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Thread: On Wuthering Heights

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    Registered User Yongen He's Avatar
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    Post On Wuthering Heights

    ON WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    —Approaching Emily Bronte from a different perspective



    Author: Yongen He

    E-mail: [email protected]
    Or: [email protected]


    Abstract: The comments about Emily Bronte's only novel “Wuthering Heights” can be described as widely divergent. Generally speaking, it's the authentic love or the human nature on which critics' researches are based. However, this paper is intended to deny these viewpoints so as to further interpret this novel from an entirely different perspective by believing that the origins of the main characters in the story are not daily life and in this case, reveals that Emily Bronte's purpose of creating such a fanciful romance is to indicate her inner feelings through the conflicts between these artistic figures.

    Key words: spiritual-structure; intention; Heathcliff; Catherine; Linton;


    CONTENTS:
    1 A BRIEF INTRODUCTION OF EMILY BRONTE AND WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    1.1 INTRODUCTION OF EMILY BRONTE
    1.2 INTRODUCTION OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    2 THE GENERAL COMMENTS ON WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    2.1 THE TWO GENERAL COMMENTS ON WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    2.1.1 THE THEME OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS IS A LOVE TRAGEDY
    2.1.2 THE KEY OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS IS AN EXPLORATION OF HUMAN NATURE
    2.2 THE LIMITATIONS OF THE TWO COMMENTS
    3 ON EMILY’S INTENTION OF CREATING WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    3.1 ADVANCING THE INTENTION OF EMILY BRONTE
    3.1.1 THE CLOSED STRUCTURE OF THIS NOVEL
    3.1.2 THE INTENTION OF EMILY BRONTE
    3.2 APPROACHING EMILY BRONTE FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
    3.2.1 THE THEME OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    3.2.2 HEATHCLIFF UNBOUND
    3.2.3 THE SPIRITUAL–STRUCTURE OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    4 THE END OF THIS THESIS
    5 NOTES
    6 REFERENCES

    FOREWORD:
    Wuthering Heights is the only novel written by Emily Bronte during her short life and is one of the best known works of English literature. However, when it is first published in 1847, early critics did not like the work, citing its excess of passion and its coarseness. The main reason for this was chiefly the creation of Heathcliff as people could not stand for such an inhumane evil. After more than half a century, when hardly anyone doubts the literary value of this book, critics are still arguing for Emily’s intention of writing such a book and still, their concern was usually focused on the judgment of Heathcliff, that is, how should people look upon this character? This argument remains unfinished till now. Another problem is the theme of this book. Every novel should have a theme but the theme to this novel is vague. People have different ideas about it. It could be explained as a love romance, a revenge story, an exploration of human nature, a mini reflection of class struggle, or a combination of some above. It is a problem since no interpretation can explain the novel without leaving something unconvincing as they have limitations here and there.
    Seemingly, Wuthering Heights has been analyzed from all possible perspectives; however, there is one neglected angle that is, art for art’s sake. This paper tries to figure out Emily’s initial intention and explain Heathcliff from the perspective of Emily-herself. In this paper, Heathcliff is regarded as part of the spiritual-structure Emily established in Wuthering Heights, that is to say, Heathcliff is nothing more than a tool used by Emily during the process of visualizing her vehement inner conflicts while her authentic purpose is to imply her pursuance of pure art of literature.

    1 A BRIEF INTRODUCTION OF EMILY BRONTE AND WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    1.1 INTRODUCTION OF EMILY BRONTE
    Emily Bronte, British poet and novelist of the 19th century, was born in Thornton, a small county in the north of Yorkshire, England, in the year of 1818. She moved to Haworth with her parents when she was two and their house was located at the top of the area. The weather of Haworth was inclement and the living conditions were rigorous. Her mother died soon. Emily’s father was very fond of literature and had a great influence upon Bronte sisters. About Emily’s life, there is little materials remained and most people believe that Emily is introverted and does not show her feelings easily, she is taciturn on appearance while at the same time has the most intensive passions inside. Emily has no experience of love affairs and has got through most of her fugacious life in an isolated circumstance with an irresistible love for the vast moors of Yorkshire. Except housework, she spends all her time on it.
    “……They (Bronte sisters) found great pleasure playing outside in the vast, rough, untouched moorland wilderness. This is especially so with Emily, who, a rather reserved and simple girl, was very much a child of nature. She was never tired of staying outside in the open moorland in all weathers and never at ease when she was away from it.” [1] 263
    It could be said that it’s the moors which present her with infinite inspirations to create Wuthering Heights and in fact, the background of this story is just this environment of asperity.

    1.2 INTRODUCTION OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    Heathcliff, the hero of this story, is a foundling. He is adopted by the senior Earnshaw who lives in Wuthering Heights. After senior Earnshaw’s death, he is degraded as a servant and is badly mistreated by Hindley, the junior Earnshaw. However, Catherine, the daughter of senior Earnshaw and heroine of this story, loves him so deeply and regards him as her soul and vice versa. Although Catherine loves Heathcliff more than anything else, after accidentally meeting Edgar Linton, a patrician young man who lives in Thrushcross Grange, she feels that it would demean her if she got married with him. Overhearing Catherine’s inner contradiction, the degraded Heathcliff is irritated and then disappears. Losing her lover, Catherine falls into serious illness and then marries Linton after recovering. Three years have past since then, Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights and behaves like a gentleman. Tortured between her former lover and her present husband, Catherine dies soon in childbirth after a last meeting with her soul. Full of sadness because of Catherine’s death, Heathcliff retaliates mercilessly upon his enemies but still cannot bear the separation from Catherine; he starves himself to death to meet his lover. The novel finishes with a blissful marriage of Cathy and Hareton, another pair of lovers.

