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D'ale istoriei și literaturii

IS WUTHERING HEIGHTS A GOTHIC NOVEL?

In an era where men’s power was dominating, the female authors tried to express their concerns and repressions about life through the Gothic. This is how the Gothic heroine appeared, a heroine who tries to escape from the corrupt and cruel villain. But does she succeed?

The most specific themes, motifs and symbols that characterize a Gothic novel also appear in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. Mr. Lockwood is our guide in this solitary place removed from society and surrounded only by the moors which are like a fence that lock the reader in this story. The moors’ landscape represent the sublime and its association with a fortress invaded by ghosts generates only fear and terror. The natural phenomena also help at this tumultuous and gloomy atmosphere as here both the warm weather and the happy events are so rare – winter, the cold weather and the storms are perfectly blended with the tragic events that are about to happen.

In this novel, the natural phenomenon seems to be evil’s harbinger. The inhabitants are inhospitable and the ferocious dogs are ready to attack at any moment. Wuthering Heights perfectly characterizes Heathcliff, its master, who with only a sight frightens his relatives and maintains at distance the uninvited guests. This farmhouse is special and it has its own impressive history which is found by the reader only after Catherine Earnshaw ghost’s first apparition. She appears to Mr. Lockwood through a dream and wakes up not only in him but also in us feelings of fear and terror and of curiosity about her existence and the way she died.

Once with the beginning of Mrs. Ellen Dean’s story about the two opposite mansions with their inhabitants and love stories, the reader is introduced in a mysterious world dominated by secrets and lies, passion and revenge, life and death, love after death. Almost each character of this story has a double but the most important are those of Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff as they are the protagonists of the story. Their unaccomplished love towards each other is reborn in Cathy, Catherine’s daughter, and Hareton, who is like a son for Heathcliff; they succeed to live their love story and be happy. The motif of doppelgänger is represented through Heathcliff who does not cheat by his appearance only the characters but also the reader who firstly considers him a gentleman when in fact he is the villain of the story.

Heathcliff suits perfectly in his role of Gothic Villain as he is led by his obsessive desire of revenge in all his decisions. As time goes on he starts feeling a sick love towards his step-sister and develops a brilliant and demonic mind which helps him to bring to an end his plan. All of these lead to his destruction and eventually to his death.

The persecuted heroines that are cheated by Heathcliff’s mask are Cathy Linton and Isabella Linton. The two naïve and innocent women, after suffering the cruel treatment of the tyrant, choose to escape from him: Isabella runs and isolates herself from the society for self-preserving and Cathy elects the true love as a way of escape. If between the two of them and the traditional Gothic heroine there are some similarities.

Catherine Earnshaw escapes from this pattern. She is indeed a Gothic heroine as her mind and heart are in a continuous struggle because of Heathcliff, but she is not frightened or scared by him and she does not run from his presence – she loves him, she is in love with the Gothic villains and not with the charming prince, Edgar, and this causes her death and transgression to a ghost.

The protagonists of the novel try to escape from the norms imposed to them through transgression as they have to confront many boundaries in order to achieve their deepest desire. The barriers are settled by the society and the marriage or even by themselves, but the most important boundary is that between life and death. In their continuous search for identity Catherine and Heathcliff die and find themselves together only after their death, as ghosts.

All these Gothic elements form the terrifying atmosphere that haunts the novel. One cannot ignore them because they express what they must express – terror. In my opinion, the mood that the novel relieves is most important than the elements which compose it.

My answer to the opening question is Yes, Wuthering Heights is indeed a Gothic novel where the action is lead in Hell – only it seems places and people have English names[1], as Dante Gabriel Rossetti states in his letter to William Allingham in September 19, 1854.

[1] Bloom Harold, Bloom’s Classic Critical Views, The Brontës, Infobase Publishing, New York, 2008

 

BIANCA PETRACHE

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