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EMILY BRONTE & WUTHERING HEIGHTS
Overview: n n Emily Bronte’s (EB) Life and Background Romanticism & EB Genre Themes
Her Birth n n Emily Bronte (EB) was born on 30 July 1818 in the village of Thornton some miles to the West of Bradford in Yorkshire where her father Patrick was curate/rector. She was the 5 th of 6 children all brilliantly gifted.
Her Father n n n Her father Patrick was a Church of England clergyman who had emigrated from Ireland. The oldest son of an Irish labourer, he had to struggle very hard to educate himself. Entered Cambridge (St John’s College) to read theology and became a ‘gentleman’.
Her Father n He married a well-to-do woman Maria Branwell from Cornwall in 1812 and who died after 9 yrs from cancer, 1 year after the birth of her youngest child Anne n He was never rich as curate but made a reasonable living as permanent curate in Haworth.
Haunted by family tragedy Mother’s early death – she was just a toddler n Her 2 oldest sisters Maria and Elizabeth were to die in their childhood too n Her only brother Branwell was to dissipate his talents and die with all his bright promise come to naught. => responsible for sense of grim fatalism and acceptance of tragedy in life in her novel. n
Father’s influence His rapid rise to the status of gentleman albeit poor man in an age of still rigid social divisions was nothing short of miraculous => his daughters’ sensitivity to social status and their ambition & perseverance in pursuing a writing career. n
Father’s influence n n he was also a published if unsuccessful writer he had written poems and short tales – 5 volumes in all.
Father’s influence n n n He was largely self-taught and was in the habit of developing his intellect in isolation (a trait his children shared). he subscribed to and borrowed an unusual number of newspapers and periodicals which undoubtedly enriched the cultural lives of his children. =>the Bronte children were better informed about current events then many of their more conventionally educated contemporaries.
Father’s influence He belonged to the evangelical strain of the Anglican church (low church) n The evangelical or low church Anglican movement believed in man’s sinfulness and need for redemption through a personal communion with God enabled by studying the infallible Holy Scripture. => influence on how his children viewed religion. n
Her Life n n He was a typical Victorian father that left the household in the hands of his sister-in-law who was tasked to look after the children. His neglect meant the children were left to their own resources from infancy and were largely isolated. They formed deep emotional ties with each other and created a world of imagination that was far more real to them than any outside world could be. Raised in ‘poverty’, they found excitement and novelty in a world of ideas, not things.
Her education n They were educated at home until 1824 when they (girls) were sent to Cowan Bridge School – a charity institution founded by a wealthy clergyman William Carus Wilson. Emily at age 6 was the youngest to be enrolled there. The institution was poorly run and funded. Food was inedible and scarce and the school was situated in an unhealthy area with poor sanitary conditions. When a typhus epidemic hit, Maria and Elizabeth contracted tuberculosis and the girls were sent home. Charlotte and Emily survived but the 2 older girls died within months of returning.
Roe Head School n n In 1835, Emily followed Charlotte to Roe Head School – boarding school for girls where her sister worked as a teacher. Emily suffered as she was miserable away from home. At school she had to rein in her imagination and behave like a lady and follow a schedule. ‘Liberty was the breath of Emily’s nostrils. At home, life was …. Secluded but unrestricted and inartificial … to one of disciplined routine. ’ Charlotte, ‘Memoirs of Ellis Bell’ EB was sent home after 3 mths.
the Pensionnat Heger n n n In 1842, EB went to Brussels to teach and study music. => she was judged unfeminine M. Heger thought she should have been a man, given her personality and remarkable, forceful mind. She was laughed at for her old-fashioned clothes, refusal to talk and seeming lack of concern for her students. EB spoke only when she was interested in the topic and then defended her opinion in an unfeminine way. After a year in Brussels, EB went home and never left Haworth again.
n n EB’s personality: brilliant but uncommunicative, inward, shy, reserved girl. She never thrived anywhere but at home => taking long walks on the heath and enjoying the company of her dogs.
The beginnings of a Literary career n n n The 3 sister published their first book of poems under the pen-names Currer (Charlotte), Ellis (Emily) and Acton (Anne) bell. Gained critical attention but not a commercial success –sold only a few copies. Girls were determined to make a success of their writing as they could not depend on father or Branwell for their futures.
Her Death n n n EB died at age 30 in 1848, a few months after brother. Died from consumption tuberculosis which she got after brother ‘s funeral. Her sister Anne was to die 5 months later of the same disease.
Romanticism and EB n n ‘. . attitude or intellectual orientation that characterized many works of literature, painting etc… in Western civilization over a period from the late 18 th to the mid-19 th century. Romanticism emphasized the individual, the subjective, the irrational, the imaginative, the personal, the spontaneous, the emotional, the visionary, and the transcendental. ’ Britannica online
n n Both EB and CB were great admirers of the Romantic poets especially Byron and Wordsworth. Romantic fiction is highly charged, emotionally unrestrained and very personal as contrasted against the neo-classical ideal of balance, temperance and urbanity in the 18 th century and the realism and naturalism of the later Victorian novel (later 19 th century).
n n Romantic Writers saw society as a hypocritical prison house, where people are yoked to rules and customs. Romanics valued the individual’s rights over society’s needs and they often celebrated the heroic rebel.
