Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Childhood in Wuthering Heights Essay

Essay on Childhood in Wuthering Heights

In this essay I will be discussing the gothic aspects in "Wuthering Heights", a novel written by Emily Bronte. She was born in 1919 and died in 1848 after a very short illness. Emily Bronte loved the freedom of the moors, in all types of weather and whatever the season she was very familiar with all the different kinds of birds and animals that inhabited them.

Emily Bronte grew up at a time when the industrial revolution was changing the face of the British Isles. At the beginning of the nineteenth century most people still lived and worked in the countryside, and small towns were expanding rapidly. New shipyards, factories and railways brought a lot of wealth to small groups of manufactures and business people, as the century progressed. Factory and mine workers were forced to work in dreadful conditions.

At that time young children worked twelve hours a day. Many families were broke up by the fact that they worked long unsociable hours in order to survive.

‘Wuthering Heights’ in the wild and rough moor land of Yorkshine in the north of England is the home of the Earnshaws, and Thrushcross Grange is the home of the Lintons. The story of Wuthering Heights is one of passion and a very intense love story between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. The story contains a lot of emotion, and this is the feeling right from the start of the novel.

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In ‘Wuthering Heights’ every relationship but one is broken by either death or separation. Family love is also shown in many different ways. Throughout the novel family relationships are marked by cruelty, neglect and jealously. Throughout the novel nature is described in connection with human emotions. The childhood world in the novel is very important, because children were treated very strictly, and in ‘Wuthering Heights’ many of the children are treated with cruelty and neglect.

During the nineteenth century death was much more common. Many women died during childbirth and from diseases that we have cures for today. Emily Bronte knew all about death as a very young woman, especially as her mother, two sisters and her brother had all died. In the novel there are many deaths. What is important is the way in which the dead have such a powerful effect on the living.

In ‘Wuthering Heights’ we get a very important insight into the people who live there. In the way that Emily Bronte describes the “stunted firs” and “gaunt thorns” . These are the impressions, which resemble the disturbed and miserable people who live there. Their lives are so bitter and unhappy that they are unable to ‘grow’. The house is described like a castle with its “narrow windows” and corners defended with “large jutting stones” . This gives the impression that strangers are regarded with suspicion, and this is shown to Lockwood when he arrives at ‘Wuthering Heights’.

Lockwood is a rich young man from the south of England who has moved to Thrushcross Grange, a mansion on the Yorkshire moors. He pays a visit to his landlord Heathcliff at ‘Wuthering Heights’. Heathcliff is rude and unwelcoming towards Lockwood. Lockwood is curious as to his landlord’s unsocial behaviour and his strange household.

Heathcliff was bought from Liverpool to ‘Wuthering Heights’ as a very young boy by Mr. Earnshaw who named him Heathcliff after his own son who had died. Heathcliff was found after being abandoned on the streets, and he was brought home to ‘Wuthering Heights’. Catherine soon became great friends with Heathcliff and he won over the love of Mr. Earnshaw. Heathcliff was a silent and strange boy, and he seemed to put with the ill treatment and blows he received from Hindley and never tried to defend himself.

Mr. Earnshaw’s health went down hill and he grew more and more alienated from his family. He thought that everyone did not like Heathcliff because he liked him. He was not impressed with his daughter Catherine’s charming ways. When he dies Catherine and Heathcliff grieve for him and console each other with thoughts of heaven. Heathcliff’s education is stopped and he is reduced to the level of a servant, but Catherine and Heathcliff continue to see one and other. Catherine teaches Heathcliff what she learns in her lessons. Both Catherine and Heathcliff love the freedom of the fields, and they would run away to the moors all day to play, and worry about their punishments afterwards.

Lockwood’s description of Heathcliff is that he is a very handsome man and dresses very well; he has the manners of a gentleman and is very dark skinned. Throughout ‘Wuthering Heights’ Heathcliff’s personality is described as dark, menacing and brooding. Heathcliff is seen as a dangerous person and for his mood swings. He is quite capable of showing his hatred and is not willing to forgive or reach any kind of compromise. Throughout the novel it is clearly established that Heathcliff has a wild and explosive temper. Even as a boy when he first arrived at ‘Wuthering Heights’ he is seen as a “dark skinned gypsy”. No one really knows where Heathcliff comes from accept to say that he was found on the streets of Liverpool, and so his origins remain a mysterious and dark secret.

When Catherine decides to marry Edgar Linton so she can have a good social background, as Heathcliff is not suitable to marry as his roughness and ignorance speaks for itself, even though she loves Heathcliff very much. Heathcliff runs away. Catherine goes out all night in a storm looking for Heathcliff and falls ill with fever. Catherine and Edgar live in harmony for almost a year when Heathcliff returns.

