Chapter 1 of Phd Thesis

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Wuthering Heights---Thoughts and Language Pattern

Winifred Gérin, in her biographical landmark, Emily Brontë, quotes a section of a review of Emily Brontë’s sole novel, Wuthering Heights, in the Atheneum, dated 25 December, 1847, in the column, ‘Our Literary Table’:

… In spite of much power and cleverness, in spite of its truth to life in the remote corners of England, ---Wuthering Heights is a disagreeable story. … interiors so gloomy as the one here elabor- ated with such dismal minuteness. …

(Emily Brontë, p. 210)

Gérin also refers to another reviewer, Sydney Dobell, reviewing Wuthering Heights in 1850, who declared---although crediting Currer Bell with being the author of Wuthering Heights---‘…that certain pages in Wuthering Heights were ‘the masterpiece of a poet,’ and that he was at a loss ‘to find anywhere in modern prose…such wealth and economy, such apparent ease, such instinctive art.’1

Reading Wuthering Heights almost one hundred and sixty four years after its controversial and under-acclaimed publication in 1847, under the pseudonym ‘Ellis Bell’, we are still discussing the ‘masterful amalgam of voices as well as the breadth and imagination of its vision.’2

Wuthering Heights is extraordinary and astonishing in more ways than one. The most outstanding element of this novel is its theme, which is nothing short of a Warfield of conflicts---emotional conflicts, class conflicts, conflicts between conventional codes of morality and unconventional, almost Blakeian morality, conflicts between romance and reality, and conflicts between nature and nurture. The ‘worlds of Heaven and Hell’---to quote one of Emily Brontë’s poems---are ‘centred’ in this novel, in a passionately human experience of both. Wuthering Heights has astonished and baffled readers. The source and meaning, and the devices of the story, its origin and ends and means, have been disputed no end. Questions about Heathcliff being a villain-hero---similar to Shakespeare’s Macbeth---Catherine Earnshaw’s loyalties, the Catherine Earnshaw-Heathcliff relationship against the Catherine Linton-Hareton Earnshaw one, the different values associated with the two houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, the credibility of the two narrators, Lockwood and Nelly Dean, the spread of the Yorkshire moors and the spread of the mind-maps of the characters, the end of the story, and at what cost peace has been won (if at all) at the end of the tragic meanderings of the main characters, the novelist’s thoughts and language pattern, have combined to keep alive our interest in this novel for such a long time.

In 1832, when Charlotte Brontë went away to school at Roe Head, Emily and Anne Brontë started creating the Gondal saga. Gondal was another world altogether and though none of the Gondal prose has survived, we can glimpse in the large number of Gondal poems, that Emily Brontë wrote, the first sketchy contours of Wuthering Heights. Gondal was a female-dominated royalist world where strong-willed women sovereigns ruled like tyrants, took and did away with lovers and husbands at will, and died violent deaths in the bleak Gondal landscape of heath-covered moors. Fierce outlaws and rebels stalked the moors, while shackled prisoners languished in dank, dark dungeons and proclaimed their inner freedom and righteousness. They cursed their captors with their last breaths.

Even as early as this, Emily Brontë was preoccupied with woman’s power and social forces which threatened it, with her particular idea of the Byronic hero, and with an ideal of relentless, passionate romantic love that recognizes no social or moral boundaries and survives all that would serve to destroy it, including death itself....
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