Topic 1. Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights
Terry Eagleton argues that “One of Wuthering Heights’ more notable achievements is ruthlessly to de-mystify the Victorian notion of the family as a pious, pacific space within social conflict” (105-106). With reference to one or two of the following keywords (gender, class, race, ideology and/or nature), and with detailed reference to the novel, discuss how the novel uses the domestic setting and seemingly private inter-personal relations to animate broader social questions.
Length words: 2177
Due Date: Friday 24 August 2018
Date submitted: Tuesday 23 August 2018
Submission Format: .pdf
Referencing style: MLA
James J Guinan
Emily Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights was written in the mid nineteenth century, at a time when novelists were beginning to challenge the idea that the ordered domestic setting of middle to upper middle-class families was secured by the stable forces of a dominant landed society (Eagleton & Pierce 17). Bronte uses this family setting to concentrate these outside social forces into a malevolent force which reflects the major struggles happening in the society as a whole. This family is a very unusual family of several generations of complex intertwining relationships, but her decision to include a family tree shows the importance of it to the novel’s meaning. This essay will argue that the extreme and emotionally heightened conflicts between the characters are substantially a result of the intense pressures placed on the individuals by the inequitable social values related to class and gender which were inherent in Victorian society. Six characters of the novel, Heathcliff, Catherine, Hindley, Edgar, Isabella and Cathy, will be used to illustrate how Bronte exposed the vulnerability of the Victorian era family to the inequitable forces inherent in the society of the time. Attention will be paid to how these characters responded in different ways to the pressures put on them because of their different positions in society
In Wuthering Heights, amongst narrators and characters alike, there is an evident acceptance of class roles and expectations, the exception being Heathcliff who, as an outsider with no agreed role amongst the other characters, remains contemptuous of the class system throughout the novel, although he was to use it adroitly and ruthlessly to take revenge on his oppressors when the opportunity arose (287). Bronte draws attention to society’s focus on family status and wealth as in the housekeeper Nelly’s explanation to Lockwood in regard to Heathcliff’s background, “It’s a cuckoo’s sir – I know all about it; except where he was born, and, who were his parents, and how he got his money, at first “(30). Mr. Earnshaw’s kind behaviour demonstrated that individuals can, at least in part, resist class pressures as he attempted to have Heathcliff accepted into the family, even naming after a deceased son. But he was not given the Earnshaw surname...