Ellis’s 1839 conduct book The Women of England. Female agency, like female identity, was also bound by family ties. In 1844, Ann Richelieu Lamb observed, “Woman not being permitted by our present social arrangements and conventional rules, to procure a livelihood through her own exertions, is compelled to unite herself with some one who can provide for her.”1 Chief of the family man’s responsibilities was to provide for daughters, sisters, and wives, thus securing a woman’s dependency on, and containment within, a family—her father’s or her husband’s—throughout her life.
The world of Wuthering Heights is one of dominant patriarchs who control domestic space and govern kinship structures, seeking to enforce female relativity and limit female activity. All female movement in the novel is regulated between the two families of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange and is entirely dependent upon marital exchange. Even Nelly Dean’s relocation from the Heights to the Grange and back again is dependent upon the marriages of the two Catherines. For Catherine Earnshaw, the journey is a one-way transfer from her brother’s house to her husband’s—a restriction that she fails in enduring. Like Emily Brontë, Catherine never successfully moves beyond her childhood home.
Following Helene Moglen’s view that Wuthering Heights is fundamentally “Catherine’s story,” this chapter examines Catherine’s story as a historically specific struggle and protest against her relativity and the terms of female exchange from one family to another.2 Catherine’s protest is carried out through her relationship with Heathcliff, which challenges not only the conventional notion of male and female relations, but also the relative nature of female identity. The tragedy of Catherine’s story arises from her failure to negotiate the marital exchange: her physical and positional relocation from daughter and sister at Wuthering Heights to “the lady of Thrushcross Grange” (WH, 153) is ultimately foiled by her “unmovable” identification with Heathcliff and her unsatisfied longing in adulthood to return to her childhood home.
“Home” in the novel is figured as a psychological and emotional state, a condition of self-fulfillment that is associated with domestic structures and kinship relations, but never actually realized in them. In seeking to attain this home, Catherine Earnshaw tests various sites and relationships, but the sense of being “at home” is continually deferred, and any domestic enclosure remains imprisoning. Catherine’s sense of confinement within domestic spaces is indicative of her position within family structures, first as a daughter/sister at the Heights and later as a wife/expectant mother at the Grange. Her pubescent dissatisfaction with Wuthering Heights compels her relocation to the only available alternative, Thrushcross Grange, which itself becomes dissatisfying, and she longs for a return to the Heights and, finally, for death.
Yet even the vision of an angelic family in heaven cannot sustain or fulfill Catherine’s search. In the dream she relates to Nelly, Catherine maintains that “heaven did not seem to be my home” (WH, 99), and she rejects its attempts to contain her as well. Emily Brontë’s feminism, unlike Charlotte’s, does not foresee a traditional heaven as the ultimate home for her heroine, and Wuthering Heights significantly lacks an active providential intervener. Rather, Emily stresses female agency in the struggle for a selfhood independent of familial and social constraints, though she acknowledges the limitations of that agency. Catherine is ultimately unable to “go home”—literally unable to return to her childhood home once she is installed at the Grange and figuratively unable to find fulfillment during her lifetime. Insofar as she remains a “relative creature” until her death, Catherine reflects certain nineteenth-century female realities. Her story, therefore, can be considered as Emily Brontë’s commentary on the familial positioning of female selfhood, which, for Catherine, proves to be ultimately destructive. . . .
Catherine’s delirious return to childhood and Wuthering Heights prefaces her ultimate escape to her home among the dead, a place “without identity.” In a moment of “feverish bewilderment” (WH, 149), she believes herself to be back at Wuthering Heights, the mirror in her chamber transformed into the black press in the room that she and Heathcliff shared as children. Terrified of the face she sees in the press/mirror, she does not recognize it as her own, despite Nelly’s insistence that “It was yourself, Mrs. Linton; you knew it a while since” (WH, 151). But, in her delirium, she dissociates her idea of herself from the image she sees in the glass; her fear arises from seeing “Mrs. Linton,” the figure of a woman (and, dreadfully, a pregnant woman), as opposed to Catherine Earnshaw, the child she thinks she is, lying in her chamber at Wuthering Heights. Catherine relinquishes her womanhood, her marriage, and her ties to Thrushcross Grange, telling Nelly that in her vision, “the whole last seven years of my life grew a blank! I did not recall that they had been at all. I was a child; my father was just buried, and my misery arose from the separation that Hindley had ordered between me and Heathcliff—I was laid alone, for the first time” (WH, 153).
