Emily Bronte was born in 1818, by the Irish Anglican priest Patrick Prunty and a Cornish woman.
Both parents were of Celtic origin: this meant a background of fantastic story-telling and a belief in feelings and impulse over reason. The other great influence on Emily was the landscape in which she grew up: Haworth, a small village in the Yorkshire moors, in an environment where the imagination was constantly stimulated by nature. Mr Bronte often discussed poetry and history with his children, and family compositions were encouraged and read aloud. Emily died of consumption in 1848.
Passion and feelings are at their strongest in Emily Bronte’s works.
Her novel and poems show a violent impulse to break through life’s conventions. There is a desperate need of a freer world of the spirit where the limitations of mortal existence may be left behind.
The transcending power of her imagination.
Emily Bronte’s novel is one of the greatest and best-known modern love stories.
In it Emily confronts human passions with the requirements of society.
The presence in the novel of passionate love, which appears for the first time in Victorian literature, and the absence of overt moral teaching, explain why Wuthering Heights was not immediately successful.
The book combines Romanticism, Realism, Gothicism and some features of the late Victorian and modern novel:
- Romanticism appears above all in the conception of love as an overwhelming power stronger than time and death, in the exaltation of the feelings over reason and in the great role played by nature, that reflects moods.
- Realism and Victorian features appears in the social aspect of the novel: the description of settings, of characters and of their way of life, in the conflict between two cultures and social classes and in the complexity of the characters’ personality which is not static but develops and modifies.
- Gothicism appears in the initial experience of Mr Lockwood with the ghost of Catherine (so in the concepts of nightmarish dreams, of superstitions and of country folk’s belief in ghosts), in the sinister atmosphere, the environment and the house often described as gloomy, and in the figure of Heathcliff, who has many features of the Gothic villains: he is handsome, but sometimes cruel tough; there is mystery around him, nobody knows his origin, what he did when he was away and how he made his money.
Catherine seems to be the central character, Emily gives us a vivid portrait of a woman oppressed and divided by social conventions. Her real self is indistinguishable from Heathcliff. However she cannot abandon herself to her love, but her social impulse makes her marry Edgar Linton.
Catherine asks Nelly, the only person Catherine can tell her secrets to, for advice but it’s not what she really wants; what she need is someone to reveal her innermost feelings.
In the second part of the passage we see how Catherine turns from an impulsive girl into a romantic woman who identifies Heathcliff as part of her inner self. However the girl is bound to convention and she knows that marrying Heatchcliff would mean social failure: a thing that she is not ready to accept.
The Setting of the novel is almost as important as the characters themselves, in fact the actions and the feelings of the characters are at one with the scenery, the Yorkshire moors. The action of the novel is divided between two houses: Wuthering Heights up on the moors and Thrushcross Grange, in the valley. The first, the most important, is the home/world of destructive passion, of feelings and of instincts, the second of social convention.
The structure of the novel isn’t based on a normal Chronological Sequence of events but moves backwards and forwards through memories and flashbacks, in fact it starts at the end of the story when Mr Lockwood pays a visit to Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights, and he is obliged to stop for the night because of the weather. During the night he saw a ghost of a baby-girl , out of the window. At Mr Lockwood’s cries Heathcliff wakes up, rushes into the room and begs the ghost of Chaterine to come in. Then Lockwood asks Nelly to tell him the story of Heathcliff. Nelly’s narration starts from the moment in the past when Heathcliff was carried home by old Mr Earnshaw, and stops in the present.
The structures of this novel involves two Narrators, one outside the action and the other a direct witness of the events; in this way the point of view shifts.
The events are filtered twice: Nelly, the housekeeper/family nurse, is emotionally involved in the story and so she is not entirely reliable; Mr Lockwood, the city visitor, is more detached than Nelly but his knowledge of people and places is more superficial and distant. Thus the reader is called to make his own decision about how much believe in one or in the other.