    2 THE GENERAL COMMENTS ON WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    2.1 THE TWO GENERAL COMMENTS ON WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    With its incomparable beauty of haggardness and affection, Wuthering Heights wins its grand position in the literature world and is widely regarded as a most fantastic product of the world of English literature. Yet, it’s far from easy to understand this confusing novel as commentators can hardly agree on what that it wants to tell us.
    “In the world of English classical literature, Wuthering Heights has long been regarded as one of the most indigestible works. People call Emily Bronte as ‘the Sphinx of our modern literature, which is to say, she’s an enigma.” * [2] 263
    It’s just because of those confusions that the appraisements about Emily Bronte are various. For example, Emily was considered as an occultist or a phantast and even a homosexuality with spiritual damages! (The author of this paper could hardly agree with any of these appraisements). But the general comments about Wuthering Heights is either based on love affection or society, and the latter’s perspective is usually focused on human nature.

    2.1.1 THE THEME OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS IS A LOVE TRAGEDY
    Indeed, the contents of Wuthering Heights are mainly about the overwhelming passions of extreme love and hatred among those characters.
    “……As a love story, this is one of the most moving: The passion between Heathcliff and Catherine proves the most intense, the most beautiful and at the same time the most horrible passion ever to be found possible in human beings.” [1] 274
    But the passion between Heathcliff and Catherine is too unique and bizarre to be described as ordinary love. In this case, some critics believe that Emily is willing to understand love from a different perspective, for example, they consider the passion between Heathcliff and Catherine as:
    “……This (the passion between H and C) is not only an in-depth dissection of Emily’s inner feelings, but implies Emily’s unique understandings of love based on her inimitable philosophic belief.” * [3] 298
    Generally speaking, people with this idea believe that Wuthering Heights is mainly about a love romance.

    2.1.2 THE KEY OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS IS AN EXPLORATION OF HUMAN NATURE
    The love between Heathcliff and Catherine is exceptional, then how shall we think of the animosity committed by Heathcliff? In other words, what does Emily want to inform us by introducing such an evil character? About this question, critics’ ideas are usually based on human nature. For example, they think of this from a social point of view such as:
    “……The novel is a riddle which means different things to different people. From the social point of view, it is a story about a poor man abused, betrayed and distorted by his social betters because he is a poor nobody.” [1] 274
    Comments based on class-consciousness are a typical of this kind:
    “……The men and women of "Wuthering Heights" are not of the imaginary world, but the world that Emily Bronte knew and their struggles against oppression is symbolic of the never-ending struggle in class society.” [4] 193
    So far as morality is concerned, there are comments like this:
    “Wuthering Heights is a challenge to the stodgy and snobbish ethos of the Victorian period, which is seemingly peaceful and tranquil, while Heathcliff and Catherine are rebellions against the old-fashioned traditional moral systems.” * [3] 297
    There are also comments which dismiss class-consciousness and concentrated only on the issue of virtue and evil such as:
    “With a keen and sensitive artistic insight and with a unique conception over ordinary ones, through the complex and implicative story, Emily explores the ‘human nature’ that interests her. It can be confirmed that it is human nature that goes through the whole book.” * [2] 7

    2.2 THE LIMITATIONS OF THE TWO COMMENTS
    But it’s very difficult to draw a convictive conclusion of this novel if we take either or both of the above comments while trying to understand Emily Bronte, which is, it could only make the novel much more complicated and confusing.
    Mr. Fang, the translator of the Chinese version of Wuthering Heights, writes in his forward:
    “……The most perplexing of this unique book is probably that the authoress not only expressed directly the intense opposition but implied the ambiguous transformation and unification of ‘love’ and ‘hate’. Emily shares the same feelings with us while at the same time conserves her distinctive opinions which go far beyond ordinary ideas. In this case, I think the theme has two sides as well as the visualization of the characters. Considering the novel as a whole, we distinguish a line, through which the plots follow, and have explored the in-depth meanings, but when we want to attempt the other plot line to study the twinborn theme, we are encountered numerous obstacles as if we are trapped in a rugged, rocky trail while trying to climb a perilous peak. For about one and half a centuries, this novel has been changing its melodies the way of the music of modernism.” * [2] 17
    If the first line is the passion between Heathcliff and Catherine, then the second one is definitely the so-called ‘human nature’.
    With the limits of the above two aspects, neither of the themes could explain Wuthering Heights positively and perfectly: could we think of our love only and dismiss moralities at all? Or should we sacrifice our true-selves to fictitious moral-standards? Emily seems to make no compromise between the two, thus, the disputation is never at ease in the past one more hundred years.
    About the theme, there are dozens of other viewpoints or comments such as those from psychoanalysis, class struggle, clash of element forces etc. They will not be touched here for they are more or less discussion for discussion’s sake and are less acceptable.
    Then, what is Emily’s real intention of creating Wuthering Heights? This paper will try to provide with a convincing answer in the following discussion.