Catherine’s current state of “frightful isolation,” self-exiled to her bedchamber in protest of the separation her husband seeks to impose between her and Heathcliff, recalls the original separation imposed by Hindley—and the separation she herself imposed in exchanging Wuthering Heights for the Grange. Yet, significantly, Catherine reinvents her removal from the Heights to conform with her present feelings of powerlessness: “But supposing at twelve years old I had been wrenched from the Heights, and every early association, and my all in all, as Heathcliff was at that time, and been converted at a stroke into Mrs. Linton, the lady of Thrushcross Grange, and the wife of a stranger; an exile, and outcast, thenceforth, from what had been my world—You may fancy a glimpse of the abyss where I grovelled!” (WH, 153). In this version, Catherine—a twelve-year-old child instead of the eighteen-year-old woman she was when she left the Heights—is “wrenched” from Heathcliff and her home, as opposed to actively desiring and pursuing her escape. Her desired haven, Thrushcross Grange, is converted to a place of exile, and she becomes an outcast from her true home. Catherine is trapped in the exchanges she has made—Earnshaw for Linton, Wuthering Heights for Thrushcross Grange—and she longs to undo the original exchange. “I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free. . . . Why am I so changed?” she asks herself (WH, 153). The changes Catherine recognizes—her womanhood and wifehood, of which her pregnancy is the most obvious sign—preclude the longed-for return to childhood.
This return is an attempt to recapture a time when Catherine felt herself to be whole, a feeling inextricably bound to a time when Heathcliff was “my all in all.” With Heathcliff, Catherine envisions the “ideal of a nontransforming union,”3 a vision also advanced in Emily Brontë’s poem “The Death of A. G. A.,” in which Angelica identifies A. G. A. as
my all-sufficing light—
My Childhood’s mate, my girlhood’s guide,
My only blessing, only pride.4
But, similarly, as A. G. A. is transformed from an “all-sufficing light” to Angelica’s “mortal foe” in the Gondal saga, a time comes in Wuthering Heights when Catherine no longer recognizes Heathcliff as her “all in all.” She appropriates Edgar in marriage, hoping to regain a lost sense of “all in all.” But, while Catherine maintains that Heathcliff will be as much to her as he has always been, her marriage to Edgar transforms and relocates her from a daughter and sister at Wuthering Heights to “the lady of Thrushcross Grange” (WH, 153).
Catherine never fully negotiates the exchange. Stevie Davies has argued that “Catherine Linton never leaves off being Catherine Earnshaw” and that “Emily Brontë authorises an opposite journey: the way home is always potentially open.” But the return home is realized only in Catherine’s feverish delusions. She never returns to Wuthering Heights once she is installed at the Grange. Her visions of the Heights and Heathcliff as the original lost sites of her self-fulfillment are also feverish delusions. Writing on George Eliot’s The Mill on the Floss (1860), Mary Jacobus argues that, at the conclusion of the novel, Tom and Maggie Tulliver long for an idyllic childhood past that never truly existed.5 This assertion is equally applicable to Catherine. The childhood world of Wuthering Heights was one of family conflict, patriarchal oppression, sibling rivalries and jealousies, beatings, punishments, and enforced separation. Catherine formed her bond with Heathcliff in the pursuit of escape from the family, and the two children are never so happy as when they are tucked away together in the oak-paneled bed or out on the moors by themselves. Catherine longs not to return to the reality of her childhood home, but to the dream-place of self-fulfillment where she enjoys undisturbed union with Heathcliff. Imagination provides a temporary return; death promises a permanent one.
Emily Brontë ultimately authorizes Catherine’s longed-for return to her childhood home by proxy. The novel concludes with the promise of the younger Cathy’s return to the Grange, where she will live out her married life with her cousin, Hareton, whom many critics identify as a brother figure occupying a position in his relationship with Cathy at the Heights similar to that which Heathcliff occupied with Catherine.6 Cathy is allowed an “opposite journey,” reversing the oneway course her mother took from her childhood home to her marital home. For the younger Cathy, fraternal love and married love can cohabit; she is not forced to choose between them. By marrying the brother figure and by returning to her beloved childhood home, Cathy fulfills the domestic desires of her mother. The symbolic incest between Catherine and Heathcliff is actualized by Cathy and Hareton but also licensed, since Hareton is Cathy’s cousin. The two are bound by blood ties but spared the taboo of an incestuous bond. Cousins in Brontë fiction occupy a position halfway between siblings and lovers; thus, romance and marriage between cousins is always a viable possibility (e.g., Jane Eyre and St. John Rivers in Jane Eyre, and Caroline Helstone and Robert Moore in Shirley). In addition to securing a union with the sibling-lover, Cathy also manages the domestic subversions that her mother and her aunt Isabella were not able to negotiate: she successfully returns to inhabit her original home, thereby escaping the irreversible relocation that marriage typically required of a wife.
