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Thread: Is Wuthering Heights a proto-vampire story

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Is Wuthering Heights a proto-vampire story

    I was just wondering whether Wuthering Heights was some sort of proto-vampire book when in the last chapter Nelly herself wonders whether Heathcliff is a ghoul or a vampire. I was surprised as I did not think vampires had been discovered till later. I have not watched any of the Twilight films (and I don't intend to neither) but it struck me there were some similarities between Wuthering Heights, Twilight, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and other vampire films and television series. Heathcliff can stand bright sunlight; bibles, wooden crosses, garlic and holy water might annoy him but would not be sufficient to ward him off; and although driving a wooden stake through his heart would kill him, so would other methods of execution. However, there are some similarities:

    • Heathcliff is evil (like most vampires).
    • Heathcliff and Catherine continue to walk the Earth after death and do not find rest.
    • Heathcliff has no hope of salvation, neither does he want it.
    • Heathcliff's idea of heaven is close to torment.
    • Heathcliff's love for Catherine is eternal (rather like some vampire love stories).
    • Heathcliff's love for Catherine is rather chaste.
    • Heathcliff is tall, strong, rather dark with long, black hair.
    • Heathcliff forms one point of a love triangle with Catherine as the apex (a bit like Twilight I believe).
    Last edited by kev67; 11-10-2012 at 07:29 PM.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    In the fog Charles Darnay's Avatar
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    Vampire stories became popular in the 19th century - Dracula and Camilla probably being the best example.

    I would not call WH a proto-vampire story. It is a Gothic novel that has some fun playing around with certain Gothic tropes (kind of like Austen's Northanger Abbey)
    I wrote a poem on a leaf and it blew away...

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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    As Charles said, vampire stories and the supernatural, such as ghosts, monsters, etc. became popular in the 19th century, but they gained popularity in the late 18th century already. Although it is maybe worth to remember that the Brontës more than other authors of their time incorporated a folkish element in their writing (although maybe not Anne, judging by her Tenant, that novel was quite traditional). If you take Hardy, for example, he incorporates nature and counry beliefs, but Charlotte and Emily Brontë play with it more. Emily in paticular, although she only wrote one novel, shows that she worked with that knowledge of the supernatural. Faeries (or fairies), elfs, sprites, will-'o-the-wisps, changelings and things were very much real to those people. I think the last case of murder due to such beliefs was already in the 20th century in Ireland (I think) where a husband was acquitted for killing his wife in the most horrendous manner (burnt her alive with the petrol from a kerosine lamp) because he thought she was a fairy. That's quite sad, but it shows that country folk in the deepest and darkest areas of the Celtic world were still very much focused on that and really did believe it was real. It is something people in London could not really gasp, I expect.

    [LIST][*]Heathcliff is evil (like most vampires).
    I don't think he starts out as necessarily 'evil'. I think he becomes evil. How much Hindley had to do with that, I don't know.


    • Heathcliff and Catherine continue to walk the Earth after death and do not find rest.
    I don't know about that. It is true that she can't find any rest and keeps climbing the wall towards the window of Heathcliff's bedroom, but SPOILER NOVEL END the open window at the end and Heathcliff reachin out with his arm, suggest that both have found rest in heaven together. Even though he opens the window earlier, he cannot each her. SPOILER NPVEL END OVER

    • Heathcliff has no hope of salvation, neither does he want it.
    I think there is hope of salvation and redemption. judging by the weird smile on his face (Nellie remarks this) close to the end and the weird turn in his ways. He is no longer abrupt and nasty, he even smiles! That's something he hadn't done since he had returned.

    • Heathcliff's idea of heaven is close to torment.
    That might be because he is temporarily possessed in some way. If you take the Faust course devils and demons find the idea of heaven abhorrent, much as vampires are repelled by crosses, metal (I think too) and garlic. If you confront a possessed person with a Christian idea, they allegedly typically get scared. Similarly, when it comes to fairies and changelings (fairy babies looking like your baby which replace your baby to be educated by you and then be abducted later, I believe, aftr you've done your work), if you show them across, they start laughing. You might fid this ridiculous, but people really did these tests with their babies if they were in doubt. Baking bread in an eggshell was also popular. The point I a making is that it is not unthinkable that Heathcliff is posessed in some way.

    • Heathcliff is tall, strong, rather dark with long, black hair.
    The fact he was dark and had dark hair in 19th century lit suggests from the beginning he is not going to be any good (same as the black horse), but it does not necessaily suggest he is evil or from another world per se.