    3 ON EMILY’S INTENTION OF CREATING WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    3.1 ADVANCING THE INTENTION OF EMILY BRONTE
    3.1.1 THE CLOSED STRUCTURE OF THIS NOVEL
    Written in the Victoria period, the story of Wuthering Heights takes place in a closed environment against the real world which is seemingly placid but actually one of the most dramatic with fast economic growth and serious social contradictions such as the passing of the political power, the mass exploiting of colonies, the rising of the Chartist Movement, the crisis of religion and racial problems. All these had greatly influenced people’s inner world. However, so far as Wuthering Heights is concerned, we could hardly feel those vehement changes (this book may probably take any kind of society as its background).
    “Most novels imply the characteristic of its time ……but Wuthering Heights is an exception.” * [5] 399
    In fact, the narration of Wuthering Heights is almost (if not completely) separated from the outside world, so we can hardly interpret it from a viewpoint of society as they are so dissimilar.
    Since the very beginning, through a nightmare, the readers are led by Mr. Lockwood to an entirely isolated world (we’ll know later that it’s the spiritual world of Emily Bronte) and the following whole story is restricted in it. In this world of fantasy, everything is so riddling such as four-footed fiends, fulminatory storm, rolling snow in the sky and ghost on the moors and so on. Readers are puzzled as to say:
    “No one knows what makes her imagining such a world, but, covered with her exterior solitude, there must be some mysterious and forever vigorous inner activities which she also expresses in her poems.” * [6] 284
    We may describe this strange world with a Chinese verse like “not knowing the whole of Lushan Mountain as we are inside of it.” Emily skillfully hides her intention in this bizarre world.
    “We know Emily is extremely introverted and seldom confides her feelings in daily communication, but what she pours out in this book she has not expressed and seldom anyone ever shows such violent passions; she must needs veil herself carefully.” * [2] 5
    This above remark may suit very well Emily’s reserved natures and indeed, she has successfully achieved her goal of obscurity and it is probably just this obscurity that leads to those dissimilar understandings of Wuthering Heights. This paper will attempt to remove all these obscurities in the following discussion.

    3.1.2 THE INTENTION OF EMILY BRONTE
    The closed environment of Wuthering Heights is, in fact, corresponding with Emily’s spiritual world. To support this, the author of this paper brings forth a new concept, namely “spiritual-structure”; the components of this structure are the three main figures in Wuthering Heights: they are Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. Based on an audacious hypothesis, the first one is regarded to be the very avatar of Emily herself and the other two represent Emily’s desire of authentic art and of natural love between man and woman respectively. The conflicts of these fictitious figures are but the monologues of Emily Bronte in her deepest heart, on what she should seek after with her life as a whole. Being a poet, Emily takes the form of novel (not poem) to express her inner feelings. The reason of advancing spiritual-structure here is just because all the three characters are considered to be originated from and are intended to reflect Emily’s inner-world instead of the outside one; in a word, they have nothing to do with neither moral nor society. This concept (further discussed later in this thesis) is the key to the understanding of this paper. With this new concept, we may comprehend Wuthering Heights from an entirely different perspective and draw a conclusion that Emily’s intention of creating Wuthering Heights is to, implicitly, give voice to her reserved feelings and the theme of Wuthering Heights is a pilgrimage to the world of art.

    3.2 APPROACHING EMILY BRONTE FROM A DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVE
    3.2.1 THE THEME OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    It is generally believed that one of the themes of Wuthering Heights is a love tragedy of Catherine and Heathcliff; however, as the story goes on, one can scarcely compare the passions between the two to ordinary love of man and woman. There are explications and implications here and there in this novel signifying that Catherine and Heathcliff belong to the same soul. How should we look upon this information? Is it the most intense passion of common love or is there something else Emily wants to tell us? The author of this thesis believes in the latter.
    It’s a long and perhaps painful process for Emily Bronte, an ordinary Irish girl, to grow into an outstanding poet. This process is recorded in this book.
    The story begins with the Earnshaw family who live in Wuthering Heights which is located on the side of a hilltop. The family enjoy a harmonious life until the intrusion of a sallow, rugged foundling—Heathcliff whom Mr. Earnshaw (the senior) picks up in the streets and brings back home. This intrusion symbolizes the time when Emily begins to establish her dreams of literature in reality. Heathcliff’s past remains a mystery in the book, but through his name, we may practically relate him to the moors of Yorkshire, on which Emily had spent almost all her life, and thus, subordinate him to a part of Emily’s spiritual world which is completely removed from the stir of the outside one. From an angle of pure art, Emily gives birth to such an unreasonable figure in this story while her main purpose is to pour out her restless soul through the activities of Heathcliff. In the end, finished his tasks, Heathcliff is called back to Emily’s spiritual world. That is to say, Heathcliff has no original shape in reality. Absolutely, Emily’s true intention is not to create a merciless devil so as to give an effect of antipathy; we should not look upon Emily like this.
    A poet is unable to dispute his or her feelings. With a seemingly quiet appearance, lonely Emily suffers from her most severe inner passions just like Catherine Earnshaw cannot reject Heathcliff and regards him as her soul. In this case, Catherine is the embodiment of Emily herself. Among the first generation of lovers, Edgar Linton and Isabella Linton are fairly idealized personalities in real world. Linton is handsome, tender, virtuous and rich while Isabella gorgeous, loving and with high positions. But why Emily has to expose them to the talon of Heathcliff without leaving any illusion to the readers? Let’s find out the reasons from the spiritual-structure. If Heathcliff comes from the artistic side of Emily’s inner world, then the Lintons must originate from the other side of reality. They symbolize Emily’s aspirations to the attractive romances of real world as a common girl. In the novel, these aspirations are expressed by Emily through Catherine Linton’s love of Edgar. Thinking alone on the wide moors, Emily is selecting painfully between the two sides (this poor girl may not even have a chance to be in love as she does not experience any love affairs in her short life according to the limited materials we have now), she may have already recognized the answer that she does not belong to the latter.
    In Wuthering Heights, this selection takes place in the five weeks during which Catherine was recovering from her hurts in Thrushcross Grange. Though Heathcliff is her soul, Catherine Earnshaw still feels an ordinary love, that is, Edgar Linton, an aristocratic young gentleman. Catherine tries to make a compromise between her soul and reality but failed as Heathcliff disappears and is not heard for three years (which implies that the pursuance of art needs to be devoted fresh and fell). After an astonishing description of soulless Catherine, this figure at last betrays her nature and becomes Catherine Linton. We should have noticed that such composition goes quite well with its mental and physical backgrounds and could be considered perfect in everyday life. To become Catherine Linton, she depresses her true natures temporarily and spends three years’ tranquil and perplexed life in the Heights and with Linton until the reappearance of Heathcliff. (Being a girl, does Emily ever have some feelings of perplexities about her life? Does she ever long for sweet love?) Exactly the same as the first time, Heathcliff comes back mysteriously. After a transitory separation from her soul, Catherine Earnshaw has to select once more. This time, she gets back to her soul and is determined to be reunited with him without yielding to reality any more. This is Catherine Earnshaw’s final decision before she dies. The description of this dramatic selection is in Chapter 11. After Nelly tells Linton how Heathcliff rascally tempts Isabella, the long repressed abhorrence between Heathcliff and Linton at last bursts out. But Catherine manages to turn the conflict to be a duel (because this is the inner conflicts of Emily); she locks the door and flings the key into fire. Linton is beaten down completely:
    “……
    ‘Fair means!’ she (Catherine) said……
    ……
    ……whereupon Mr. Edgar was taken with a nervous trembling, and his countenance grew deadly pale. For his life he could not avert that access of emotion: mingled anguish and humiliation overcome him completely. He leant on the back of a chair, and covered his face.” [7] 94
    Emotionally, this behavior is immoral as a cheating wife asks her infirm husband to duel with her strong lover. But it has nothing to do with morality if this duel takes place in Emily’s inner world.
    Since after, Catherine is no longer belongs to Linton (which implies Emily’s selection):
    “‘I shall never be there, but once more,’ said the invalid (Catherine); ‘and then you’ll leave me, and I shall remain for ever. Next spring you’ll long again to have me under this roof, and you’ll look back and think you were happy to-day.’” [7] 110
    The most exciting moment is definitely the death scene of Catherine Earnshaw, when Heathcliff seizes the chance to see his dying heart. If their first union at the very beginning could be treated constrainedly as common love (surely, the author of this paper does not think so), then this time, it’s absolutely a far cry from it. The combination is full of truculence and turbulence like an outbreak of volcano with hardly any senses. The passions finally lead Catherine Earnshaw to death and the whole narration reaches its emotional climax.
    Emily Bronte may want to release her passions toward literature by this means and ennoble her spirits so as to be combined with pure art forever. From this perspective, it could be assumed that the theme of Wuthering Heights is Emily’s aspiration to seek pure art.
    Yet, the aspiration and combination with art is surely a long and agonizing process, especially for those who are doomed to exist only for the sake of art. Shall we think of the second half of the novel from this point of view? Let’s continue our discussion.