The names that Lockwood discovers carved into the windowsill at Wuthering Heights can now be interpreted in light of Catherine’s protest against female identity exclusively determined by family relationships and irreversibly transferred from father to husband upon marriage. The writing, “a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small—Catherine Earnshaw, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff, and then again to Catherine Linton” (WH, 23), is not necessarily a young woman’s attempt to weigh her choices in marriage against dependent daughterhood or sisterhood, or to question her true identity. Rather, the writing expresses her desire to be all Catherines at once. Catherine tells Nelly that she never means to forsake Heathcliff for Edgar, intending to sustain a relationship with both, and so too Catherine never means to substitute one name for another, as is the usual course for a woman upon marriage. Catherine Earnshaw-Heathcliff-Linton can be read as a single identity encompassing all of its guises, just as a man has one name for all his guises as son, brother, husband, father. This inclusive identity is capable of incorporating all of the names, so expansive that to Lockwood “the air swarmed with Catherines” (WH, 24).
The tragedy of Catherine’s story rests on her inability, in the end, to fulfill her desire to be Catherine Earnshaw-Heathcliff-Linton. She cannot escape the exclusive and linear progression from her family name to her married name—a transference that passes over her bond with Heathcliff, never recognizing it. Once she has exchanged the Earnshaw name for Linton, she can never return to it, despite her desperate longing to be a girl again. Even the ghost child that Lockwood encounters announces herself as “Catherine Linton,” though she is cast in the form of Catherine Earnshaw and is begging to reenter the home of her youth.
“Earnshaw” and “Linton” are the signifiers of Catherine’s dependency on and subordination to her father and her husband and their respective families. The identity of Catherine Heathcliff is expressed in the novel only in its terms of equality and complete identification, “I am Heathcliff.” Catherine’s bond with Heathcliff is not relational or hierarchical; it does not designate her membership in a family. Rather, “Catherine Heathcliff” is a signifier of her desire to break free of family systems of determination and her relational identity as a female. But the name of Catherine Heathcliff and union with Heathcliff are not realized in Catherine’s lifetime, and neither is her desire.
Heathcliff’s Revenge: Appropriating Women’s Property and Women as Property
While Catherine Earnshaw feels her social reality as a “relative creature” to be psychologically and emotionally imprisoning, Isabella and the younger Cathy Linton experience their relativity in terms of physical bondage. The Linton women play pivotal roles in Heathcliff’s successful appropriation of Wuthering Heights and Thrush-cross Grange, through which he secures his revenge against the families who worked to separate him from “his heart’s darling” (WH, 35). Emily Brontë has been praised for her remarkable knowledge of family succession and property laws, which Heathcliff shrewdly manipulates. But Heathcliff’s revenge ultimately succeeds by his ability to exploit the female’s role in the inheritance of property—more specifically, by his ability to exploit woman’s position as property.
Randolph Trumbach has written: “Patriarchy presumed that there was property not only in things but in persons and that ownership lay with the heads of households. It meant that some men were owned by others, and all women and children by their husbands or father.”7 Heathcliff moves from being at the mercy of this patriarchal system to assuming the role of the patriarch himself. Wuthering Heights traces Heathcliff’s evolving relationship to property, from penniless orphan to ardent protocapitalist and master of both the Heights and the Grange. As a boy, he first witnesses the battle for possession in the Linton children’s struggle over the exclusive right to hold their dog, in which they nearly tear it in two. Heathcliff scorns them and rejects their world, remarking to Nelly, “When would you catch me wishing to have what Catherine wanted?” (WH, 59).
Part of Heathcliff’s introduction to the world at the Heights, and undoubtedly part of his socialization process during his three-year absence, is his realization that possession, whether of houses and lands or women and children, is power.8 Hindley’s power over Heathcliff and Catherine derives from his claim to Wuthering Heights. When Hindley mortgages the land to fund his “mania for gaming” (WH, 231), Heathcliff takes possession of the Heights, thus reversing the dynamics of power and securing his domination over both Hindley’s person and property. Likening Catherine to a piece of property, Heathcliff strives to take possession of her, believing that only by treating her as a possession, as Hindley did and Edgar does, can he hope to secure her entirely for himself. Catherine thus becomes the object over which he and Edgar struggle for exclusive possession, a tug-of-war that does eventually split her in two.
Heathcliff’s desire to possess Catherine becomes, after her death, a relentless quest to possess all things connected with her. Steven Vine has argued that Heathcliff substitutes property gain for Catherine’s loss in a desperate attempt to retain his hold on her.9 His first act as master of Thrushcross Grange is to appropriate Catherine’s portrait and instruct that it be transported to Wuthering Heights—an attempt to substitute the portrait for the departed reality. Catherine thus becomes part of the property he possesses and controls, like his wife, Isabella, and daughter-in-law, Cathy.
