Wuthering Heights: Conflict Between Savage and Civilised

Topics: Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë, Catherine Earnshaw Pages: 5 (1617 words) Published: August 23, 2013
The conflict between nature and civilization in Wuthering Heights

As Charlotte Bronte mentioned on sister Emily’s Wuthering Heights: ”…She did not know what she had done;” creative artists “work passively under dictates [they] neither delivered nor could question.”

I can say that Emily Bronte knew what she was doing when approaching the issues of the Wuthering Heights. The antagonic play between nature and culture in Bronte’s vision were of great impact at the time and I could say that this is a reason why Wuthering Heights is a literary masterpiece.

The Romantic elements come together and offer us beautiful and intense images. First, the “strange” story: non-normative, original, powerful, imaginative. Then the characters, intense, passionate, violent – we can easily notice the emotional excess. Then another romantic element, the super-natural brought to light by the anti-rational and by the primitive folk legends. We also must note the internal and external conflicts: nature vs. civilization, wild vs. tame, natural impulses vs. artificial restraint.

In order to understand the conflict between nature and civilization in Wuthering Heights, we must first analyze the main characters, representing in their own way the nature and the civilized world. The Earnshaw family comes together with nature when the Lintons are a symbol for the culture. A representative member of the Earnshaw family is Catherine. She is beautiful and charming, but she is never as civilized as she pretends to be. In her heart she is always a wild girl playing on the moors with Heathcliff. She regards it as her right to be loved by all, and has an unruly temper. Heathcliff usually calls her Cathy and, very interesting, Edgar usually calls her Catherine. Heathcliff is another distinct member of the Earnshaw family. He is of unknown descent, and he seems to represent the wild and natural forces which often seem amoral and dangerous for society. His devotion, almost inhuman, to Catherine is the moving force in his life. He is cruel but magnificent in his consistency, and we, as readers, can never forget the fact that at the heart of the grown man lies the abandoned, child of the streets in Liverpool. On the other hand we have the Lintons. Edgar Linton, in contrast to Heathcliff, is a gently bred, a refined man, a patient husband and a loving father. Charlotte Bront�, in her preface to the 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights, refers to Edgar as "an example of constancy and tenderness," and goes on to suggest that her sister Emily was using Edgar to point out that such characteristics constitute true virtues in all human beings, and not just in women, as society tended to believe. However, Charlotte's reading seems influenced by her own feminist agenda. Edgar's inability to counter Heathcliff's vengeance, and his naïve belief on his deathbed in his daughter's safety and happiness, make him a weak, if sympathetic, character. As members of the gentry, the Earnshaws and the Lintons occupy a precarious place within the hierarchy of late eighteenth - and early nineteenth-century British society. At the top of British society was the royalty, followed by the aristocracy, then by the gentry, and then by the lower classes, who made up the vast majority of the population. Although the gentry, or upper middle class, possessed servants and often large estates, they held a fragile social position. The social status of aristocrats was a formal and settled matter, because aristocrats had official titles. Members of the gentry, however, held no titles, and their status was thus subject to change. A man might see himself as a gentleman but find, to his embarrassment, that his neighbors did not share this view. A discussion of whether or not a man was really a gentleman would consider such questions as how much land he owned, how many tenants and servants he had, how he spoke, whether he kept horses and a carriage, and whether his money came from land or...

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