    3.2.2 HEATHCLIFF UNBOUND
    Heathcliff is the core of the whole story, but the question is, does Emily want to explore human nature through the portrayal of this figure?
    If the exploration of human nature is Emily’s initial intention, then, why doesn’t she take the society of her time to be the background of this work just like her contemporaneous writers do? For it is perfectly appropriate to look into human nature based on such a society of great changes. But as far as Wuthering Heights is concerned, one can hardly know the historical conditions to which it belongs if no extra introductions are given. Human nature is a concept of abstraction with historical meanings and has to be defined against the level of development of a certain society. It has properties of class and sociality; without them, it’s meaningless and is absolutely impossible to define, let alone to explore it. During the about fifty years after its publication, the novel received a lot of iniquitous criticisms such as “a terrific story, associated with an equally fearful and repulsive spot”, “It is a compound of vulgar depravity and unnatural horrors”, “we rise from the perusal of Wuthering Heights as if we had come fresh from a pest-house … but burn Wuthering Heights” and so on, and the reason for this is exactly the humanistic criterion of the novel. After the appreciation of the artistic value of Wuthering Heights, human nature is still the main material on which critics’ comments are based and the focus is surely Heathcliff.
    “Once the literary value of Wuthering Heights is discovered, critics are faced with such a mission: how shall we convincingly demonstrate Heathcliff’s value as a man? Or how could we look upon him from a different perspective and retrieve him from the image of daimon?” * [2] 22
    The author of this paper believes that it is infructuous to save Heathcliff if morality is the concern. What he does is definitely evil no matter how much excuses could be presented
    According to spiritual-structure mentioned, the background of Wuthering Heights is a natural environment which symbolizes Emily’s inner world but not any real ones, so we should try to assume into Emily’s spiritual world to see if there are some evidences to help us reconsider this figure. Let’s analyze the spiritual-structure again. As is discussed above, through the conflicts and the resolution of these conflicts of Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff and Linton, Emily has expressed her lifelong pursuance of pure art implicitly, but this seems not enough. Being a poet, Emily may still want to give expressions to all the agonies from which an authentic poet should suffer in the practices of dedicating to his or her careers. Sitting lonely and quietly on the moors, Emily Bronte psychologically endures pains that are brought to her by her own spirit, but how could she convey all these painfulness in her novel (it might be much easier to tell those feelings in the form of poem as she does)? It is Heathcliff that finally completes all the tasks.
    For Emily Bronte, pure art is above reality. Catherine and Heathcliff in the end reject every thing in ordinary world. At last they are united together and such unification is so inconceivable in the eyes of Nelly, a character on behalf of a woman in reality.
    “In her eagerness she rose and supported herself on the arm of the chair. At that earnest appeal he turned to her, looking absolutely desperate. His eyes wide, and wet at last, flashed fiercely on her; his breast heaved convulsively. At instant they held asunder, and then how they met I hardly saw, but Catherine made a spring, and he caught her, and they were locked in an embrace from which I thought my mistress would never be released alive: in fact , to my eyes, she seemed directly insensible. He flung himself into the nearest seat, and on my approaching hurriedly to ascertain if she had fainted, he gnashed at me, and foamed like a mad dog, and gathered her to him with greedy jealousy. I did not feel as if I were in the company of a creature of my own species: it appeared that he would not understand, though I spoke to him; so I stood off, and held my tongue, in great perplexity.” [7] 131
    An implication covered by this description hints at Emily’s selection of her literary soul. Since after this union, the subject that runs through the second half of the novel is actually a poet’s progress (borrowed from Pilgrim’s Progress by Bunyan) which Emily must undergo. The last words Catherine leaves to Heathcliff turn out to be fetters put on his body. It seems that he has no choice but fulfill Catherine’s will to destroy all those in reality that she had been reluctant to dismiss.
    Catherine Earnshaw, a girl, half savage and hardy, and free, and lived in Wuthering Heights has died, there is only a Catherine loafing on the moors finding her home, she could not enter Wuthering Heights as she is still Catherine Linton, she will wait to become Catherine Heathcliff to stay forever in the Heights (the twenty years’ waif corresponds with Heathcliff’s revenge on the two families).
    In this imaginative world, Catherine Linton becomes Catherine Heathcliff as she chooses such a violent way (by dying) to cut away from her common love (the love for Edgar Linton) and to be waiting (as a ghost) for the final union with her soul (Heathcliff) for good; maybe in the real world, under a veil of an apparently peaceful life, Emily Bronte achieves her psychological sublimation and is united forever with her spirit of a poet on the vast moors of Yorkshire the same way. Approaching from this perspective, what contains in the second half of the book is Emily’s inner progress or, to be more exact, her self-sacrifice to literature; while Heathcliff is just the very symbolization of this odyssey. Emily’s artistic spirits need to abandon a lot so as to reach eternal just as Catherine Earnshaw in the story.
    Again, morality and human nature are concepts used to appraise the behaviors between men and men, but all the stories in this book take place in Emily’s inner world, in this case, they have nothing to do with society, nor with morality. So we no longer look upon Heathcliff the way Isabella does:
    “Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad? And if not, is he a devil?” [7] 111
    And Heathcliff is no longer evil just as what he told before he dies:
    “‘……as to repenting of my (Heathcliff) injustices, and I repent of nothing-I am too happy, and yet I'm not happy enough. My soul's bliss kills my body, but does not satisfy itself.’” [7] 271
    Heathcliff is actually an epitome of literature and Emily’s life-long pursuance. The figure is unbounded.