Relationships in Wuthering Heights are repeatedly expressed in the language of ownership. Upon his arrival at the Heights, Lockwood is uncertain whether Heathcliff or Hareton is the “favoured possessor” of the younger Cathy (WH, 16). When he finds Heathcliff without an “owner” in Liverpool, Mr. Earnshaw assumes possession of him and carries him home along with his children’s other gifts (WH, 45). Heathcliff ominously refers to Linton as “my property” (WH, 253) and assumes his ownership of Hindley’s son, Hareton, upon Hindley’s death, despite Nelly’s insistence that “There is nothing in the world less yours than he is!” (WH, 230). The head of the household assumed legal custody of children and wives: being in “custody” at Wuthering Heights is tantamount to physical imprisonment and domestic violence with no recourse to the law for protection.
Through ownership of people, specifically women, Heathcliff secures the ownership of property. It is not entirely clear whether Mr. Linton made a will or whether Thrushcross Grange was entailed, though the logical order of inheritance in either case would be first Edgar, then his sons, then Isabella, then her sons. Cathy would inherit the Grange only in the last instance, being passed over in favor of first Isabella and then her son, Linton. Both women are potential property owners, but they maintain a precarious hold. Theorists of property ownership, such as Thomas Hobbes and John Locke, failed to clarify “how women’s control of property and their expected subordination within the family could be reconciled.”10
A woman’s property, like her identity, fell under the rule of coverture. Under common law, all of a woman’s liquid property (i.e., money, stocks, jewels, clothes, etc.) became her husband’s at marriage, and the husband was entitled to the possession and usufruct of his wife’s freehold property. Unless a father or male guardian made a particular stipulation in his will or created a trust, “a woman’s inheritance passed to the legal control and use of her husband.”11 Marriage, then, as Heathcliff seems fully aware, is the quickest way to usurp a woman’s position in the line of inheritance and thereby claim her inherited property. This is his all-but-stated purpose in marrying Isabella, and it is his clear design in arranging the marriage of his and Isabella’s son, Linton, to Catherine and Edgar’s daughter, Cathy. And Heathcliff clearly informs Linton of his prerogative as Cathy’s husband over her body and her property, both of which are legally the objects of male ownership. Linton delights in the prospect of owning Thrushcross Grange upon his marriage and Edgar’s death: “I’m glad, for I shall be master of the Grange after him—and Catherine always spoke of it as her house. It isn’t hers! It’s mine—papa says everything she has is mine” (WH, 340).
The Linton order of succession implies, however, that it would not be necessary for Linton to marry the younger Cathy in order to inherit the estate when Edgar dies. Yet Linton’s failing health and the possibility of his death preceding Edgar’s make the marriage with Cathy urgent to Heathcliff’s plan to secure the estate for himself. Nelly argues with him that when Linton dies, Cathy will become the sole heir. But Heathcliff denies this: “There is no clause in the will to secure it so; his property would go to me; but, to prevent disputes, I desire their union, and am resolved to bring it about” (WH, 263). The marriage of the younger Cathy to Linton would necessarily prevent any disputes over rightful ownership of Thrushcross Grange. James H. Kavanagh has argued that “it hardly matters what the inheritance laws say, since Cathy’s marriage transfers all the personal wealth she has just inherited to her new husband, who immediately leaves it to Heathcliff.”12
Edgar likewise desires his daughter’s union with his heir, but he envisions their marriage as a means of protecting her from Heathcliff and allowing her to remain in “the house of her ancestors” (WH, 315-16). He resolves to alter his will so that her fortune (i.e., her personal property) is guarded by trustees for use by her and any children she may bear, and thus, is protected against Heathcliff’s claim should Linton die. The trust, as Davidoff and Hall explain, recognized the vulnerability of female property and served to protect it after marriage. Heathcliff, however, is able to prevent Edgar from taking this precaution, delaying the lawyer Edgar has summoned. Edgar dies before his will can be changed, leaving his daughter at the mercy of his greatest enemy, who takes control of the Grange. Nelly questions the legality of Heathcliff’s claim to ownership: since Linton was a minor when he died, he cannot by law devise real property, but Heathcliff claims the lands “in his wife’s right, and his also” (WH, 356), implying his double claim under coverture and the terms of Linton’s will.13 At any rate, there is little that Nelly or Cathy, both penniless, propertyless women, can do to disturb his possession. Cathy nonetheless remains indignantly sensible of the injustice done to her. When Heathcliff berates her for planting flowers at the Heights, she retorts, “You shouldn’t grudge a few yards of earth for me to ornament, when you have taken all my land!” (WH, 388).