    • Heathcliff forms one point of a love triangle with Catherine as the apex (a bit like Twilight I believe).
    Then Twilight could have been inspired on WH. I haven't read Dracula, but there were piles of things like it. Frankenstein and Dracula were only the culmination (and maybe to some extent) the best and most timeless of that genre. They are now considered as the start of it for modern novels, but they had had a long tradition before them. Maybe the earlier ones were more focused on the supernatural and less on the human aspect of things. That's why Dracula and Frankenstein have stayed and the rest has somewhat faded.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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    Heathcliff is the quintessential Byronic hero. Heathcliff's not like a vampire, authors like Stephanie Meyer want their vampires to be more like Heathcliff. Even Polidori's Vampyre, which is arguably the prototype of the modern vampire, came after and was based on characters like Byron's Childe Harold and Manfred.

    Funnily enough, I read Twilight when it first came out. If I remember correctly, the author makes a point of mentioning that Wuthering Heights is Bella's favourite novel. I think Edward mentions that he can 'relate' to Heathcliff.
    Last edited by MementoMori; 11-11-2012 at 10:25 AM.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post

    I don't know about that. It is true that she can't find any rest and keeps climbing the wall towards the window of Heathcliff's bedroom, but SPOILER NOVEL END the open window at the end and Heathcliff reachin out with his arm, suggest that both have found rest in heaven together. Even though he opens the window earlier, he cannot each her. SPOILER NPVEL END OVER



    I think there is hope of salvation and redemption. judging by the weird smile on his face (Nellie remarks this) close to the end and the weird turn in his ways. He is no longer abrupt and nasty, he even smiles! That's something he hadn't done since he had returned.
    I doubt Heathcliff would find salvation and redemption, at least he would not get past St Peter. In the last chapter he refuses Nelly's suggestion to call for a minister and tells her: "I have nearly attained my heaven; and that of others is altogether unvalued and uncoveted by me."

    Then there is the best bit right near the end where Nelly recounts:

    'I was going to the Grange one evening - a dark evening, threatening thunder - and, just at the turn of the Heights, I encountered a little boy with a sheep and two lambs before him; he was crying terribly, and I supposed the lambs were skittish, and would not be guided.
    "What is the matter, my little man?" I asked.
    "There's Heathcliff and a woman, yonder, under t'nab," he blubbered, "un' I darnut pass 'em."
    I saw nothing; but neither the sheep nor he would go on; so I bid him take the road lower down.'


    So, I doubt neither of them are going anywhere.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    I beg to differ. The fact he doesn't want a priest to confess to (which would line him up for heaven), maybe be baptised and receive the last rites by does not mean he rejects it all together.
    Emily herself had a very puritanical and metaphysical view of God and would scorn anything that had to do with the church itself. Nellie also expresses this when she proposes to Heathcliff to get a priest of any denomintion 'to show [him] how very far [he has] erred from [the Bible's] precepts; and how unfit [he] will be for its heaven, unless a change takes place before [he dies]'. Heathcliff rejects the idea of a Biblical heaven, or an established heaven, so to say, but the thing he does not reject is the idea of heaven in itself. Indeed, he says he has seen his heaven and has escaped hell.
    Emily's strange ideas led to her sister claiming that she stood silent in church and found all Christians wretches. That led to Emily being called a heathen, which she was clearly not. She only did not believe that priests or other people had anyting to do with your road to heaven and that God was in anything and everywhere (Rousseau-esque).

    Heathclff's last days are reminiscent of Jean Valjean's death in Les Misérables where he sees an angel (thought to be Myriel) who will carry him up to heaven. Faust too is saved and carried up to heaven by angels. Although in Heathcliff's case it is clearly Catherine who has come to his bed (the pannelled bed where they were caught in their adolescence) and spent a kind of wedding night, judging by Heathcliff's pre-occupation later. The fact he doesn't eat may be a reference to the very old adage that love is a kind of illness (very prevalent in medieval literature, but it carried on later). He stares to the other end of the table, we may presume because she is sitting there. The riddle of who is with him on his nightly rambles and in the room is resolved a little later when he stays downstairs and walks the room, whispering 'a low term of endearment or suffering; and spoken as one would speak to a person present; low and earnest, and wrung from the depth of his soul.' By all means, it is like a honeymoon, only with a seemingly non-existent person.

