Feminist' Ideas in Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights"

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Women’s rights have been a question greatly discussed for quite some time, and the debate is still continuing despite the possibilities offered to women today. Feminism nowadays has evolved into a movement in a number of directions, starting with women equality and ending with homosexuality. However, feminism originally is an ideology that is based on equal political, economic and social rights for women. Feminism theory deals with analysing women’s social roles and experiences in relation to gender inequality. Traces of this ideology are vastly represented and can be found in a number of literary works, as notable examples are novels written by female authors (the Brontë sisters, Elizabeth Gaskell, George Eliot and others) during the Age of Realism. The Age of Realism/the Victorian period was a crucial period in world’s literature. It was a period in which writers discarded idealizing and romanticizing and instead opted for depicting things as they were. In addition the new approach to writing, the Victorian period is also noteworthy for new beliefs upon a number of things in human life, including, social environment, perception of personality and individual as such; moreover, the period was even more significant due to the changes in women’s lives. The 19th century was a time during which women were fighting to obtain certain rights that were not delegated to them before, e.g. as education was expanding, women had the chance to be educated; they also had the option to financially support themselves by working. This fight is one of many representations of feminism theory as we know it today. Female authors of the time used their writings to emphasize their rights to come out of submission enforced on them and make a life on their own without the burden of men dominion. ‘Many women assumed the opportunity of using the life they saw around them to construct novels which would capture a picture of contemporary life as well as attract readers to identify themselves to the characters presented.’ (Online 1) One of the most prominent female writers in 19th century was Emily Brontë with her novel Wuthering Heights. This essay will concentrate on the representation of feminism by the use of women characters in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, namely Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Linton (Cathy), Nelly Dean and Isabella Linton. Each of these characters illustrates the power possessed by women, the hopes and feelings of women – their inner world. This novel is a wonderful representation of the life of women under the authority of men, and of women as individuals and their fight for a better (more independent) life - aspects that will be analysed in this essay. Emily Brontë has chosen to include in her novel Wuthering Heights a number of female characters. Each of her characters is different and each of them has their own part in expressing the author’s beliefs and viewpoints on matters concerning women lives and their rights. These characters are her contribution to feminism. Simone de Beauvoir in her Introduction to the Second Sex (1949: 323) states that ‘throughout history they (women) have always been subordinated to men, and hence their dependency is not the result of a historical event or a social change – it was not something that occurred.’ Male dominance is a continuous process of life, as we do live a man’s world and that is obvious in the novel, as women are highly dependent on men. Moreover, de Beauvoir (ibid: 321) quotes Benda:

‘The body of man makes sense in itself quite apart from that of woman, whereas the latter seems wanting in significance by itself…Man can think of himself without a woman. She cannot think of herself without man.’

This position is emphasized in Wuthering Heights through the character of Nelly Dean.Nelly has a clear understanding of her position in any household, she refers to herself as ‘a servant merely’. Her connection to the order of relationship...
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