The appropriation of property marks Heathcliff’s quest for fulfillment in Catherine’s absence. But, like Catherine’s search, it is unsuccessful. The houses and lands that he has worked methodically to acquire give him no pleasure and provide no compensation for his loss. He comes to regard his property only as a burden he must relinquish before he can join Catherine in death: “I have not written my will yet, and how to leave my property, I cannot determine! I wish I could annihilate it from the face of the earth” (WH, 407). Catherine, for whom his earthly possessions are inadequate substitutes, eludes him still. She remains, until Heathcliff’s death, “incomparably beyond and above” him (WH, 197), and yet he sees everything in relation to her: “The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her!” (WH, 394). Even Hareton and the younger Cathy, the remaining victims of his revenge, whose persons and properties are his possessions, look at him with the elusive eyes of Catherine Earnshaw, reminding Heathcliff that she remains beyond possession. By depriving the cousins of their rightful land and money, Heathcliff unwittingly makes possible the bond of love that defeats him: there is no threat of degradation to keep them apart, and, in their love, they appear as beyond his power to control as the ghostly Catherine.
Following Heathcliff’s death, the novel concludes with the restoration of the “the lawful master and the ancient stock” (WH, 411) in Hareton Earnshaw who, in marriage to Cathy, will assume control of both the Heights and the Grange. Joseph’s unbridled joy over Hareton’s accession seems to indicate a reassertion of a world of dominant patriarchy, this time with a less-rebellious relative female in the younger Cathy. But the final journeys for the lovers of both generations are ultimately female-directed: Cathy, after leading Hareton through a course in literacy, leads him to the “house of her ancestors” (WH, 315-16, my italics), and Catherine calls Heathcliff to her in death with the promise of a shared heaven. Catherine Earnshaw’s struggle against female containment within kinship structures is finally realized not in unlimited female agency, but in a male and female relationship that promises to be “enabling and operative, rather than repressive and restrictive.”14 Cathy and Hareton represent a compromise between ultimate possession and unbounded freedom, shaping the excesses of Catherine and Heathcliff into a viable domestic relationship.
1. Lamb, Can Woman Regenerate Society? 122.
2. Helene Moglen, “The Double Vision of Wuthering Heights: A Clarifying View of Female Development,” 405. Many feminist studies displace Heathcliff as the novel’s protagonist in favor of Catherine. Moglen, for example, discusses the entire novel as a linear progression of female maturation, which is only finally completed by the younger Cathy. See also Carol A. Senf, “Emily Brontë’s Version of Feminist History: Wuthering Heights.”
3. Bersani, Future for Astyanax, 221.
4. “The Death of A. G. A.,” ll. 78-80 (January 1841-May 1844), Roper, Poems, 112.
5. Davies, Emily Brontë, 74; Mary Jacobus, “The Question of Language: Men of Maxims and The Mill on the Floss.”
6. Stevie Davies, Emily Brontë, 106-7, for example, calls Hareton a “legitimized Heathcliff” and maintains that Hareton and the younger Cathy reassert the brother-sister bond, thereby fulfilling the yearning of the first generation.
7. Trumbach, Egalitarian Family, 119-20.
8. For a standard chronology of WH, see A. Stuart Daley, “A Revised Chronology of Wuthering Heights,” 169-73.
9. Vine, “The Wuther of the Other,” 354.
10. C. P. Sanger and James H. Kavanagh have written extensively on the order of inheritance of Thrushcross Grange. See Sanger, The Structure of Wuthering Heights, and Kavanagh, Emily Brontë. See also “Land Law and Inheritance in Wuthering Heights,”in WH, appendix 6, 497-99. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 275-76.
11. Joan Perkin, Women and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century England, 10-31, provides a useful outline of Barbara Leigh Smith Bodichon’s Brief Summary, in Plain Language, of the Most Important Laws of England Concerning Women; Together with a Few Observations Thereon. Perkin notes that when the Summary was published, “very little had changed in Common Law since feudal times,” so the laws therein are clearly applicable to both the late-eighteenth-century setting of WH and the mid-nineteenth century when EB was writing (11). There were no substantial changes in legislation until the Married Women’s Property Act of 1870, which entitled a married women her separate earnings, as well as other specified inheritances. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 276.
12. Kavanagh, Emily Brontë, 77.
13. Davidoff and Hall, Family Fortunes, 209-10; see “Land Law and Inheritance,” WH, 499, for a dispute to Heathcliff’s claims.
14. Lyn Pykett, Emily Brontë, 119.
Works by the Brontë
Brontë Emily. The Poems of Emily Brontë. Edited by Derek Roper with Edward Chitham. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1995.
_____. Wuthering Heights. Edited by Hilda Marsden and Ian Jack. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1976.
Other Primary Works
Bodichon, Barbara Leigh Smith. A Brief Summary, in Plain Language, of the Most Important Laws Concerning Women; Together with a Few Observations Thereon. London: John Chapman, 1854.