    Nellie also rejects the idea that Heathcliff and Catherine roam the neighbourhood in any way. Putting it down to silly supersticion of country folk, although she is not above it, apparently, because she doesn't like to be out alone at night, now... The fact remains that Lockwood 'wonder[s] how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.' This idea crops up repeatedly and is dismissed every time in the same way.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by kiki1982 View Post
    I beg to differ. The fact he doesn't want a priest to confess to (which would line him up for heaven), maybe be baptised and receive the last rites by does not mean he rejects it all together.
    Yikes! Emily as the daughter of a pre-Tractarian Anglican vicar with Methodist sympathies would never have considered aural confession a standard necessary, nor known anything of any last rites. (The Book of Common Prayer does make provision for the Visitation of the Sick and the celebration of the Holy Communion at home, but they were not widely used. Communion for the reserved sacrament and anointing - both parts of the catholic last rites - would not have been practiced in the Church of England at that time.)
    Previously JonathanB

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    The view of WH as a evil-good battle is a huge mistake. It is more a late romantic work, where Rousseau ideas about education and the natural man are put in cheek by the Byronic Character in Heathcliff. He reacts against his inferior position in society, his lack of education and reacts like a rebel, destroying all in his way. But ultimatelly, he fails to reproduce the same "story" with the second generaiton, which is probally the only "redemption" in the views of Emily. Things in WH are mixed, grey like the scenary.

    And this is certainly not vampiric in any sense (if anything, the ideas had more in commun with Frankstein).

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    Registered User Jackson Richardson's Avatar
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    Deleted as irrelevant to discussion.
    Last edited by Jackson Richardson; 11-12-2012 at 03:57 PM.
    Previously JonathanB

    The more I read, the more I shall covet to read. Robert Burton The Anatomy of Melancholy Partion3, Section 1, Member 1, Subsection 1

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    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    I don't think it's about vampires. The supernatural has been around since literature began and what with all that Romanticism, it's a Gothic novel rather than a vampire one.

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Maybe Heathcliff and Catherine are not vampires as they were, but maybe vampires as they have become in the last generation or so. Vampires used to be ugly people with fangs who flew around as bats, or young hotties who were really up for it. In the last generation or so, they seem to have become romantic, brooding presences with tortured souls and a sort of greyish tinge to their skin. Apart from Twilight, Heathcliff and Catherine remind me of Angel and Buffy, and Spike and Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by ruggerlad View Post
    Yikes! Emily as the daughter of a pre-Tractarian Anglican vicar with Methodist sympathies would never have considered aural confession a standard necessary, nor known anything of any last rites. (The Book of Common Prayer does make provision for the Visitation of the Sick and the celebration of the Holy Communion at home, but they were not widely used. Communion for the reserved sacrament and anointing - both parts of the catholic last rites - would not have been practiced in the Church of England at that time.)
    The last rites (I am a Catholic, so I'm sorry if I presume here) or something similar would have been performed on a sick and dying person. What do you otherwise need a priest for apart from to pray for you? You can ask him to do that at home. Although it is probably not in the same form, and it is not considered a sacrament, it still has and had a place. It has been included as a kind of sacrament since the 20th century in The Book of Common Prayer, alhough the problem with its inclusion or exclusion is clearly that Anglicans do not agree on whether it is a sacrament or not. At this moment it is included as not a sacrament under the gospel.
    As the Church of England, which Patrick Brontë essentially ministered for (whatever leanings he may have had), came from the Catholic Church, a lot more than the Lutheran Church, and all Christian churches have some way of reassuring the dying, I would suggest that taking confession, laying on hands and praying with the dying to receive God's grace is a fundamental part of a minister's job.

    Whether you call that the last rites or not or whether you argue about confession or not is irrelevant, the point is that Heathcliff would have accepted faith in God, forgiven (by) his foes, confessed his sins etc. That at least is what is in my husband's copy of it. I don't suppose it is too different from what a Patrick Brontë would have done for a dying member of his congregation.
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

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    Registered User kev67's Avatar
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    Nelly said any denomination of minister would do. I suppose that would include Anglican, Catholic, Baptist or Methodist or whoever was around.
    According to Aldous Huxley, D.H. Lawrence once said that Balzac was 'a gigantic dwarf', and in a sense the same is true of Dickens.
    Charles Dickens, by George Orwell

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    Quote Originally Posted by kev67 View Post
    Maybe Heathcliff and Catherine are not vampires as they were, but maybe vampires as they have become in the last generation or so. Vampires used to be ugly people with fangs who flew around as bats, or young hotties who were really up for it. In the last generation or so, they seem to have become romantic, brooding presences with tortured souls and a sort of greyish tinge to their skin. Apart from Twilight, Heathcliff and Catherine remind me of Angel and Buffy, and Spike and Drusilla from Buffy the Vampire Slayer.
    They just are not vampires. Ghosts and faeries were as popular and usual on gothic literature then (more popular even) and vampires just dint turn in bats back then or anything near it. WH makes references to WH, not WH makes references to a XX century literary fashion.

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    The deathbed conversion would have been a recognizable trope to 19th century readers, usually the turn around would occur in the company of a priest.
    "If the national mental illness of the United States is megalomania, that of Canada is paranoid schizophrenia."
    - Margaret Atwood

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