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Volume 4
ISSN: 2454-6100
(UGC Approved)

Journal of



Saswati Halder (Coordinator)

Sutanuka Ghosh (Joint Coordinator)

Pramantha Mohun Tagore

Anish Kundu



The Feral Feminist Aesthetic of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights

Anhiti Patnaik..................................................................................................

Dreams, Landscape, and Solitude in Emily Bronte's Poetry

Basundhara Chakraborty………………………………………………………….

The Disappearance of Homosocial Relationships and Female Agency in the

Adaptations of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

Courtney Simpkins............................................................................................

Hauntology and Encircling of Time in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

Madhumita Biswas………………………………………………………………...

Life – Death – Afterlife in Wuthering Heights

Madhumita Majumdar......................................................................................

The Byronic Ellis Bell and the Victorian Female Author/Reader

Neepa Sarkar....................................................................................................

Horror, Terror, and the Gothic in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre

Prodosh Bhattacharya…………………………………………………………….
Space and Landscape in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights and

George Sand’s Mauprat

Tatjana Šepić...............................................................................................

Notes on the Authors....................................................................................


We are proud to present the third volume of The Confidential Clerk, an online journal published
annually by the Centre for Victorian Studies, Jadavpur University. Interdisciplinary, international
and innovative, the journal is broadly concerned with scholarship, new research and a keen
understanding of nineteenth-century literary history and theory. The current issue is a collection
of original and unpublished research papers on In Retrospect: Ellis Bell, Emily Bronte and
their Wuthering Heights., from young researchers and academicians all over the world.

Like some of the Romantic poets earlier in the nineteenth century, Emily Bronte died young
(1818-1848), having published her only novel (Wuthering Heights, 1847) and a slim volume of
poems that also contained the poems of her two surviving sisters (Poems by Curer, Ellis, and
Acton Bell, 1846). The pseudonyms adopted by the sisters while publishing the volume of
poems extended to the publication of their novels. Hence the progenitor of Wuthering Heights
was Ellis Bell, and Emily Bronte died without any book to her name. All this play with the
authorship of Wuthering Heights resulted in a curious publication history as it also engendered
an ambivalent critical response. The Athenaeum pronounced the Wuthering Heights a
'disagreeable story' even while it acknowledged its 'power and cleverness' and its 'truth to life in
the remote nooks and corners of England.' The Examiner professed it a 'strange book' though 'not
without evidences of considerable power.' There were many negative reviews even though some
reviewers acknowledged that Ellis Bell's work bore a 'colossal' promise and it evidently suffered
in comparison to Curer Bell's Jane Eyre which was very favourably received. However, there
was a shift in the reception of the novel after the publication of Charlotte Bronte's "Biographical
Notice" in the new edition of Wuthering Heights (1850) which, for the first time, publicly
identified Emily Bronte as Ellis Bell. A new set of reviewers showed themselves to be more
sensitive to the extent of Emily's achievement.

There is now a rich oeuvre of critical writings on Wuthering Heights though disagreements
between the critics abound. While Lord David Cecil proposes a theory that presents the novel as
a unified whole, J Hillis Miller challenges this assumption. Mark Schorer argues that it is one of
the most carefully constructed novels in the English language which is contradicted by Albert J
Guerard who reads occasional loss of authorial control in the brilliant but imperfect novel. There
are socio-economic readings of the work by Marxist critics like Terry Eagleton while scholars
like Ellen Moers have provided powerful feminist readings of the work. Indeed the text and its
publication and reception history offer the possibility of a broad spectrum of readings across the
theoretical domains, a challenge that has been taken up by many scholars of Victorian Studies.

Anhiti Patnaik in her paper The Feral Feminist Aesthetic of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering
Heights examines how Andrea Arnold restores ‘queerness’ to Heathcliff’s character through her
postmodern cinematic adaptation Wuthering Heights (2011). Arnold’s film successfully de-
canonizes the bodies of both Brontë and Heathcliff using a feral feminist aesthetic. It revives the
wildness and sexual ambiguities of the original text, albeit with a contemporary urban audience
in mind.

Basundhara Chakraborty’s paper on Poet as Recluse: Dreams, Landscape, and Solitude in

Emily Bronte's Poetry attempts a holistic understanding of Emily Bronte’s poetic development
through textual analysis of her childhood literary creations as well as her mature poems.

Neepa Sarkar’s paper The Byronic Ellis Bell and the Victorian Female Author/Reader
attempts to look at the representations and constructions of the gendered self and how
Catherine’s frustrations become the frustrations of the writing women of 19th century opposing
the cultural constraints of womanhood imposed upon them. It also explores Julia Kristeva’s
notion of ‘the abject’ and Barbara Creed’s idea of the ‘monstrous feminine’ in deciphering the
reception, agency and autonomy of Ellis Bell/ Emily Bronte, one of significant Victorian woman
novelist operating in a predominantly male profession.

Madhumita Biswas in Hauntology and Encircling of Time in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering

Heights tries to explore the Derridean deconstructive philosophy of “Hauntology” and the
continual encircling of Time in the intricate narrative structure of the novel and its
characterisation of Catherine and Heathcliff.

Tatjana Šepić in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and George Sand's Mauprat argues that
apart from some similarities in the plot and characters, both novels are structured on the principle
of dualism where themes and motives not only of love and the denial of love but also of
nature/culture, man/woman, cruelty/kindness, speech/muteness, freedom/confinement,
heaven/hell, appear as antithetical polarities in dialogue.
Prodosh Bhattacharya’s paper Horror, Terror, and the Gothic in Wuthering Heights and Jane
Eyre investigates the use of horror and terror in the two Brontë-Sisters novels, using Mrs
Radcliffe’s distinction between the two emotions.

Madhumita Majumdar in Life – Death- Afterlife in Wuthering Heights looks into notions of
life, death and afterlife that is weaved in Wuthering Heights. Available biographical details are
also used in parts to substantiate the thought, and the premise is developed on the fact that
Wuthering Heights has many characters who visualise or believe in postmortem lives.

Courtney Simpkins in Repetition without Replication: A Study of How Modern Adaptations

Alter the Social Arguments in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights argues that David Skynner
(1998) and Coky Giedroyc’s (2009) adaptations are important interpretations of Wuthering
Heights, but they both largely detract from, and in some cases outright reverse, Emily Brontë’s
arguments about homosocial relationships, class distinction, and strong women through the
elimination and alteration of dialogue found in Wuthering Heights.