Heathcliff has mysteriously lost his roughness and gained gentlemanly manners, education and has come into some money. Catherine is delighted to see Heathcliff but Edgar is not pleased. A violent quarrel breaks out between both men and Heathcliff leaves Thrushcross Grange. Catherine is angry at both Edgar and Heathcliff.

Catherine becomes ill and nearly dies. Months later Catherine is still not very strong and is with child (pregnant.). Heathcliff goes to visit Catherine and they have a passionate reunion during which they forgive each other for their betrayal of one another. Catherine dies giving birth to a daughter. Before Catherine dies she tells Nellie ”I am Heathcliff” and that means that their souls are one.

Heathcliff goes mad when Catherine dies and he begs Catherine’s ghost to haunt him. His grief shows the passion he continues to feel for Catherine. His loss of Catherine will last him for the rest of his life. Her desire to be buried in the open churchyard is also another sign longing for the moors and the wild landscape of her youth and a symbol of her nature.

The night that Lochwood stays at ‘Wuthering Heights’ he is plagued by very strange dreams. In his dreams he tries to break off the tapping fir branch outside his window. He breaks the pane and as he reaches out to remove the branch, which is the cause of his restlessness, his fingers seem to close on a small cold icy hand. “ I am home: I have lost my way on the moors” A weeping voice the spirit of Catherine begs to be allowed in, as she has lost her way on the moor. Lockwood is filled with terror at the sight of the child’s face. He tries to break his hand free from the ghostly grip, rubbing the spirits hand on the broken pane until the blood flows.

When Lockwood breaks free from the ghostly grip, he dreams that he puts piles of books against the broken window to keep put the ghostly presence. He wahes with a scream. When Lockwood tells Heathcliff of his dream he is very shocked to hear him mention Catherine. Heathcliff breaks down and begs the spirit of Catherine to return. The use of dreams and ghosts give us a sense of the overpowering uncontrollable relationship that was once shared by Catherine and Heathcliff.

Death is stressed by Lockwood dreaming of the dead Catherine, her ghost crying at the window is a symbol of her separation from Heathcliff. He was so obsessed by his beloved Catherine, that he goes to the graveyard where she is buried to stare at her dead body when her coffin is uncovered while Edgar’s grave is being prepared.

There are many indications throughout the novel that Catherine is not at peace or resting easily in her grave. When her ghost appears in Lockwood’s dream “ Let me in “ is a sign of an unquiet soul. This is also another sign of Catherine and Heathcliff’s separation, and the window coming between them. Heathcliff has been haunted by the spirit of Catherine and is aware of her presence, yet he is unable to reach her, and he is tortured almost to death.

In Dracula, Van Helsing opens Lucy’s coffin “ to mutilate her body- to stake her heart “ this is in order to release her soul from the undead and destroy her body. Heathcliff on the other hand only wants to embrace Catherine’s body in death, there by keeping her fresh in his memory.

Heathcliff tells how he opens Catherine’s coffin so he can get some ease by looking at her face once again. He breaks one side of her coffin so that when his coffin is laid beside hers, he instructs the sexton to do the same to his so they can be as one and nothing to separate them. Heathcliff begins to act very strange during the final days of his life.

He refuses to eat, locks himself in his room, and wanders off without telling anyone where he has been. But what is noticed is the strange excitement about him. He tells Nelly “ Last night, I was on the threshold of hell. To day I am within sight of heaven “ Heathcliff’s statement is obscure, as this does not explain his sudden change of heart. Heathcliff’s deep black eyes, his smile and his ghastly paleness made him seem like an evil spite. Nellie asks herself is he a ghoul or a vampire. The only thing that can cause Heathcliff’s strange mood is Catherine, even though she has been dead for a long time, and the sense of loss is now dominant in his soul. His mood has been heightened to a delirious agitation at the prospect of being with Catherine again. Heathcliff is found dead by the window.

In conclusion Catherine was a wild and passionate character both as a girl and a woman. Sometimes she was quite capable of real heartlessness. But in spite of her love affair with Heathcliff, she decided to marry Edgar who could give her a good social background. Heathcliff was not good marriage material because he was rough, ignorant and wild, with no social background. Catherine belongs to the moors and the stormy elements of nature the same as Heathcliff. Before she dies she warns Heathcliff that her spirit will not let him rest until they are reunited in death.

As Catherine became more beautiful and lady-like, Heathcliff became rougher in his appearance as did his mood and speech. When Catherine decides to marry Edgar, Heathcliff runs away.

When Heathcliff returns he has worked out a plan of vengeance on both Hindley and Edgar, we can see where he becomes a cruel and unfeeling demon. But the spirit of Catherine prevents him from bringing his plan to fruition. For some time he lives in spiritual torment, a frenzied man, having lost all desire for revenge and the will to live. Heathcliff’s death is mysterious as his origins. But the atmosphere of mystery and romance remains.


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