Lamb, Ann Richelieu. Can Woman Regenerate Society? London: John W. Parker, 1844.
Bersani, Leo. A Future for Astyanax: Character and Desire in Literature. London: Marion Boyars, 1978.
Butler, Judith. Subjects of Desire: Hegelian Reflections in Twentieth-Century France. New York: Columbia University Press, 1987.
Cohen, Paula Marantz. The Daughter’s Dilemma: Family Process and the Nineteenth-Century Domestic Novel. Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1991.
Daley, A. Stuart. “A Revised Chronology of Wuthering Heights.” Brontë Society Transactions 21 (1995): 168-73.
Davidoff, Leonore, and Catherine Hall. Family Fortunes: Men and Women of the English Middle Class, 1780-1850. London: Hutchinson, 1987.
Davies, Cecil W. “A Reading of Wuthering Heights.” Essays in Criticism 19 (1969): 254-72.
Davies, Stevie. Emily Brontë. Key Women Writers Series. Hemel Hempstead: Harvester Wheatsheaf, 1988.
Elfenbein, Andrew. Byron and the Victorians. Cambridge Studies in Nineteenth-Century Literature and Culture, no. 4. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995.
Gilbert, Sandra M., and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.
Jacobus, Mary. “The Question of Language: Men of Maxims and The Mill on the Floss.” Critical Inquiry 8 (1981): 207-22.
Kavanagh, James H. Emily Brontë. Rereading Literature Series. Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1985.
Kettle, Arnold. An Introduction to the English Novel. 2 vols. London: Hutchinson, 1951.
Knoepflmacher, U. C. Emily Brontë: Wuthering Heights. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1989.
Leavis, Q. D. “A Fresh Approach to Wuthering Heights.” In Lectures in America, 83-152. New York: Pantheon Press, 1969.
Moglen, Helene. “The Double Vision of Wuthering Heights: A Clarifying View of Female Development.” Centennial Review 15 (1971): 391-405.
Perkin, Joan. Women and Marriage in Nineteenth-Century England. Chicago: Lyceum Press, 1989.
Pykett, Lyn. Emily Brontë. Basingstoke: Macmillan, 1989.
Sanger, C. P. The Structure of Wuthering Heights. Hogarth Essays, no. 19. London: Hogarth Press, 1926.
Senf, Carol A. “Emily Brontë’s Version of Feminist History: Wuthering Heights.” Essays in Literature 12 (1985): 201-14.
Solomon, Eric. “The Incest Theme in Wuthering Heights.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 14 (1959): 80-83.
Stoneman, Patsy. Introduction to Wuthering Heights. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1995.
Trumbach, Randolph. The Rise of the Egalitarian Family: Aristocratic Kinship and Domestic Relations in Eighteenth-Century England. New York: Academic Press, 1978.
Vine, Steven. “‘When I Am Not’: Mourning and Identity in Wuthering Heights.” Paper presented at conference, The Legacy of the Brontës, 1847-1997, School of English, University of Leeds, April 1997.
_____. “The Wuther of the Other in Wuthering Heights.” Nineteenth-Century Fiction 49 (1994): 339-59.
Yaeger, Patricia. “Violence in the Sitting Room: Wuthering Heights and the Woman’s Novel.” Genre 21 (1988): 203-29.
Barclay, Janet M. Emily Brontë Criticism 1900-1982: An Annotated Checklist. Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1984, 162p.
Provides an annotated list of writings on Emily Brontë
Crump, Rebecca W. Charlotte and Emily Brontë A Reference Guide. 3 Vols. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982.
Provides critical sources from 1846-1983.
Stoneman, Patsy, “Feminist Criticism of Wuthering Heights.” Critical Survey 4, no. 2 (1192): 147-53.
Surveys modern criticism on Wuthering Heights applying feminist literary theory and addressing gender issues.
Grin, Winifred. Emily Brontë Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971, 290 p.
Offers a scholarly biography that attempts to clarify the myths about Brontë’s personality.
Apter, T. E. “Romanticism and Romantic Love in Wuthering Heights.” In The Art of Emily Brontë, edited by Anne Smith, pp. 205-22. London: Vision Press, 1976.
Contends that Cathy and Hareton’s relationship presents an alternative model to the destructive, Romantic love of Catherine and Heathcliff.
Barreca, Regina. “The Power of Excommunication: Sex and the Feminine Text in Wuthering Heights.” In Sex and Death in Victorian Literature, pp. 227-40. London: Macmillan Press, 1990.
Argues that the female characters in Wuthering Heights assert their power over the patriarchal system by creating and shaping the text.
Davies, Stevie. Emily Brontë: The Artist as a Free Woman. Manchester: Carcanet, 1983, 170 p.