The Feral Feminist Aesthetic of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights

- Anhiti Patnaik

The feral theory of feminism, initially proposed by queer theorist Judith Halberstam,
but conceptualized by the Toronto-based journal Feral Feminisms, is “a provocative call to
untaming, queering, and radicalizing feminist thought and practice today.” The assumption is
that not all feminisms or queer movements are radical, intersectional, and affective. They have
been academically ‘domesticated’ or made conventional over time and need to be ‘feralized’
in order to maintain their subversive power over ideological forces. The word ‘feral’ means a
nonhuman or liminal animal, like a human child in wilderness or one who has escaped from
captivity. It is certainly the idea behind Emily Brontë’s introduction of Heathcliff into the
English gentrified society in her novel Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff’s character has, over the
years, been domesticated through literary archetypes like Byronic hyper-masculinity. This
essay examines how Andrea Arnold restores ‘queerness’ to Heathcliff’s character through her
postmodern cinematic adaptation Wuthering Heights (2011). Brontë’s 1847 classic remains of
course, a subversive text par excellence. Jean Kennard reads it as a “lesbian narrative space”
but presumes that the queerness of the text—the forbidden, yet sterile and narcissistic romance
of Catherine and Heathcliff—may have originated in Brontë’s own queerness, carefully
concealed and censored by her sister Charlotte. It has now become fairly commonplace within
Victorian literary criticism to trace the subversive content of a text back to its author’s allegedly
repressed sexuality. However, Arnold’s film successfully de-canonizes the bodies of both
Brontë and Heathcliff using a feral feminist aesthetic. It revives the wildness and sexual
ambiguities of the original text, albeit with a contemporary urban audience in mind. This is
accomplished by emphasising elements that remain at the periphery of white heteronormative
urban culture such as the animal, the ecological, the female child, and the colonised body. It
highlights the raw, sublime wilderness of North Yorkshire where the film is set. Arnold casts
the black actors Solomon Glave and James Howson to re-inscribe the violence committed
against Heathcliff in his childhood within the history of English colonialism and patriarchy.
When Hindley whips Heathcliff, Arnold boldly transforms his body into that of an ex-slave by
showing scars and wounds from past floggings. This violence is affectively redressed in the
next scene where Catherine soothes a bleeding, weeping and emasculated Heathcliff by licking
his wounds clean. The film thus feralizes Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship by stripping
language to the bare minimum and portraying a tactile, affective or ‘creaturely love’ between

Dreams, Landscape, and Solitude in Emily Bronte's Poetry

- Basundhara Chakraborty

The present paper endeavors to study the poetic contributions of Emily Bronte, in the
sphere of English literature. While her sole contribution in the genre of novel, Wuthering
Heights earned her a permanent status in the history of English literature, it has also eclipsed
her poetic legacy. The present paper is an attempt to trace that lost legacy of this ‘poet as
recluse’. By placing her poetic works in the social and historical context of the Victorian age,
the paper will attempt a reappraisal of her lyrical canon and study how Emily was not a poet
sui generis; the paper will also analyze her poetic works in relation with the landscape poetic
tradition of the Victorian age by doing a comparative study between her poetic works and the
poetry of Tennyson, Hardy and Arnold, the great trio of Victorian poetry. The paper will also
attempt a holistic understanding of Emily Bronte’s poetic development through textual analysis
of her childhood literary creations as well as her mature poems and critically analyze: (a) how
the process of dreaming informs both the content and lyrical structure of Bronte’s poetry; (b)
how Emily Bronte placed Gondal narratives as the background and framework of her poetic
creations; (c) how she used landscape as the central metaphor of her poetry and present nature
in dialogue with social and moral relations. The critical approach of the study will combine
textual analysis, biographical criticism and socio-historical reading.
The Disappearance of Homosocial Relationships and Female Agency
in the Adaptations of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

- Courtney Simpkins

Emily Brontë’s singular novel introduces readers to the codes of her nineteenth century
society, where women and men were often met with standards of living which were nearly
impossible to achieve. Although Brontë’s beliefs are often coded throughout the characters’
dialogue, the arguments are clear and present. An example of this is the tumultuous relationship
between Catherine Earnshaw Linton and her trusted servant and confidant, Ellen “Nelly” Dean.
Emily Brontë presents this as one of the strongest homosocial relationships in Wuthering
Heights, and defends against the nineteenth century societal assumption that women, when
together and gossiping, were dangerous creatures. Furthermore, the two women are from two
very different classes. Catherine is of a fairly high status, but Nelly is her servant. These two
women from different classes gossip together, blurring the lines between social classes and
social discourses.

By analyzing the coded dialogue between Catherine and Nelly in the famous “I am
Heathcliff” scene, along with other scenes, we can begin answering two major questions in
adaptation theory: does the addition, deletion, or alteration of scenes and arguments create an
unsuccessful adaptation, and do these changes enhance or detract from each source novel’s
arguments. To answer these questions, I argue that David Skynner (1998) and Coky Giedroyc’s
(2009) adaptations alter these arguments, but neither film solely enhances or detracts from the
original points made. Several storylines are changed in both films, sometimes enough to create
entirely new situations, but nevertheless, the two directors worked diligently to eliminate
enough of the novel’s details to fit their respective films in a two-hour time frame, but
fundamentally alter the essence of Emily Brontë’s protofeminist novel.

The 1998 cinematic Wuthering Heights, directed by David Skynner, alters many details.
Conversations between Nelly and Catherine no longer seem as significant, because their history
is neither described nor shown on screen. Rather than allowing Catherine’s and Nelly’s
relationship to remain as the most important homosocial companionship, Skynner’s
characterization illustrates they mean little-to-nothing to one another. Since these two women
are not solidified as confidants prior to this meeting, the exchange isn’t as meaningful, and
Nelly is no longer an important figure in Catherine’s life. Analyzing Emily Brontë’s critique
of nineteenth century class distinction and society’s focus on wealth is extremely difficult with
Skynner’s adaptation, since many of the novel’s details are eliminated. Similarly, many
arguments in Wuthering Heights are also altered or eliminated from Coky Giedroyc’s 2009
adaptation. Once again, Nelly’s character does not appear as vital to the story as she is in the
novel. Some may say that Nelly’s disappearance from the film is an attempt to give all agency
to Catherine, since she will undoubtedly need to stand up and speak for herself. The writers of
Giedroyc’s film did not explicitly eliminate portions of dialogue for the movie, as in the first
adaptation. They simply rearranged the discourse into a new sequence, sometimes between
different sets of characters. Overall, both adaptations are important interpretations of the novel,
but they both largely detract from, and in some cases outright reverse, Emily Brontë’s
arguments about homosocial relationships, class distinction, and strong women through the
elimination and alteration of dialogue found in Wuthering Heights.

Hauntology and Encircling of Time in Emily Bronte’s

Wuthering Heights

- Madhumita Biswas

Globally celebrated poststructuralist Algerian-French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, in

his 1993 seminal book Spectres of Marx coins a deconstructive concept termed “Hauntology”
which is a portmanteau of “haunting” and “ontology”. Hauntology pertains to situation of
temporal, historical, and ontological disjunction in which the apparent presence of being is
substituted by a deferred non-origin. Colin Davis in his essay “Hauntology, Spectres and
Phantoms”, observes this Derridean hauntology as a representation of continual flux of time in
which, “the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor
alive” (373) In the realm of Hauntology, what we encounter is not the presence of the presence
but the forever absent spectre of a past-presence that continually haunts our spatio-temporal
consciousness of time and the phenomenological order. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights
with its inverted plane of spatio-temporal consciousness and incoherent order of reality,
exhibits a kernel of this "haunting" that forever dismantles the novel's moorings in a present
reality and in its stead engages in a referential order that forever harks back to some forever
receding and irrevocable "past". The gothic narrative is rendered as an "unheimlich" that haunts
by way of its invocation of a temporal order that is beyond the normative narratives of the past
and yet which persistently renders inconsistent our consciousness of the present and future.
Bronte seems to reverse the ethical teleology of the Victorian romantic novels by substituting
reproductive futurity with the spectre of a haunting and ever-persistent past-presence.