    3.2.3 THE SPIRITUAL–STRUCTURE OF WUTHERING HEIGHTS
    The death of the three main characters embodies the three phases of development of Emily’s inner world. The first is the selection of her literary soul; the second is her painful departure from common love and the third is the ultimate union with literary art. The three phases also correspond with the three Catherines in the novel (Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Linton and Catherine Heathcliff).
    The calmness of Catherine’s death is quite unusual:
    “……and hers (Catherine) of perfect peace. Her brow smooth, her lids closed, lips wearing the expression of a smile; no angel in heaven could be more beautiful than she appeared.” [7] 134
    This description is illogical as Catherine was half mad before she dies and her ghost would be a waif drifting on the moors for twenty more years.
    Notice that, before the death of Heathcliff, she is still Catherine Linton so far (Catherine Linton dose not belong to Wuthering Heights, she’s rejected); and that twenty years previous in the story was roughly the time before Catherine got married with Edgar in Thrushcross Grange.
    “……
    ‘Catherine Linton,’ it replied shiveringly (why did I (Lockwood) think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton). ‘I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!’
    ……
    ‘It is twenty years,’ mourned the voice: ‘twenty years. I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’
    ……” [6] 20
    What can we discover from the descriptions of Catherine’s death scene? We may understand like this: the theme of Wuthering Heights has been exhibited after the death of Catherine Linton, who symbolizes reality and Emily’s love as a common girl, while a spirit of super-realism is left in the story waiting for the final union with Heathcliff, the avatar of pure art, after a painful departure. With the help of Heathcliff and the sequent stories (how suffocating they are!), Emily visualizes her unavoidable sacrifices for her aspiration.
    The perfect peace of Catherine corresponds with the death scenes of Linton and Heathcliff, the two, as well die illogically, especially Edgar Linton. Knowing Cathy, whom he loves more than anything else in his life, has been under Heathcliff’s talon, how possibly could he die blissfully? Here is the narrative from Nelly:
    “……
    He died blissfully, Mr. Lockwood: he died so. Kissing her check, he murmured,
    ‘I am going to her; and you darling child shall come to us; ’and never stirred or spoke again; but continued that rapt, radiant gaze, till his pulse imperceptibly stopped, and his soul departed. None could have noticed the exact minute of his death, it was so entirely without a struggle.
    ……” [7] 231
    So far, having finished his task, Edgar Linton, the representation of Emily’s common love, is withdrawn to her spiritual world. Before long, Heathcliff, the visualization of art, also dies as he too, has fulfilled his missions of expressing Emily’s inner world.
    The activities that Heathcliff performed before he dies are surely bewildering. Judged with the principles of morality, how comes such a merciless devil turn to be reluctant to complete his “revenge”? Most likely, it’s Emily’s intention to arrange this dramatic monologue. The three figures are the foundations of the spiritual-structure; they are born from Emily’s extreme contradictions inside her heart: whether to be compromised with ordinary life or sacrifice to eternal art. She gives them birth within the novel, and imperturbably takes them back to her spiritual world after the narration of her progress towards the perpetual combination with art. All the conflicts throughout the fiction are actually a virtual romance deeply inside her heart.
    Two details in the novel are worth our attention: one is that Heathcliff manages to prowl near Catherine’s catafalque and exchanges Linton’s hair in a locket hung round her neck, which is noticed by Nelly:
    “……Indeed I (Nelly) shouldn't have discovered that he (Heathcliff) had been there, except for the disarrangement of the drapery about the corpse's face, and for observing on the door a curl of light hair, fastened with a silver thread; which, on examination, I ascertained to have been taken from a locket hung round Catherine's neck. Heathcliff had opened the trinket and cast out its content, replacing them by a black lock of his own. I twisted the two, and enclosed them together.” [7] 137
    The other is the description of the tombs of the three by Mr. Lockwood, when he stands in front of them, which is also the end of the whole novel:
    “I sought and soon discovered, the three headstones on the slope next the moor: the middle one grey, and half buried in heath; Edgar Linton's only harmonized by the turf, and moss creeping up its foot; Heathcliff's still bare. I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths flattering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft win breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.” [7] 275
    What shall we think about such descriptions?
    Now, the story seems to come to an end, yet the entanglements of the three may even last into the next world: people may still encounter their ghosts on the moors.
    In the quiet earth are the unquiet slumbers and behind the slumbers is Emily’s restless soul:
    “……
    So stood I, in Heaven's glorious sun,
    And in the glare of Hell;
    My spirit drank a mingled tone,
    Of seraph's song, and demon's moan;
    What my soul bore, my soul alone
    Within itself may tell!
    ……

