The Victorian Elements in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontё

Topics: Wuthering Heights, Victorian era, Catherine Earnshaw Pages: 9 (3665 words) Published: November 15, 2011
"The Victorian elements in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontё"

The Victorian Era, in which Brontё composed Wuthering Heights, receives its name from the reign of Queen Victoria of England. The era was a great age of the English novel, which was the ideal form to descibe contemporary life and to entertain the middle class. Emily, born in 1818, lived in a household in the countryside in Yorkshire, locates her fiction in the worlds she knows personally. In addition, she makes the novel even more personal by reflecting her own life and experiences in both characters and action of Wuthering Heights. In fact, many characters in the novel grow up motherless, reflecting Emily’s own childhood, as her mother died when Emily was three years old. Similarly, the vast majority of the novel takes place in two households, which probably is a reflection of author’s own comfort at home as whenever she was away from home she grew homesick. Emily Brontё’s single novel is a unique masterpiece propelled by a vision of elemental passions but controlled by an uncompromising artistic sense. However, despite the relative invisibility of Victorian influence in the plot and content, the attitudes of the Victorian Era make some impact on the story, and the novel is considered not only a form of entertainment but also a means of analyzing and offering solutions to social and political problems. Brontё may not highlight the social aspects in the novel, nevertheless the indications of Victorian society’s problems are significant. By provinding characters such as Heathcliff, Lockwood, and Catherine, she communicates various aspects of homelessness. The life of the Ernshaw family changes for good the night an orphan child arrives at Wuthering Heights. The boy is being named Heathcliff, “the name thus signifies his acceptance but also his difference and implied inferiority; in lacking the family name, he lacks full membership in the family” (Lamonica 98). He is a nameless, parentless street urchin whom Nelly calls a “gipsy brat” (Bronё 36). However, Heathcliff’s origin is not an obstacle for a Victorian family to foster him, in spite of class differences. The homelessness in Wuthering heights is also symbolized by Mr. Lockwood’s arrival. Without a roof over his head, aware of a risk of potential loss of life, he seeks a shelter from storm. The shelter he finds at Wuthering Heights is not a home, though. “As soon as he enters Wuthering Heights, Lockwood senses his exile. The return home is impossible without a guide, and Wuthering Heights, of course, can offer him none” (Jacobs 108). The entire episode of Lockwood’s visit is an allegory of homelessness and excommunication. When he enters the chamber, he has a horrible vision of Catherine as achild, appearing at the window, begging to be allowed in. “ ‘Let me in - let me in’ ’Who are you?’ I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself. ‘Catherine Linton’ replied, shiverringly (…) I’m come home, I’d lost my way on the moor!” (Brontё 24) Her ghost visits Wuthering Heights, as this is the house she considers to be her heaven, the place she really belongs. Thrushcross Grange become her place of exile, and she finds herself an outcast from her true home. She is the ultimate figure of homelessness because she is the one who creates her exile as a conscious act of the imagination. The homelessness in Wuthering Heights appears in different ways. In addition to the vagrant ghost trying to come back to the real home, the fact of Lockwood temporarily having no place to stay, we also have the litertal homelessness as an aspect of social problems represented by Heathcliff living on the streets. In the beginning, the homeless child, Heathcliff,   was treated equally as a member of the family, but after Mr. Ernshaw’s death, everybody, except for Catherine, abused him in any manner or regard   they wanted. Because Mr. Ernshaw favoures Heathcliff over his own son, Hindley, the latter becomes jealous of the former, and...
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