Life – Death – Afterlife in Wuthering Heights

- Madhumita Majumdar

The Brontës have been associated with the ghostly, an association that continues till
date. Throughout the twentieth century, biographers and creative writers have seen Emily
Brontë as someone who longed for death and communed with spirits. Her only novel,
Wuthering Heights reveals Emily’s obsessions with some dark subjects. Where did this
darkness and turbulent passion come from? A part of the answer lies in the house of Haworth
Parsonage where the Brontë children lived their short and all too tragic lives. The paper will
look into notions of life, death and after life that are weaved in Wuthering Heights. Available
biographical details are also used in parts to substantiate the thought. The premise is developed
on the fact that Wuthering Heights has many characters who visualize or believe in postmortem
The Byronic Ellis Bell and the Victorian Female Author/Reader

- Neepa Sarkar

Resisting an easy, monocular interpretation and categorization, Wuthering Heights

remains a fascinating text for readers with its Victorian focus, albeit unconventionally, on
responses to women’s experiences of home, family and the female self. It constructs a fearless,
later- Gothic heroine for its readers who in certain ways challenges the prevalent Victorian
feminine ideal. This paper attempts to look at the representations and constructions of the
gendered self and how Catherine’s frustrations become the frustrations of the writing women
of 19th century opposing the cultural constraints of womanhood imposed upon them. Further,
the text provides an engagement with the matter of authorship and (social need of) pseudonyms
as well as autonomy which become pertinent to the issue of the female author and reader in the
literary history of writing and reading.

This paper would also like to explore Julia Kristeva’s notion of ‘the abject’ and Barbara
Creed’s idea of the ‘monstrous feminine’ in deciphering the reception, agency and autonomy
of Ellis Bell/ Emily Bronte, one of significant Victorian woman novelist operating in a
predominantly male profession. Besides focusing on readership, issues of authorial legitimacy,
intent and interpretation; the paper probes into Victorian notions of marriage, morality, social
and ideological binaries faced by the dispossessed Byronic hero and the displaced heroine
(psychologically and socially) who are assertive and at times conforming in role playing the
‘performative’ aspects of gender. Wuthering Heights remains experimental for its times, both
in form and content, not only blending many literary genres but also examining the ideas of
power, dominance and powerlessness specifically in terms of the Gothic novel.
Horror, Terror, and the Gothic in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre

- Prodosh Bhattacharya

The paper investigates the use of horror and terror in the two Brontë-Sisters novels,
using Mrs Radcliffe’s distinction between the two emotions. The vampire motif is common to
both novels. In Wuthering Heights, Catherine is a revenant, but her appearance is followed by
unexpected subversion of the trope. The novel ends with rumours of her and Heathcliff being
seen on the moors as revenants. In Jane Eyre, Bertha Mason is explicitly likened by the
eponymous heroine to the vampire, and her attack on her brother has clearly vampiric
overtones. The irony is that, in Emily Brontë’s novel, it is Lockwood who inflicts violence on
the apparently vampiric Catherine, and in Charlotte Brontë, Jane has unexpected similarities
with Bertha, something she herself recognizes. In the final judgment, one may say that
Wuthering Heights, which leaves its portrayal of the supernatural hovering between reality and
fantasy, belongs perhaps more to the tradition of Walpole and Lewis, whereas Jane Eyre is
more in the tradition of Ann Radcliffe’s ‘the supernatural explained’.

Space and Landscape in Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and

George Sand's Mauprat

- Tatjana Šepić

Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847) and George Sand's Mauprat (1837) absorb
the common reader, enwrapping him in the violent, passionte love stories of their main
characters. More attentive readers and critics have been enticed by abundant “material inviting
for interpretation” and by coded meanings underlying the surface of literal representations of
these two texts. Apart from some similarities in the plot and characters, both novels are
structured on the principle of dualism where themes and motives not only of love and the denial
of love, but also of nature/culture, man/woman, cruelty/kindness, speech/muteness,
freedom/confinement, heaven/hell, appear as antithetical polarities in dialogue. These
contraries do not represent only the principle the characters are shaped on, but also the universe
of both texts. In the context of the novels, the real Yorkshire and Berry obtain a metaphorical
meaning, where the landscape and the spaces of the houses mirror emotional states and
(tormented) souls of their inhabitants. The contrast between Wuthering Heights and
Thrushcross Grange is the same as the one between Roche-Mauprat and Sainte-Sévère, namely,
a wild, uncontrolled energy of the dark Dionysian world opposed to the tamed and controlled
nature, of static and rational characters, the embodiment of the Apollonian order, harmony and
perfection. These contraries coexist creating the totality not only of the fictional, but of the real
world as well. In Emily Brontë's and George Sand's narratives, the function of nature is
representational and semantic, metonymic and metaphorical at the same time, which is typical
for the Romantic period. Only here the traditional roles are changed, male characters
(Heathcliff, Hareton, Bernard) take the place of nature, instinct and irrationality, usually
associated with the female principle, while heroines (Edmée, Catherine, Isabella and partly
Catherine Earnshaw) embody reason, culture and are capable of verbalizing emotions, all
typically male characteristics.

The dual image of the book and education, together with the recurring words, images
related to nature/animals or hell, fire, damnation used as metaphors for human characteristics,
frailty or moral deficiency, are all closely connected with the two opposing spaces of the
Heights and the Grange, Roche-Mauprat and the chateau of Sainte-Sévère. Both novels can be
read as the confluence of their authors' personal experience and the Romantic aesthetics,
creating a vision of the world from the female perspective, revising the traditional binary
structures which have influenced the Western thought since the age of Antiquity. On the level
of landscape, and space in general, the writers' poetic syncretism combines representational
and metaphorical function to show antithetical polarities of “nature” and “culture” in dialogue
and exchange.
The Feral Feminist Aesthetic of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights

- Anhiti Patnaik

“I think we might all be Heathcliff.”

− Andrea Arnold

“The challenge is to resist the old habit of ‘ontological apartheid’: equating species

with specific bodies, and then quarantining them from each other.”

