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Thread: Wuthering Heights & Heathcliff as the inversion of a colonial master

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    Wuthering Heights & Heathcliff as the inversion of a colonial master

    I teach AP history, and my students are simply riveted in looking at Heathcliff -- not as as a Byronic hero -- but rather as an inversion of a colonial master.

    Any thoughts on his origins? Gypsy? African?

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    Registered User rachel_bookworm's Avatar
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    I studied wuthering heights as part of my english literature degree, and wrote an essay on Heathcliff. I read an article on his Irish origins
    : Terry Eagleton's Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture

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    Does it matter?

    Quote Originally Posted by AP Teacher View Post
    I teach AP history, and my students are simply riveted in looking at Heathcliff -- not as as a Byronic hero -- but rather as an inversion of a colonial master.

    Any thoughts on his origins? Gypsy? African?
    #


    Although critics like Eagleton have suggested Irish heritage, others African, others gypsy etc etc, I think it's best to take Heathcliff's heritage as ambiguously as it is offered to us. More importantly he is denied the status of being white, which plays a more important role in the novel than his actual ethinicity. Reading WH through critics like bell hooks/fanon make a firm case for this.

    Interestingly Charlotte attaches the same ambiguity to Bertha Mason, albeit her heritage is more detailed, she is again denied the status of being white.

    Hope this helps.

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    Great quote on this by Bratlinger along the lines of colonised subjects like Heathcliff could not be civilized because they can only ‘mimic’ the white man’s behaviour. Also a really nice linking between 'control of the black gaze' and allusions to "black eyes" in WH

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    I donīt see anything colonial about Heathcliff.
    Thatīs how Heathcliff comes to Wuthering Heights, a homeless boy found in the streets of Liverpool:
    "We crowded round, and over Miss Cathy's head I had a peep at a dirty, ragged, black-haired child; big enough
    both to walk and talk: indeed, its face looked older than Catherine's; yet when it was set on its feet, it only
    stared round, and repeated over and over again some gibberish that nobody could understand. I was
    frightened, and Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling it out of doors: she did fly up, asking how he could fashion
    to bring that gipsy brat into the house, when they had their own bairns to feed and fend for? What he meant to
    do with it, and whether he were mad? The master tried to explain the matter; but he was really half dead with
    fatigue, and all that I could make out, amongst her scolding, was a tale of his seeing it starving, and houseless,
    and as good as dumb, in the streets of Liverpool, where he picked it up and inquired for its owner. Not a soul
    knew to whom it belonged, he said; and his money and time being both limited, he thought it better to take it
    home with him at once, than run into vain expenses there: because he was determined he would not leave it as
    he found it."
    http://www.online-literature.com/for...56#post1359556
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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    On the road, but not! Danik 2016's Avatar
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    Bertha Mason is another matter:
    “‘I affirm and can prove that on the 20th of October A.D. --- (a date of fifteen years back), Edward Fairfax Rochester, of Thornfield Hall, in the county of ---, and of Ferndean Manor, in ---shire, England, was married to my sister, Bertha Antoinetta Mason, daughter of Jonas Mason, merchant, and of Antoinetta his wife, a Creole, at --- church, Spanish Town, Jamaica. The record of the marriage will be found in the register of that church—a copy of it is now in my possession. Signed, Richard Mason.’”
    https://www.gutenberg.org/files/1260/1260-h/1260-h.htm
    "You can always find something better than death."
    Jacob and Wilhelm Grimm, The Bremen Town Musicians

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