Traces Brontë’s artistic development as revealed in her life and works; emphasizes her uniquely independent environment as a source for her unusual perspective on love and womanhood.
Eagleton, Terry. Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës. London: Macmillan, 1975, 148 p.
Takes a Marxist literary approach to interpreting the Brontës’ work.
Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. “Looking Oppositely: Emily Brontë’s Bible of Hell.” In The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, pp. 248-308. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.
Reads Wuthering Heights as a myth of the origins of Victorian women’s culture; from a seminal work of feminist literary criticism.
Gold, Linda. “Catherine Earnshaw: Mother and Daughter.” English Journal 74, no. 3 (March 1985): 68-73.
Discusses Catherine Earnshaw’s maturation in the novel in terms of Freud’s theory of the development of personality.
Gorsky, Susan Rubinow. “‘I’ll Cry Myself Sick’: Illness in Wuthering Heights.” Literature and Medicine 18, no. 2 (fall 1999): 173-91.
Addresses the theme of illness as it relates to women and gender issues in the novel.
Homans, Margaret. “Emily Brontë.” In Women Writers and Poetic Identity: Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Brontë, and Emily Dickinson, pp. 104-61. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.
Investigates the challenges that Brontë faced in establishing her identity as a writer.
Leavis, Q. D. “A Fresh Approach to Wuthering Heights.” In Lectures in America, pp. 85-138. New York: Random House, 1969.
Points to Brontë’s treatment of Catherine Earnshaw as evidence of the realistic nature and moral responsibility of the novel.
Lenta, Margaret. “Capitalism or Patriarchy and Immortal Love: A Study of Wuthering Heights.” Theoria 42 (May 1984): 63-76.
Examines the social forces that shape the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine.
Mass, Michelle A. “‘He’s More Myself Than I Am’: Narcissism and Gender in Wuthering Heights.” In Psychoanalyses/Feminisms, edited by Peter L. Rudnytsky and Andrew M. Gordon, pp. 135-53. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.
Discusses the relationship between narcissism and women’s agency, applying models of modern literary criticism.
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Barclay, Janet M. Emily Brontë Criticism 1900-1982: An Annotated Checklist. Westport, Conn.: Meckler, 1984, 162 p.
Provides an annotated list of writings on Emily Brontë.
Crump, Rebecca W. Charlotte and Emily Brontë: A Reference Guide. 3 vols. Boston: G. K. Hall, 1982.
Provides critical sources from 1846-1983.
Stoneman, Patsy. "Feminist Criticism of Wuthering Heights." Critical Survey 4, no. 2 (1992): 147-53.
Surveys modern criticism on Wuthering Heights applying feminist literary theory and addressing gender issues.
Grin, Winifred. Emily Brontë Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1971, 290 p.
Offers a scholarly biography that attempts to clarify the myths about Brontë's personality.
Apter, T. E. "Romanticism and Romantic Love in Wuthering Heights." In The Art of Emily Brontë, edited by Anne Smith, pp. 205-22. London: Vision Press, 1976.
Contends that Cathy and Hareton's relationship presents an alternative model to the destructive, Romantic love of Catherine and Heathcliff.
Barreca, Regina. "The Power of Excommunication: Sex and the Feminine Text in Wuthering Heights." In Sex and Death in Victorian Literature, pp. 227-40. London: Macmillan Press, 1990.
Argues that the female characters in Wuthering Heights assert their power over the patriarchal system by creating and shaping the text.
Davies, Stevie. Emily Brontë: The Artist as a Free Woman. Manchester: Carcanet, 1983, 170 p.
Traces Brontë's artistic development as revealed in her life and works; emphasizes her uniquely independent environment as a source for her unusual perspective on love and womanhood.
Eagleton, Terry. Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontës. London: Macmillan, 1975, 148 p.
Takes a Marxist literary approach to interpreting the Brontës' work.
Gilbert, Sandra M. and Susan Gubar. "Looking Oppositely: Emily Brontë's Bible of Hell." In The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, pp. 248-308. New Haven: Yale University Press, 1979.
Reads Wuthering Heights as a myth of the origins of Victorian women's culture; from a seminal work of feminist literary criticism.
Gold, Linda. "Catherine Earnshaw: Mother and Daughter." English Journal 74, no. 3 (March 1985): 68-73.
Discusses Catherine Earnshaw's maturation in the novel in terms of Freud's theory of the development of personality.
Gorsky, Susan Rubinow. "'I'll Cry Myself Sick': Illness in Wuthering Heights." Literature and Medicine 18, no. 2 (fall 1999): 173-91.
Addresses the theme of illness as it relates to women and gender issues in the novel.
Homans, Margaret. "Emily Brontë." In Women Writers and Poetic Identity: Dorothy Wordsworth, Emily Brontë, and Emily Dickinson, pp. 104-61. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1980.