− Dominic Pettman

Emily Brontë’s 1847 novel Wuthering Heights is a representative Victorian text in

terms of its rootedness within the English Romantic tradition and its exemplary critique of the

class, race, and gender hierarchies of the Yorkshire gentry. And yet, there is a perverse,

undefined, ambiguous, or ‘queer’ quality to the novel’s portrayal of these hierarchies, which

allows it to resist the genres into which it is often classified. This ‘queerness’—or

epistemological irreducibility—originates mainly in Heathcliff and Catherine’s childhood

interactions on the moor. Even Brontë’s lengthy narrative explication of their relationship

through Nelly Dean and her dense, inscrutable conclusion to the novel cannot define or morally

circumscribe their romance. This is perhaps because, while the conventional Victorian novel

deals with the intricacies of human interaction by showing how it all contributes to the

protagonist’s bildungsroman, in Wuthering Heights there is a decidedly non-human focus that

produces a retrospective, deconstructive, or ‘queer’ curve. Hila Shachar in her book Cultural

Afterlives and Screen Adaptations of Classic Literature: Wuthering Heights and Company

states that Brontë’s novel stands out in the Victorian canon as its ‘queer’ themes have invited

multiple intertextual and postmodern adaptations. She defies the tendency within adaptation
studies to “clump adaptations of famous novels together, often ignoring how a specific work

or an individual author is used to create a particular type of cultural legacy” (Shachar 2). She

prescribes instead a close textual analysis of these adaptations as autonomous works in their

own right. With that in mind, this essay examines the feral feminist aesthetic of Andrea

Arnold’s 2011 cinematic adaptation of Wuthering Heights and how it valorises the ‘queerness’,

ambiguity, wildness and non-human aspects of Catherine and Heathcliff’s love.

It is worth clarifying at this point that this essay employs the term ‘queer’ not with

reference to the medico-legal discourse of same-sex desire. Jean Kennard’s “Lesbianism and

the Censoring of Wuthering Heights” for instance, argues that the ‘queerness’ of Catherine and

Heathcliff’s relationship may have originated in Brontë’s own lesbianism. To call Brontë a

‘lesbian’ is of course anachronistic and Kennard acknowledges that, “I do not claim that Emily

Brontë was a lesbian in any modern sense of the term [...] nor am I claiming that Emily

consciously set out to encode homosexuality in Wuthering Heights” (17). However, Kennard

attributes the ambiguous, sterile, narcissistic, and repressed relationship between Catherine and

Heathcliff to the author’s own concealed homosexuality. Brontë did, after all, publish

Wuthering Heights under the masculine pseudonym Ellis Bell and may have encoded her

“sexual inversion” in Heathcliff’s character through the famous metonymic statement “I am

Heathcliff” (Brontë 64):

Heathcliff, unacceptable, alien in race and social standing, emotionally powerful, an

inseparable part of herself, is an appropriate embodiment of Brontë’s sexual identity.

When Catherine and Heathcliff are separated, the violence that ensues suggests the

intense pain of losing a part of oneself. The violence Heathcliff demonstrates after his

return is the power of emotion denied, of taboo violated [...] (Kennard 24)
Kennard also asserts that Charlotte Brontë’s editorial interventions to her sister’s novel

and her destruction of some apparently incriminating letters proves that there was something

‘unnatural’ about Emily that had to be repressed. The problem with such a biographical bias in

literary criticism is that it reverts the subversive themes of a text back to the author’s personal

life. This is fairly commonplace in queer readings of Victorian literature, be it of Tennyson’s

In Memoriam or Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. All that such interpretations achieve,

however, is to confine the ‘body’ of a literary text to the body of its author. In a bizarre

reincarnation of the intentional fallacy, Kennard argues that Wuthering Heights challenges the

masculinist and heteronormative structures of Victorian society purely as a form of authorial

wish-fulfilment or “queer dream” (Brontë 62). But what matters most about the novel is not

whether Brontë herself was queer, but precisely how she was able to construct such a queer

text through her portrayal of Catherine and Heathcliff’s (otherwise heterosexual) attraction?

Contemporary queer theory has reoriented itself as a self-renewing force of radicalism

within the Western academy by transcending the biological category of same-sex desire. In

order for a novel to be deemed ‘queer’ it seems that neither its main characters nor its author

need to be identifiably homosexual. Queer has now become a category of gender ambiguity,

aesthetic subversion, and epistemological irreducibility. This does not automatically divest the

term of a very real history of discrimination through which homosexual and transsexual bodies

are forced to clinically and socially comply with a compulsory heterosexist matrix. Simply that

the scope of the term may be broadened to include “multiple social antagonisms” rather than

restrict it to the “fixed referent” of white male/female homosexuality:

The contemporary mainstreaming of gay and lesbian identity—as a mass-mediated

consumer lifestyle and embattled legal category—demands a renewed queer studies

ever vigilant to the fact that sexuality is intersectional, not extraneous to other modes

of difference, and calibrated to a firm understanding of queer as a political metaphor

without a fixed referent. (Halberstam 1)

In a recent collection of essays titled What’s Queer about Queer Studies Now? Judith

Halberstam states that there is nothing more detrimental to queer theory as its being restricted

to a biological or racially determined object. Invoking Judith Butler’s call for “a kind of

[ontological] humility” or a “vividly de-centered manner of existence”, Halberstam argues that

“to appreciate “what’s queer about queer studies now” is to embrace such a critical perspective

and to honour such an ethics of humility” (Halberstam 15). The word “humility” is not a

passive resistance to the normative forces of neo-colonial and neo-liberal patriarchy but rather

the recognition that “in a historical moment of intense political conservatism” (Halberstam 5) and ecological degradation, the Enlightenment concept of the human must be radically

‘de-centered’ so that its ensuing socio-economic inequalities may be redressed. Halberstam

concludes that a wild, untamed, and intersectional model of queer theory can resist the urge to

define, domesticate, and discursively delimit the category of queer within the Western


This is certainly the idea behind Brontë’s introduction of Heathcliff into the normative

confines of the Earnshaw family as a wild, unruly, gypsy-like, savage, dirty, and feral child.

All that is provided by way of explanation for his arrival is that Earnshaw found him on the

streets of Liverpool. Liverpool was a well-established British slave port in 1847. Earnshaw

states that upon finding no ‘owner’ for the child he decided to adopt him “See here, wife; I was
never so beaten with anything in my life; but you must e’en take it as a gift of God, though it’s

as dark almost as if it came from the devil” (Brontë 29). Heathcliff’s mysterious darkness and

undefined heritage has produced much speculation among literary critics. Deborah Epstein

Nord dedicates her essay “Marks of Race”: Gypsy Figures and Eccentric Femininity in

Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing” to Brontë’s descriptions of Heathcliff’s body and

counts it as evidence of his non-English Romany descent. Earnshaw’s reference to the devil is

particularly telling, as the English peerage in the nineteenth century believed gypsies to be

pedlars of black magic. There was also a stereotypical link between gypsy life and wilderness,

which would explain Heathcliff’s love for running on the moors and disdaining cleanliness and

civility as a child. Nord notes the primacy of the gypsy figure as a social pariah in the Victorian


Unlike the colonial subject, who remained a remote or wholly foreign figure, or the

Jew, who, though outsider, functioned within English society, the gypsy hovered on the

outskirts of the English world, unassimilable, a domestic and visible but socially

peripheral character. (189)

In Heathcliff’s case, however, it is not only his alleged Romany heritage that becomes

threatening to the established yeoman families of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.