    In the end, the paper has to touch on the second generation of lovers; they are Cathy, Hareton and Linton Heathcliff. We’ll begin with Linton Heathcliff.
    Perhaps the most detestable figure in the whole story is Linton Heathcliff, the tool of his father. Without him, Heathcliff’s revenge on Edgar could hardly be possible. Here is a question: How comes that there ever exists an offspring of Heathcliff and Isabella Linton? If we exam the context carefully, we can scarcely believe that Heathcliff would have a sexual lust toward Isabella Linton, let alone give birth to a baby! So Linton Heathcliff is just a tool like many others in the book which is created by Emily Bronte to fulfill this virtual romance and means nothing more.
    The sensation between Hareton and Cathy is absolutely common love; they are true lovers with compromises to each other. But their love affairs are disassociated from the spiritual structure of the novel, that is, it’s not the theme of Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte affirms others’ love in reality as she leaves Thrushcross Grange to the pair, but leaves herself in Wuthering Heights. Emily Bronte refused any treatments in serious illness and went on her artistic creation even in her last days, almost the same as Catherine did in the novel.
    Catherine, Heathcliff and Linton have returned to Emily’s spiritual world and left us with endless imaginations.

    4 THE END OF THIS THESIS
    Wuthering Heights could be described as a classic masterpiece no matter from what angle such as technique, conception, exhibition, artistic values and its legends. Scarcely anyone denies that Wuthering Heights is first of all a poem compared with other novels partly because Emily herself is a poet and partly because one can rarely feel such intensive passions in others except this one.
    While Emily’s true intention is hidden so deeply inside the book that we can hardly understand what it is, and the author of this paper merely wants to offer another method to discuss Wuthering Heights and to know Emily Bronte well, if possible.
    There are other characters such as the senior Earnshaw and Hindley that are not touched in this paper not because they are unimportant but the author wants to find out more details before discussing them (they seem to have something to do with Emily’s family and thus, do have corresponding originals in reality).
    Since the author’s limited knowledge of English culture, literature as well as the language itself, there must be a lot of mistakes, misunderstandings and improprieties, in this case, all constructive criticisms are sincerely welcome.

    5 NOTES
    [1]. Zhang Baixiang, “Selected Readings in English and American Literature,” Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, China, 1998 .
    [2]. The Chinese version of “Wuthering Heights” translated by Fang Ping, Yiwen Press, Shanghai, China, 2001.
    [3]. Lin Guangya, “A Short History of Foreign Literature,” Chongqing Press, China, 1983.
    [4]. Fan Cunzhong, “A Syllabus of the History of English Literature,” The People’s Press, Sichuan Province, China, 1983: p298.
    [5]. Yang Jingyuan, “Research of Bronte Sisters,” China Social Science Press, 1983: 399.
    [6]. I. Evans, “A Short History of English Literature,” the Chinese version translated by Cai Wenxian, The people’s Literature Press, China, 1984: 284.
    [7]. Emily Bronte, “Wuthering Heights,” The World Book Publication Co., Xi’an, China, 1999.
    [8]. Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Anne Bronte, “Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell,” London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. p. 153-155.

    6 REFERENCES:
    1. I. Evans, “A Short History of English Literature,” the Chinese version translated by Caiwenxian, The people’s Literature Press, China, 1984.
    2. Emily Bronte, “Wuthering Heights,” The World Book Publication Co. Xi’an, China, 1999.
    3. The Chinese version of “Wuthering Heights”, translated by Fang Ping, Yiwen Press, Shanghai, China, 2001.
    4. Fan Cunzhong, “A Syllabus of the History of English Literature,” The People’s Press, Sichuan Province, China, 1983.
    5. Lin Guangya, “A Short History of Foreign Literature,” Chongqing Press, China, 1983.
    6. Yang Jingyuan, “Research of Bronte Sisters,” China Social Science Press, 1983.
    7. Zhang Baixiang, “Selected Readings in English and American Literature,” Foreign Language Teaching and Research Press, China, 1998.
    8. Charlotte Bronte, Emily Bronte, Anne Bronte, “Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell,” London: Aylott and Jones, 8, Paternoster Row, 1846. p. 153-155.


    Note1: This paper is my unpublished B. A. degree paper (a small potato’s idea is usually and easily ignored by …) written about eight years ago. Now I’d like to share and discuss ideas with anyone who is truly interested in this novel. You may borrow ideas from this paper but a reference is a MUST.

    Note2: Some of the references (marked '*') in this paper are translated (from Chinese) by myself as it was difficult, when I was writing this paper, to find the original materials.