Investigates the challenges that Brontë faced in establishing her identity as a writer.
Leavis, Q. D. "A Fresh Approach to Wuthering Heights." In Lectures in America, pp. 85-138. New York: Random House, 1969.
Points to Brontë's treatment of Catherine Earnshaw as evidence of the realistic nature and moral responsibility of the novel.
Lenta, Margaret. "Capitalism or Patriarchy and Immortal Love: A Study of Wuthering Heights." Theoria 42 (May 1984): 63-76.
Examines the social forces that shape the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine.
Mass, Michelle A. "'He's More Myself Than I Am': Narcissism and Gender in Wuthering Heights." In Psychoanalyses/Feminisms, edited by Peter L. Rudnytsky and Andrew M. Gordon, pp. 135-53. Albany: State University of New York Press, 2000.
Discusses the relationship between narcissism and women's agency, applying models of modern literary criticism.
McKinstry, Susan Jaret. "Desire's Dreams: Power and Passion in Wuthering Heights." College Literature 12, no. 2 (spring 1985): 141-46.
Interprets Wuthering Heights as a celebration of the power of desire to overthrow the obstacles to love and fulfillment.
Mermin, Dorothy. "The Damsel, the Knight, and the Victorian Woman Poet." Critical Inquiry 13, no. 1 (autumn 1986): 64-80.
Compares poetry by women authors including Brontë, Elizabeth Barrett Browning, Christina Rossetti, and Emily Dickinson.
Meyer, Susan. Imperialism at Home: Race and Victorian Women's Fiction. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 1996, 220 p.
Examines the treatment of race and colonialism in Wuthering Heights.
Moser, Thomas. "What is the Matter with Emily Jane? Conflicting Impulses in Wuthering Heights." Nineteenth-Century Fiction 17, no. 1 (June 1962): 1-19.
Applies Freudian literary theory to Brontë's novel, focusing on Heathcliff's role as the embodiment of sexual energy that is the driving force of the work.
Parker, Patricia. "The (Self)-Identity of the Literary Text: Property, Propriety, Proper Place, and Proper Name in Wuthering Heights." In Identity of the Literary Text, edited by Mario J. Valds and Owen Miller, pp. 92-116. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 1985.
Discusses Brontë's disruption of chronology and the impossibility of a linear reading of Wuthering Heights.
Ratchford, Fannie E. The Brontës' Web of Childhood. New York: Columbia University Press, 1941, 293 p.
Examines the Brontës' juvenilia, including Emily Brontë's Gondal poetry; a pioneering study of the Brontë's childhood works.
Sanger, Charles Percy. The Structure of Wuthering Heights. London: Hogarth Press, 1926, 23 p.
Contends that Wuthering Heights contains painstaking execution and prose craftsmanship.
Van Ghent, Dorothy. "The Window Figure and the Two-Children Figure in 'Wuthering Heights.'" Nineteenth-Century Fiction 7, no. 3 (December 1952): 189-97.
Studies two recurring images in Wuthering Heights as metaphors for doubleness and otherness.
Visick, Mary. The Genesis of Wuthering Heights. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1965, 88 p.
Studies the relationship between Wuthering Heights and the Gondal poems.
Wion, Philip K. "The Absent Mother in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights." American Imago 42, no. 2 (summer 1985): 143-64.
Employs psychological theories about the mother-child relationship to examine conflicts involving separation and unity in Wuthering Heights.
Yaeger, Patricia. "Wuthering Heights and the Woman's Novel." Genre 21, no. 2 (summer 1988): 203-229.
Examines the use of comedy, violence, and narrative and generic styles in nineteenth-century women's novels, using Wuthering Heights as a representative example.
OTHER SOURCES FROM GALE:
Additional coverage of Brontë's life and career is contained in the following sources published by the Gale Group: Authors and Artists for Young Adults, Vol. 17; Beacham's Encyclopedia of Popular Fiction: Biography and Resources, Vol. 1; Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults, Vol. 3; British Writers, Vol. 5; British Writers: The Classics, Vol. 1; British Writers Retrospective Supplement, Vol. 1; Concise Dictionary of British Literary Biography 1832-1890; Dictionary of Literary Biography, Vols. 21, 32, 199; DISCovering Authors; DISCovering Authors: British Edition; DISCovering Authors: Canadian Edition; Discovering Authors Modules: Most-studied Authors, Novelists and Poets; DISCovering Authors 3.0; Exploring Novels; Literature and Its Times, Vol. 1; Literature Resource Center; Nineteenth-Century Literature Criticism, Vols. 16, 35; Poetry Criticism, Vol. 8; Twayne's English Authors; World Literature and Its Times, Vol. 3; and World Literature Criticism.
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