He contaminates Catherine’s training towards idealized femininity with his insolence and

ridicule of her attempts at reformation:

Cathy stayed at Thrushcross Grange five weeks till Christmas. By that time her ankle

was thoroughly cured, and her manners much improved. The mistress visited her often,

in the interval, and commenced her plan of reform by trying to raise her self-respect

with fine clothes and flattery, which she took to readily: so that, instead of a wild,
hatless little savage jumping into the house, and rushing to squeeze us all breathless,

there alighted from a handsome black pony a very dignified person with brown ringlets

falling from the cover of a feathered beaver [...] (Brontë 41)

The peculiar brand of vengeance that the adult Heathcliff seeks through upward

mobility also confirms his status as an interloper. Nelly Dean repeatedly calls him ‘wicked’

and impervious to ‘normal’ social and ethical behaviour, and frequently attributes this

‘queerness’ to a non-English heritage “Who knows but your father was Emperor of China and

your mother an Indian queen” (Brontë 45).

In the same vein as Nord, Terry Eagleton sees Heathcliff’s darkness and resistance to

the norms of English gentility as a sign of his Irish origin. His book Heathcliff and the Great

Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture notes how Brontë’s novel was composed roughly around the

Irish Famine, when her brother Branwell witnessed the influx of hundreds of Irish immigrants

onto the shores of Liverpool in the summer of 1847. Eagleton claims that Branwell’s accounts

of these immigrants may have influenced Emily Brontë’s depiction of Heathcliff as a “beast,

savage, lunatic, and demon. It is clear that this little Caliban has a nature on which nurture will

never stick; and that is simply an English way of saying that he is quite possibly Irish”

(Eagleton 3). Eagleton writes that it difficult to ascertain exactly “how black” Heathcliff is or

whether his darkness is a symptom of racial alterity or the dirt with which he is perpetually

covered as a child. Andrea Arnold pushes the question to its limit in her 2011 cinematic

adaptation of the novel by casting Solomon Glave and James Howson, both black actors, in the

role of Heathcliff. She chooses to re-inscribe the physical and ideological violence committed

against Heathcliff in Bronte’s novel within the more complex history of English colonialism

and slave trade. When Hindley whips Heathcliff for example, Arnold boldly transforms his
body into that of an ex-slave by showing scars and wounds from past floggings. This violence

is affectively amended in the next scene where Catherine soothes a bleeding, weeping, and

‘feminine’ Heathcliff by licking his wounds clean. In his review of the film “Dark Depths of

Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights” Benjamin Secher calls this “the film’s most electrifying


Nelly Dean clearly mentions in Brontë’s original text that Heathcliff could bear

Hindley’s attacks with a strange hyper-masculine fortitude “I was surprised to witness how

coolly the child gathered himself up, and went on with his intention, exchanging saddles and

all, and then sitting down on a bundle of hay to overcome the qualm which the violent blow

occasioned, before he entered the house” (Brontë 32). But Arnold casts Heathcliff as a young

ex-slave to show how Hindley’s hatred for Heathcliff is not out of personal jealousy but a

collective Anglo-Saxon fear of the racial Other, “He’s not my brother. He’s a nigger”. In

Arnold’s film, Earnshaw repeatedly berates Hindley for not being a “good Christian” rather

than teach him to accept Heathcliff as his brother. Hindley’s floggings are nothing but a

physical embodiment of the ideological violence with which Heathcliff is forcibly baptised.

This outcast black child cannot subscribe to the archetypal Byronic image of masculinity and

seeks ‘feminine’ empathy, compassion, and reparative gestures from Catherine. Even

Heathcliff’s return to Wuthering Heights, as an adult, deviates from the original paradigm of

Byronic vengeance. He re-enters the world that had rejected him out of dread and sympathy

for Hindley’s poverty (as it no doubt, reminds him of his own). James Howson’s performance

also reveals a ‘feminine’ desire to renew his friendship with Catherine rather than a ‘masculine’

need to punish her for choosing Edgar Linton. When Catherine crushes a side of Heathcliff’s

face under her boot, it signifies her ideological conformity to the norms of Thrushcross Grange,

but he does little to fight back or assert his masculinity over her. Catherine and Heathcliff are
thus portrayed as caged birds of Victorian society—a visual metaphor that Arnold consistently

employs in the film—that prevents them from being able to rescue one another.

Eagleton succinctly states that, “The reverse of the cultivation of Nature is the

naturalization of culture, or in a word, ideology” (Eagleton 4). The ‘queerness’ of Wuthering

Heights arises from the fact that its main characters obstinately refuse to be cultivated by

ideological apparatuses like the family, the Church, heterosexual marriage, and even

Christian death. In the early sections of Brontë’s novel, Catherine’s dead spirit returns in the

form of an insolent narcissistic child who causes the ageing Heathcliff to tragically regress to

his boyhood anxieties and desires. Even as he desperately attempts to maintain a ‘white’

hyper-masculine façade as owner of Wuthering Heights, Catherine’s ghost thwarts him from

performing that idealised role. This is beautifully rendered in Arnold’s film where Catherine

and Heathcliff’s love has a child-like, natural, ecological, or environmentally sensitive

orientation from the very beginning. It resists ideology by opting for a wild, tactile,

‘creaturely love’ shorn off language and its consequent classist, racial, and patriarchal biases.

The film deliberately avoids using a musical score and dialogue during the first half. Secher

observes how “Arnold’s film cleaves fiercely to the wild spirit, if not the word, of Brontë’s

unsettling text, steering a ragged course far removed from the conventions of period romance.

There’s no swooning here, no happy endings”. When she first sees the young ex-slave enter

her home with her father, Catherine spits on Heathcliff’s face and is struck by Earnshaw. She

curiously peeks through a crack in the door as Nelly Dean bathes Heathcliff in the kitchen,

and Heathcliff reciprocally returns her gaze. Her first words to him are not of symbolic

violence but affect and compassion, “Are you hurt? Can you understand me? Come.”

Catherine then teaches Heathcliff the word “lapwing” by showing him her collection of

feathers as a budding naturalist or amateur ornithologist.

In the film, Catherine invites Heathcliff to share her dominion over the moors, allowing

his innate ‘wildness’ to finally feel at home with its flora and fauna. She immediately relates

to his distaste for the white patriarchal civility that governs the interior domestic spaces of

Wuthering Heights. Michael Lawrence in his essay “Nature and the Non-Human in Andrea

Arnold’s Wuthering Heights” writes that Arnold’s sketch of Catherine and Heathcliff’s

childhood interactions on the moors “functions not only to divide our attention across human

and non-human realms but also to counter nostalgic and ultimately ideological idealisations of

‘white’ and ‘English’ natural landscapes and rural lifestyles” (177). Rather than show an

intensely humanistic heterosexual relationship between the two main characters, Arnold

revives much of the wildness and ambiguity of Brontë’s novel for a contemporary urban

audience by locating all the action resolutely within nature. The film is shot mostly from

Heathcliff’s perspective, but Lawrence notes the “preponderance of unmotivated shots of the

countryside and its non-human inhabitants” that “demonstrates a post-humanist distribution of

attention that not only exceeds the perspectives of its human protagonists but also challenges

popular ideas about the novel and subverts the conventions of narrative cinema” (178). By

regarding ‘nature’ as nature, Arnold satirises the ideological tendencies of Victorian patriarchy

to symbolise wilderness through the gypsy, the female child, the homosexual, or the colonial

body. She locates her adaptation within the original context of English Romanticism that drew

Brontë’s attention towards Wordsworth and the Lake Poets. Anne Williams calls the novel “a

quintessential example of “natural supernaturalism”—a phrase borrowed from Carlyle—and

claims that both Charlotte and Emily Brontë’s writing reflected “an intuition that the natural

and the supernatural provide complementary contexts for the revelation of what Wordsworth

called “the primary laws of our nature” (Williams 105).