    My Blog: http://cid-8fe539936bbb1707.spaces.live.com/

  2. #2
    Registered User Yongen He's Avatar
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    Post The main contrast in Wuthering Heights

    The story is full of contracts: the two manor houses; the two Catherines in the novel; the two halves of the novel; the two generations of main characters; the two families; and the two general accepted themes of the novel, love and revenge (I don’t think the theme is love or revenge, for explanations, please read my blog). But no doubt, the major contract is the two loves in Catherine’s life, Heathcliff and Edgar, which is also the basic of the whole story. To explain this contrast, we must understand the difference between the two loves.
    Emily herself has stated it in chapter 9: “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods, time will change it… My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath”. In my opinion, the hint is that the love between man and woman always fade while eternal love stays forever only in artistic creations. And this is the DIFFERENCE. Heathcliff is a symbolization of Emily’s art she pursuits with her whole life while Edgar represents ordinary love which Emily would sacrifice for her artistic pursuit. If you are not convinced, also in this chapter: “Who is to separate us, pray? They will meet the fate of Milo… Every Linton on the earth might melt into nothing, before I could consent to forsake Heathcliff…” No one can separate a poet from her aspiration and, for a poet, she has to sacrifice a lot. There are other evidences in the book to support my idea.
    See my blog for more discussions on this point.
    Last edited by Yongen He; 08-06-2010 at 11:40 AM. Reason: spelling mistake

  3. #3
    Registered User Yongen He's Avatar
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    Post Wuthering Heights and Class Struggle

    Conflict is a basic foundation for Wuthering Heights, but is the conflict a reflection of class struggle? I think it is farfetched to boil down the hatred between Heathcliff and Edgar to class antagonism. If Emily really wants to reflect the cruelty of class struggle and find excuses for it, then what shall we explain the feelings of Hareton towards Heathcliff?
    In the last chapter: “But poor Hareton, the most wronged, was the only one that really suffered much. He sat by the corpse all night, weeping in bitter earnest”.
    There are other places in the book indicating Hareton’s fondness to Heathcliff. And there is no specific social background introduced intentionally (reflection of society is definitely not the subject of WH). In my opinion, the conflict between Heathcliff and Edgar is a visualization of Emily’s inner activity. Heathcliff is a representation of Emily’s spiritual world that she seeks after and Edgar is the symbol of all the good beings in reality to be chased by an ordinary person. Being a girl, Emily has longs to ordinary love; but being a poet, she probably knows that her soul belongs to her artistic creation. The torments an artist suffers from her spiritual world should not have anything to do with morality and the sacrifice to her career is not revenge. Again, there is nothing to do with class struggle but Emily’s monologue.
    For more discussions, please read my other articles.

  4. #4
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    While class struggle is the backdrop for Wuthering Height, I see Bronte's focus as radical ethics. Catherine first pities and soon becomes ferociously loyal to downtrodden Heathcliff. Her love for him is less romantic than ethical: although she is infinitely committed to him, a pragmatic romance with Edgar is viable so long as her ethical relationship with Heathcliff is undisturbed. But disturbed it is!

    Like most of us sheltering under a thin veneer of civilisation, Heathcliff does much evil. Eternally blind to faults in her beloved, Catherine echoes Kierkegaard's "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself". She suicides flying the standard of that ethical love for the unlovable Heathcliff. And throwing conventional hypocrisies to the wind, Emily Bronte roundly applauds.

    We later see echoes of Catherine's divine love in Hareton's mourning for the brutish Heathcliff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    Being a girl, Emily has longs to ordinary love
    The longings of Emily, poet and genius, far exceed mere ordinary love.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods, time will change it… My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath”
    Love which surpasses even the ethical is a major theme of Wuthering Heights. Love which is eternal, infinite and unchangeable is the Everest summit which Emily Bronte climbs in her monumental masterpiece.

    Following in her kind father's footsteps the young Catherine befriends Heathcliff, the wild outsider, and stands by him through the brutality of brother Hindley. Catherine's bond with Heathcliff is passionately eternal: I am Heathcliff. She is bonded by limitless affection rather than romantic love or lust. But unlike Isabella, she sensibly fears marriage to him.

    Catherine delays marriage to Edgar Linton vainly hoping to be reconciled with Heathcliff. A powerless female, she protests to high heaven when cruelly compelled to choose between friend and husband, between love-for-a-friend and marriage. In the end she assertively avenges herself against a harsh world.

    Catherine - like Emily Bronte herself - demands a world with love and integrity and, when England fails to deliver, she gives up her life rather than her principles. Above all, Catherine and Heathcliff have human failings, like all of us. Whereas our failings remain mostly hidden, Emily Bronte bravely bares all so that Wuthering Heights is the thoroughly disturbing and uncompromising novel.

    I must say I thoroughly enjoyed the excellent summary you provide of the novel.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    “……This (the passion between H and C) is not only an in-depth dissection of Emily’s inner feelings, but implies Emily’s unique understandings of love based on her inimitable philosophic belief.” * [3] 298
    Generally speaking, people with this idea believe that Wuthering Heights is mainly about a love romance.
    That Emily writes from unique understandings of love is likely; that her understanding pertains to a love romance seems to me most improbable.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    “With a keen and sensitive artistic insight and with a unique conception over ordinary ones, through the complex and implicative story, Emily explores the ‘human nature’ that interests her..."
    Makes sense to me.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    Being a poet, Emily takes the form of novel (not poem) to express her inner feelings. The reason of advancing spiritual-structure here is just because all the three characters are considered to be originated from and are intended to reflect Emily’s inner-world instead of the outside one; in a word, they have nothing to do with neither moral nor society.
    While this makes sense, "nothing to do with" seems overstatement.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    It is generally believed that one of the themes of Wuthering Heights is a love tragedy of Catherine and Heathcliff; however, as the story goes on, one can scarcely compare the passions between the two to ordinary love of man and woman.
    Perhaps Emily is critiquing our cultural hypocrisy, where we pretend all our personal relationships are civilised, unlike those of Catherine and Heathcliff.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    The death of the three main characters embodies the three phases of development of Emily’s inner world. The first is the selection of her literary soul; the second is her painful departure from common love and the third is the ultimate union with literary art. The three phases also correspond with the three Catherines in the novel (Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Linton and Catherine Heathcliff).
    Your art thesis, laid out in great detail, seems rather contrived and, as far as I can see, lacking in solid evidence. Here's my take on the novel:

    Wuthering Heights plays on our hopes and aspirations like a powerful emotional magnet; detachment is impossible. I almost see in Catherine I, Emily Bronte: the far too intelligent, rebellious and courageous young woman, dying of TB in a man's world - cruel, hostile and thankless - a world in which life is too short. Emily Bronte's modernist characters struggle heroically in our chaotic, desperate and non-linear world. There is something of the epic in Catherine and Heathcliff, considering their tortured backgrounds. Above all, the unalloyed integrity of Catherine is admirable, if terrifying.

    The insightful Catherine lives in the straight-jacket of a suffocating culture, riddled with sham and cant. Tradition, manners, expectations all pressure her to act against her instincts, and with stifled integrity. But in the end she fights back in a truly shocking, outrageous and authentic way. She does not, in a conventional sense, commit suicide; nor is she simply a narcissist. She acts defiantly and courageously within the crippling constraints imposed on her. While lacking her courage, I see aspects of my own life reflected in hers.

    Probably beyond our empathy, Catherine I inspires our respect and wonder - mingled with horror. Larger than life, she reminds me of King Lear. The ever reasonable Lockwood and Ellen understand nothing!
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  5. #5
    Registered User Yongen He's Avatar
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    Post

    Hi, Gladys, it really great to see your comments and ideas and it is my purpose to let people discuss my ideas, thanks.
    I partly agree with your idea:
    "Love which surpasses even the ethical is a major theme of Wuthering Heights. Love which is eternal, infinite and unchangeable is the Everest summit which Emily Bronte climbs in her monumental masterpiece."
    But there are various kinds of loves, the love of a daughter to her father, the love of a patriot to his country, the love of a wife to her husband etc. Any of which could be overwhelming. But what happens if any of these surpasses our ethical baseline? To discuss a love and judge it, we need first understand what kind of love it is. Love of Heathcliff and Catherine as friends is probably not so attractive and I do not like to see such a devastating friendship destroy the two families and so painfully. In my opinion, Heathcliff is a visualization of Emily’s spiritual world and the love between Heathcliff and Catherine, as discussed in my essay, is an implicitly expressed passion of Emily to her artistic world, it is not a love between persons. Morality is a concept on the basis of people relationships; it’s changeable and has different standards against certain societies. Thus, the words “nothing to do with” does make sense if the story is but Emily’s inner conflicts. The ‘misdoings’ of Heathcliff are not commits of common sense but Emily’s inner sufferings on pursuit of her art (we may feel it in her poems as well).
    Yes, “The death of the three main characters embodies the three phases of development of Emily’s inner world.” is lack of solid evidence, it is only a hypothesis. Thanks!
    Last edited by Yongen He; 08-14-2010 at 01:32 PM.

  6. #6
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    Love of Heathcliff and Catherine as friends is probably not so attractive and I do not like to see such a devastating friendship destroy the two families and so painfully.
    I see the extraordinary in Catherine's love for unlovable Heathcliff, not vice versa except perhaps in the dying Heathcliff. Catherine, while lacking strong romantic attachment, clings to Heathcliff unto death! It's well nigh impossible to empathize with Heathcliff, yet Catherine does and does so absolutely, unconditionally.

    Her morality is in the moment, subjective, existential, heroic - like Dostoevsky's idiot: Prince Myshkin. That Heathcliff commits mayhem after her death is hardly her fault. Heathcliff was always damaged goods.

    Quote Originally Posted by Yongen He View Post
    Thus, the words “nothing to do with” does make sense if the story is but Emily’s inner conflicts.
    The story is about Emily’s inner conflicts. She rails at a world where integrity and love are diluted, devalued and corrupted. Catherine courageously carries forward Emily's reforming banner.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  7. #7
    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    It's difficult to say why Catherine was so attracted to Heathcliff initially. There seems to have been some sort of inexplicable chemistry between them, at least as far as Catherine was concerned. She seems to identify with him completely.

    IMO, the way she clings to Heathcliff (while apparently not requiring a sexual relationship with him) shows her immaturity and her lack of options. She wishes to remain a little girl forever, roaming the moors with Heathcliff. She knows this isn't practically possible, and so she decides to marry Edgar.

    I agree that the story is about Emily's inner conflicts, but a more simple conflict between what one wishes to do - stay at home, write poetry and roam the beloved moors, and what one has to do (for survival) which is grow up, go out, exert yourself to earn a living, irksome though it may be.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

  8. #8
    the beloved: Gladys's Avatar
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    a more simple conflict

    Quote Originally Posted by mona amon View Post
    I agree that the story is about Emily's inner conflicts, but a more simple conflict between what one wishes to do - stay at home, write poetry and roam the beloved moors, and what one has to do (for survival) which is grow up, go out, exert yourself to earn a living, irksome though it may be.
    Everything biographical I've read on Emily Bronte, as well as her poetry, suggests a woman of the intellectual sophistication of a Dostoevsky or a Henry James. And unlike sisters Charlotte or Anne, the reclusive Emily was said to possess a blatantly masculine intensity and outlook. Charlotte certainly thought so. Therefore "a more simple conflict" seems less than probable.
    "Love does not alter the beloved, it alters itself"

  9. #9
    Registered User mona amon's Avatar
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    Umm...I don't know. I wasn't suggesting that Emily was simple. But the characters' emotions and conflicts do seem simple to me. Deep, intense, elemental, yes, but complex? No.
    Exit, pursued by a bear.

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