How does Emily Bronte use Gothic elements to enhance the novel ‘Wuthering Heights’? Discuss how Daphne Du Maurier’s ‘Jamaica Inn’ illuminates this.
In the Victorian era we saw the revival of gothic literature; it fictionalised contemporary fears such as ethical degeneration, unmediated spiritual beliefs against a stern religious faith and also questioned the social structure of the time. Although written almost 100 years apart both Wuthering Heights and Jamaica Inn share many themes and components. Both novels thoroughly enhance the Gothic genre and contain many of the key elements you would expect. In Victorian Britain Gothic literature contained many features of the supernatural, both psychological and physical, such as; mystery, ghosts, death, doubles, madness, religion, entrapment and hereditary curses. Gothic is said to shadow the progress of modernity with counter-narratives displaying the underside of enlightenment and humanist values. Many Gothic novels consist of fragmented narration, and Wuthering Heights is no exception, it is seen from multiple viewpoints giving the reader a sense of uncertainty over what is true and imagined. Wuthering Heights is told as a Chinese box structure – stories within stories with several narrators, this effectively manipulates the reader repeatedly throughout the novel by giving views from different perspective. Bronte did this deliberately to rebel against the norms of Victorian Society which ‘provoked hostility from literary critics’ as ‘the novel’s fragmented structure permits little security for the reader’1. The narration throughout Wuthering Heights is constantly split between that of Lockwood and Nelly. Bronte uses pathetic fallacy in order to create Gothic imagery, we see this technique used when there is a snowstorm that traps Lockwood at the Heights. Interestingly, the violent snowstorm occurs on the day Lockwood has his violent and graphic nightmare. Also storms occur on both the night of Mr Earnshaw’s death and the night Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights. The novels are set in the desolate, wild mist of the moors similar to those on which Bronte grew up and Du Maurier liked to call home. The moors reflect a Gothic landscape; they’re distant and isolated from society. Both Jamaica Inn and Wuthering Heights can be seen as a threatening, sexually rapacious, masculine world in which women are trapped and persecuted, women symbolise authority and psychological constraint. Structurally, the mood of the weather foreshadows bad things to come, when the weather changes so does the attitudes and behaviour of the characters, ‘on that bleak hilltop the earth was hard with a black frost, and the air made me shiver through every limb’ the coldness of the air represents the cold, bitter mood at the end of the chapter of Lockwood and Catherine. Similarly, as the weather in Wuthering Heights reflects the behaviour of its characters so does that of Jamaica Inn. Our first encounter of the Inn is on a dark, forbidding night on which Mary can hardly see the harsh landscape that awaits her, she’s met with ‘no trees, no lanes, no cluster of cottages or hamlets, but mile upon mile of bleak moorland, dark and untraversed’ the new landscape she now Word count = 428
calls home largely contrasts with the ‘gentle rain that fell in Helford, a rain that pattered in the many trees and lost itself in the lush grass’ that she has now had to leave behind. The darkness hides the Inn but yet it also hides the true nature of her Uncle and his men. The darkness surrounding the Inn is a cloak which covers the activities that occur within its grounds ‘she could see tall chimneys, murky dim in the darkness’, darkness is a metaphorical to mask for the men’s sinister ways. The traditional Gothic theme of violence occurs regularly throughout Wuthering Heights. The protagonist Heathcliff embodies much of this violence throughout the novel, his vengeful machinations drive the plot and his death ends the...
Bibliography: Gilbert Sandra and Gubar Susan, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, 1979, Yale Nota Bene
Jackson Rosemary, Fantasy: The Literature of Subversion, 1981, Methuen &Co Ltd
Swindle Julia, Victorian Writing and Working Women; The Other Side of Silence, 1985, Minneapoli: University of Minnesota press
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