To that extent, a large portion of Arnold’s film prevents the child actors Solomon Glave

and Shannon Beer from actually speaking to each other. They communicate almost exclusively

through facial, emotive, and tactile expressions. Language is not repressed or sublimated here

because of gender, race, or class difference but it is simply extraneous to Catherine and

Heathcliff’s ‘queer’, wild, and spontaneous interactions on the moor. When they fight or

struggle with each other on the fields, it is not through words but a kind of ‘creaturely’

competition like dogs nipping at each other’s tails. The development of their love in the film

is framed by, “expansive views of the empty countryside and intimate vignettes of insect

activity; we are given shots of cloudbanks in the sky and of lichens on the ground; we are

invited to contemplate the moonlight on a spider’s web and mist descending on a herd of cows”

(Lawrence 179). For a contemporary audience expecting at least some homage to the original

text, such expansive silent scenes of nature can be extremely disturbing and disorienting—in

other words, ‘queer’. But Arnold is able to strike a balance between the plot and the setting, so

much so, that much of the natural drama escalates the progression of the plot. Following a shot

of beetles collecting leaves and rocks to build shelter, we see Heathcliff working as a labourer

on the field lifting stones. This generates sympathy not only for Heathcliff’s subaltern status in

the household after Earnshaw’s death, but it draws this affect out of nature over culture.

Lawrence correctly notes that Arnold’s decisions to portray Heathcliff as an ex-slave

surrounded by animal life on the farm “combine to produce a period drama or literary

adaptation that is inherently political due to its revelatory exposure of the history of

multiculturalism in England and the realities of cross-species interactions in agricultural

landscapes” (italics added) (Lawrence 180).

The apotheosis of these wild or ‘queer’ gestures of love may be seen in the moment

Catherine licks Heathcliff’s wounds clean. This is ironically recapitulated in adulthood when
Isabella Linton scratches Catherine’s forearm in jealous rage, but Heathcliff cannot reciprocate

due to his newly acquired ‘white’ chivalry. Catherine smirks at him, and perhaps at the moral

hypocrisies inherent within Victorian marriage, and sucks the blood from her wound herself.

Despite their desire to appear civilised, Arnold represents the humans in her film to be nothing

but an extension of the animal. When Heathcliff brushes the hair of the horses in the stable, he

recalls the time he had scrubbed dirt from Catherine’s wet dark hair. Dominic Pettman’s book

Creaturely Love: How Desire Makes us More or Less than Human argues, “Whether it is the

texture of the beloved’s skin or hair, their singular scent, the way they drool in their sleep, the

way they eat with their mouth open, or the way they are trapped within their own umwelt of

semiotic disinheritors: we love the creaturely in the other, as much as their humanity” (3).

Pettman’s treatise on desire and the “animal side” of love is invested in de-pathologizing

notions of ‘queerness’, savagery, and bestiality by claiming that these feelings are actually

quite normal in sexual desire. In lieu of the simplistic Darwinian reduction—that animals are

our ancestors or their sexual urges are an ‘erotic equivalent’ to human ‘love’—Pettman claims

that the “creaturely” impulse inheres within the elevated humanistic ideal of romantic love. His

aim is to deconstruct that “traditional distinction” between the human, who experiences love,

and the animal that experiences only primal attraction. Pettman traces this distinction back to

the Enlightenment and identifies the Romantic tradition in literature to be the first serious

challenge to humanistic spiritual notions of love.

Brontë’s portrayal of Catherine and Heathcliff’s childhood affection allows her to

‘queer’ this humanistic and heterosexist ideal of love by introjecting elements of the wild and

the creaturely. Arnold takes this a step further in her postmodern adaptation by actively

situating their relationship within a feral framework of animal and insect life. Pettman believes

that by acknowledging the creaturely in love, one does not essentially devalue its spiritual
aspects but may imbue it with a humility that transcends social boundaries and norms. This is

reminiscent of Butler’s call for queer theory as an “ethics of humility”. It is worth noting that

the success of Arnold’s adaptation, or at least its “inherently political” significance, comes

from her connection of English colonialism to the industrial revolution and its destruction of

all things natural or creaturely in the human. Arnold shows how each reminder of this

destruction becomes painful to Heathcliff, such as when Catherine returns from Thrushcross

Grange with her hair properly coiffured in “ringlets”. She immediately recoils from his body

stating, “All you have to do is wash and clean up. You do look dirty”. In this poignant scene,

which invokes Heathcliff’s original response to Catherine from Brontë’s novel, he sullenly

retorts, “You did not have to touch me. I like being dirty”. The fact that Heathcliff’s ‘dirtiness’

or difference in the novel stems first and foremost from his racial alterity—regardless of

whether it is Romany, Irish, or black—is worth remembering. Kennard blindly equates the

violence and repression of Heathcliff’s identity to Brontë’s own repressed homosexuality. But

Arnold’s film avoids making that fallacy by depicting Heathcliff and Catherine’s love to be

neither racist or heterosexist, but rather ‘feral’.

Arnold successfully de-canonises both the bodies of Brontë and Heathcliff within

Victorian literary criticism by revealing their resistance to history, biography, generic

definition, archetype and other forms of ‘domesticating’ discourses. In her interview for The

Guardian with Benjamin Lee, Arnold draws attention to one of the most iconic scenes of her

film where the Heathcliff traverses the moor with dead rabbits slung on his back. She wanted

to convey the image of “a misty moor on a day when the earth and sky are merging, and there’s

a big animal climbing inside of the moor”. The audience then realises that the animal is in fact

“a man, carrying rabbits on his back”. She even goes on to state that she finds her own film

difficult to watch or “hard to look at”—much as Brontë’s original text is a disturbing read even
today. Arnold’s film is an excellent example of what the Toronto-based journal Feral

Feminisms calls an “untaming, queering, and radicalizing [of] feminist thought and practice

today” (5). Founded in 2013, the scope of the journal is grounded on “the implication that not

all feminisms are feral”—meaning not all feminisms are adequately intersectional, anti-

patriarchal, and anti-colonial in their collective approaches. Taking off from Halberstam’s

claim that the political potential of queer theory lies in “going wild”—the journal agrees that

certain strands of contemporary feminism and queer theory have become ‘domesticated’ over

time. As per various “homo-normalizing political agendas” (8) in the West, the term ‘queer’ is

most often interchangeably used with the categories of ‘gay’ and ‘lesbian’. But by wilding or

feralizing the concept, Feral Feminisms commits itself to a kind of on-going radicalism or

“feminist separatism” (8).