The Romantic Rebel n n n someone who rebels against cosmic or social injustice or tyranny. Rebellion is often hopeless yet the act of rebelling is seen as heroic. In Wuthering Heights (WH), Heathcliff (HC) rebels against all the laws of God and man he is motivated by a great love that transcends all laws, he is often seen as heroic
HC as Byronic hero n n n Byronic hero is a romantic hero because of his passion, his amorality, his iconoclasm, his homelessness and his desperation. He is usually dark, mysterious, brooding and living an immoral life in a vain attempt to escape unhappy memories. To what extent does HC exemplify these traits?
n n n Another characteristic of Romantic Lit is the description of childhood thoughts as unique and precious. Childhood is a time when we see things as they really are before social conditioning in the form of education, prejudice and habit blind us to the truth. Poets like Wordsworth claim that unless we hold onto our ‘inner child’ we will lose our freedom and power.
n n n WH can also be seen as a lament of lost childhood freedom and intensity when the spirit is less restrained by social laws and customs and even by the body itself. The entire plot can be said to be motivated by childhood memories that Catherine and HC can’t forget as only then were they really living. NB: Catherine returns as a ‘child’ in Lockwood’s dream
n n n Romantic LIT aims to change the reader’s beliefs not through the intellect but through the emotions, to arouse in the reader passions and sympathies he had not before. Emily made use of romantic psychology when describing the minds and thoughts of characters during intense moments and states of excitement. She also made use of symbolic dreams in her novel, demonstrating the Romantics’ fascination with dreams and visions.
n n R also believed the relationship between mind and nature is a mystical one because there is a transcendent or divine element in nature that finds a living response within the heart of people open to receive it. In WH, EB presents characters who have an intense relationship with nature.
n n Both HC & C belong more to the natural than the human world. In WH there is a tension between traditional, patriarchal Christianity and a more Romantic natural religion that seeks God in nature; believes that nature itself is a part of God, filled with and expressing his spirit.
THEMES n n Love supreme celebration of love. Love which defies authority, social convention & death. C-H love is never consummated, deferred and never translated into the pettiness of daily transactions. It is idealised and magnified. Novel both recognises and explicitly appeals to the desire for perfect love.
n n Revenge Linked to theme of love. In WH, there is a cycle of revenge perpetuated by Hindley and Heathcliff. Which destroys or touches the lives of everyone in particular Cathy and Hareton
n n Patriarchal oppression of women WH does portray women struggling against patriarchy. Feelings of imprisonment for women recur throughout the novel. Both Catherines are imprisoned first by their fathers then husbands. Women are enslaved by a legal system highly injurious to them eg. Isabella Linton as abused wife. Hindley as despotic male.
n n Morality -profound moral ambivalence. Who are the villains &heroes? Is H a hero? Not easy to distinguish. His romantic hero or evil villain? ending leads to his redemption? Love and suffering redeem him?
n n n Identity or the Self. Examining the boundaries of the self when C declares she is H, radical challenge to conventional notion of selfhood and identity. Her identification with HC utterly overwhelms her own discrete personal identity. Q: what happens to identity when individuality collides with love? Individual means indivisible but EB insists on merged or convergent identities. Eg the repetitious doubling of names. => different characters have similar names => destabilises fundamental notions of selfhood and responsibility.
n n n Only HC has one name => suggests he is of a primordial nature, a pure nature. What that is, is a mystery – we know nothing of his origins. What he represents symbolically is also unclear. Some critics see him as symbolizing the part of Catherine she has to give up when she is initiated into womanhood – the bite that leads her to TG the beginning or her physical maturity.
n n ‘Storm’ va ‘Calm’ Lord David Cecil in an essay published in 1934 established a ‘symbolic’ reading of the text as structured on a conflict between “ 2 living spiritual principles’ – the principle of the ‘storm’ – of the harsh, the ruthless, the wild, the dynamic and the principle of the ‘calm’- of the gentle, the merciful, the passive, the tame. ”
n n n In the novel they are exemplified by the 2 Houses: WH and Thrushcross Grange. Separate yet complementary, both houses live in relative harmony until the equilibrium is disturbed with the entry of an ’external force’ i. e. Heathcliff Nature vs Culture WH = nature TG =culture
n n n Class conflict OR Social criticism / indictment of class system even capitalism itself. HC feels C has rejected him because he is uneducated and poor. He returns a gentleman with money. He uses his class and money to exact a revenge on Hindley and to seduce Isabella – fooled by his appearance of class. Class – money and education make him powerful but not better. Novel implies that no one is made better by these acquisitions. Critics see it as class struggle and a fable of the violence and exploitation undergirding civilised society. Eg civilised TG is protected by vicious dogs and money is seen as breeding fools and weaklings eg Linton, Hindley are no match for HC & Hareton brought up in poverty/servitude
n n n Genre: It has elements of the gothic, the romance and the realistic novel (social-realist novel). The realistic novel is one that deals with everyday affairs of ord people, does not stray from the ord world of cause and effect into the supernatural and does not overemphasise its symbolism to the point of allegory.
n n The Romance - a style of heroic prose and verse narrative that was particularly current in aristocratic literature of Medieval and Early Modern Europe, that narrated fantastic stories about the marvellous adventures of a chivalrous, heroic knight, king or queen who are unhindered by worldly circumstances in the pursuit of their lofty desires and great passions. The Gothic novel with its elemts of mystery, suspense and the supernatural. Use of ghosts, vampires