Feral Feminisms actively chooses the word ‘feral’ over ‘wild’ in order to highlight the

liminality and slippage between otherwise binary oppositional social categories such as

masculine and feminine, human and animal, white and black, native and settler, or homosexual

and heterosexual. ‘Wild’ and ‘wilderness’ are archaic terms that denigrate all that is not white

or masculine as being “barbaric, savage, or that which the civilized opposes” (9). However, by

adding the prefix ‘feral’ to feminist representations in politics and literature, the journal allows

one to reclaim animality and ambiguity not only as (negative) modes of critique of the

humanistic paradigm, but also as (positive) ontological categories in their own right. An

example of this is how Pettman’s places his theory of “creaturely love” within the normal

category of “human love”, rather than construing it as an opposition. Or how Arnold’s interest

in the flora and fauna of North Yorkshire “extends far beyond representing the characters’

ordinary interactions with pets, working animals and livestock. Non-human animals that serve

no obvious purpose (as pets or food) for the human characters are nevertheless privileged by
the film’s expanded mode of attention, and are not always utilised for the purpose of

augmenting the human story” (Lawrence 186). It seems that a feral or creaturely aesthetic

allows one to recognise the vulnerability of certain bodies and experiences within white

heterosexist patriarchy while retaining the force of their struggle for self-expression and

reclaimed desire. It firmly declares that both aggressor and victim are wounded by these violent

oppositional interactions, thus producing the fraught nature of contemporary politics and

literature. In their introduction to the volume “Feral Theory” of the journal, Kelly Struthers

Montford and Chloë Taylor write:

We are drawn to the liminal animals who are apart from the society in which they

nonetheless live. Although being liminal in the case of nonhuman animals may often

be less voluntary, the liminality of these animals has parallels to being feminists in a

misogynist society and vegans in a carnist society. The liminality of these animals also

has resonance with being anticolonialist in a settler-colonial state. Beyond this

precarious sense of identification, we are drawn to the feral because at least some ferals

represent the prospect of escape from a former relationship of domination and control.


In conclusion, the feral feminist approach acknowledges the historical and material

violence committed upon these bodies but couches it within a more general framework of

‘queerness’, post-humanism, ontological humility, and the de-centeredness of white

heterosexist structures of power within the Western canon.

Works Cited

− Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Ed. Richard J. Dunne. New York and London: W. W.

Norton and Co., 1991.

− Eagleton, Terry. Heathcliff and the Great Hunger: Studies in Irish Culture. London and

New York: Verso, 1995.

− Halberstam, Judith, David. L. Eng, and José Esteban Muñoz. What’s Queer about Queer

Studies Now? Social Text 84/85. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005.

− Kennard, Jean. “Lesbianism and the Censoring of Wuthering Heights.” NWSA Journal 8.2,

John Hopkins University Press (1996): 17-36.

− Lawrence, Michael. “Nature and the Non-Human in Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights.”

Journal of British Cinema and Television 13.1, Edinburgh University Press (2016): 177-194.

− Lee, Benjamin. “Andrea Arnold: I find my adaptation of Wuthering Heights ‘hard to look

at’.” The Guardian (19 April 2016).


− Montford, Kelly Struthers, and Chloë Taylor. “Feral Theory: Editors’ Introduction.” Feral

Feminisms 6 (Fall 2016): 5-17.

− Nord, Deborah Epstein. “Marks of Race”: Gypsy Figures and Eccentric Femininity in

Nineteenth-Century Women’s Writing.” Victorian Studies 41.2 (1998): 189-210.

− Pettman, Dominic. Creaturely Love: How Desire Makes us More or Less than Human.

Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2017.

− Secher, Benjamin. “Dark Depths of Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights.” The Telegraph

(5 Nov 2011).


− Shachar, Hila. Cultural Afterlives and Screen Adaptations of Classic Literature: Wuthering

Heights and Company. UK: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012.

− Williams, Anne. “Natural Supernaturalism in Wuthering Heights.” Studies in Philology

82.1, University of North Carolina Press (1985): 104-127.

− Wuthering Heights. Dir. by Andrea Arnold. Perf. by Solomon Glave, James Howson.

Shannon Beer, and Kaya Scodelario, Film4, 2011.

Dreams, Landscape, and Solitude in Emily Bronte's Poetry

- Basundhara Chakraborty

The composition of literature has always been a male privileging province and as a

consequence, women composers have had to work against the grain. Never part of the dominant

canon, their works have always been considered secondary to those of their male counterparts.

This tradition of discrimination has a universal character, as the subordinated status of female

literary figures in every part of the world, down the ages, bears witness to it. The fate of the

nineteenth-century female literary figures is no exception. A contemporary review of their

works read their compositions as “a light, readable mixture of poems, stories, letters, and

fashionable chit-chat’ and categorized their works as ‘frivolous, trivial and unliterary’ (Mermin

125). A great number of literary practitioners of merit were thus relegated into the sphere of

oblivion. Yet their voice was mighty enough to break the labyrinthine structure of the

patriarchal prejudices. Emily Brontë was a forerunner of these female literary figures who

“exploded out of the Queen’s looking glass” and destroyed “the glass coffin of the male-

authored text”, and as a consequence, “the old silent dance of death became a dance of triumph,

a dance into speech, a dance of authority”(Gilbert &Guber 44).An enigmatic figure among her

contemporaries, she was “alternately the isolated artist striding the Yorkshire moors, the

painfully shy girl-woman unable to leave the confines of her home […] and the ethereal soul

too fragile to confront the temporal world” (“Poetry Foundation”).Composition of literature

was an extremely private affair for her as she used to “hide her poems in kitchen cabinets (and

perhaps destroyed her Gondal stories)”(Gilbert & Gubar 83) and get only two of her literary

compositions published during her lifetime – the novel, Wuthering Heights and the collection

of poetry Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell(1846), a collective endeavour undertaken

along with her sisters Charlotte and Anne. Written at a time when the poet laureate Robert
Southey advised Charlotte Bronte: “Literature cannot be the business of a woman’s life, and it

ought not to be. The more she is engaged in her proper duties, the less leisure will she have for

it even as an accomplishment and a recreation” (Jenner 12), it was no wonder that the second

edition of Wuthering Heights was an “ill success”,(7) as Charlotte Brontë states in her

Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell. Though she was never much enthusiastic about

the success of Wuthering Heights, Charlotte never failed to recognize the merit of her sister

Emily’s poetry:

One day, in the autumn of 1845, I accidentally lighted on a MS. volume of

verse in my sister Emily's handwriting. Of course, I was not surprised,

knowing that she could and did write verse: I looked it over, and something

more than surprise seized me -- a deep conviction that these were not common

effusions, nor at all like poetry women generally write. I thought them

condensed and terse, vigorous and genuine. To my ear, they had also a

peculiar music-- melancholy, and elevating (ibid 5-6).

Though only two copies of Poems were sold in her lifetime (Akbay 375), her poetic works

earned Emily positive reactions from some of her contemporaries also. The reviewer in the

Athaneum(1846) noted that Ellis Bell (Emily Brontë) has a “fine quaint spirit” and added that

she had “things to speak that men will be glad to hear,—and an evident power of wind that

may reach heights not here attempted” and the review in the journal Critic found in her poetry

traces of Wordsworth and Tennyson’s influence (Allot 60-61). But perhaps the greatest praise

came from Matthew Arnold who found similarities between Emily and the enigmatic figure of

Lord Byron:
…and She—

(How shall I sing her?)—whose soul

Knew no fellow for might,

Passion, vehemence, grief,

Daring, since Byron died,

That world-fan'd Son of Fire; She, who sank

Baffled, unknown, self-consum’d;

Whose too-bold dying sun?

Shook, like a clarion-blast, my soul (Gezari 1627-1629)

Yet, in spite of all these positive criticisms, Emily was never part of the dominant tradition of

Victorian poetry of which Tennyson, Arnold, and Rossetti were representative voices. And for

the successive generations, her reputation as a poet has been eclipsed by the phenomenal

success of Wuthering Heights, a tour de force. Most of the scholarly anthologies on Victorian

women poets have excluded Emily Bronte from their ambit, for example we can mention

Angela Leighton’s Victorian Women Poets: Writing Against the Heart (1992), Armstrong and

Blain’s Women’s Poetry: Late Romantic to Victorian (1999), Virginia Blain’s Victorian

Women Poets: A New Annotated Anthology (2001). The explanations for this tradition of

neglect are beyond the immediate objective of this paper as it is an attempt to trace that lost

legacy of this “poet of solitude” (“Hermitary”). The paper will attempt a reappraisal of her

lyrical canon and analyze her poetic works in landscape poetic tradition of the Victorian age

by doing a comparative study between her poetic works and the poetry of Tennyson, Arnold

and Hardy, the great trio of Victorian. The paper will also attempt a holistic understanding of

Emily Bronte’s poetic development through textual analysis of her early literary creations as

well as her mature poems and critically analyze: (a) how the process of dreaming informs both
the content and lyrical structure of Bronte’s poetry; (b) how she used landscape as the central

metaphor of her poetry; and (c) how she earned the epithet of the “poet of solitude”. The critical

approach of the study will combine textual analysis, biographical criticism and socio-historical


A master at de-familiarization, she presented nature and the everyday experiences of

human beings in a completely new light (Akbay 379). The experience of dreaming is one such

phenomenon exploited by her. It has been a constant theme in Emily Bronte’s poetic oeuvre.

They endorse not only her urge for imaginative escape from the mundane world but also,

paradoxically her acceptance of the need to live in that world. The metaphoric quality of her

dream poems bears witness to this fact. A sense of loss is all pervasive in Emily Bronte’s

poetry. In poems like “Stars”, “The Night of Storms”, “Alone I Sat”, “Lines by Claudia”,

“Castle Wood”, “The Guardians are Asleep” the speaker perceives an imaginary landscape in

a dream and waking up laments the loss of it. In this context, her poetry reiterates the medieval

tradition of dream allegory, where this same sense of loss had a dominant presence. This

allegorical quality of dream framework is particularly beneficial to the poet using it, as it had

been for Chaucer, as it said to have protected him or his narrator from exhibiting “his bleeding

heart”, as Dorothy Bethurum puts it. She further adds: “[the dream framework] serves mainly

for aesthetic distancing. It is a vision within the poem, two degrees from reality, and allows an

even further idealization that we ordinarily expect in a poem” (214-215). This process of

distancing has been a very subtle one – the strategic use of limited vocabulary provides the

reader an impression of “…observing an emotion once or twice removed, being declaimed,

dressed up in gestures, stance or expression” (Ross 124) as happens in dreams, as Sigmund

Freud in his Interpretation of Dreams elucidates (349-56). The poems provide the readers with

no explanations; rather they distort their practice of conventional reading of poetic pieces

where the principle of logic has been given the dominant presence and they can best be read in
line with Kenneth Burke’s theory of reading “the poem as dream” where he asks the reader to

notice: “… the way in which grammatical rules are violated… the dream’s ways of enacting

conjunctions, of solving arguments by mutually contradictory assertions” (238). This violation

of grammatical rules has been a constant feature in Emily Bronte’s poetry, for example, we can

mention the poem “It is not pride, it is not shame”, wherein asserting the negation of causality,

she actually means to assert the presence of both these emotions (Ross 125).

In Emily Bronte’s poetry, the poetic voice often laments the loss of the ideal state of

childhood where some mysterious happenings seem to have taken place. She often recollects

the happy bygone days of her childhood and sometimes this process of recollection turns into

a daydream, as it happens in the following extract: “Oh, I’m gone back to the days of youth,/I

am a child once more;/ And ‘neath my father’s sheltering roof…” (Bronte 284). Freud, in his

essay “The Relation of The Poet to Dayd reaming” has explained childhood memories to be

the source of creative inspiration in later life. He explained the analogy between creative

impetus and daydreaming thus:

Some actual experience which made a strong impression on the writer had stirred up a

memory of an earlier experience generally belonging to childhood, which then

arouses a wish that finds fulfillment in the work in question, and in which elements of

the recent event and the old memory should be discernible… the stress laid on the

writer’s memories of his childhood, which perhaps seems so strange, which ultimately

derived from the hypothesis that imaginative creation, like daydreaming, is a

continuation and substitute for the play of childhood (41-42).

This “substitution” becomes evident in Emily Bronte’s poetry as she writes: “No – Not forget

eternally/Remains its memory dear” (10-11); And here she shares an affinity with the great
romantics like Wordsworth and Thomas De Quincy, as in their creative world childhood is

the source of inspiration as happens in her case.

Emily Bronte was not only a dreamer but a visionary herself who has transcended the

limitations of her immediate world. In her poem “Stars”, the narrative voice is waking herself

up in the morning after a dreamful night. We do not get to know about the contents of her

dream as the psychological activity of dreaming was more important for the poet than the

psychology of her poetic self: “Although the dream has ended, she writes about what it feels

like to be caught up in it, not about what it feels like to contemplate it or to use it to better

understand the waking self” (Gezari427-429). She is bereaved at the loss of the maternal care

of the night stars and the patriarchal spirit of the sun has made the estrangement between them

all the wider:“The soul of nature, sprang, elate, I But mine sank sad and low!” Yet soon she is

able to transcend the limitations of herself and feel for the suffering humanity itself, as she

becomes conscious of the oppressive nature of the sun “that does not warm, but burns?;/ That

drains the blood of suffering men;/ drinks tears instead of dew” (Gezari 405).

Though nature has been a constant presence in Bronte’s poetic oeuvre, she can never

be categorized as a nature poet. The natural beauty of the landscape of West Yorkshire is never

the central theme in her works; rather it serves as a pre-condition, a metaphor for the various

state of mind of the poetic self. All the natural objects in the landscape- Mountains, Moon, Sun,

the stars, wildflowers are there not for their own sake, but for the sake of the poetic self. The

bleak natural surrounding stands for the isolated self that feels estranged from its surroundings.

Many of Emily Bronte’s poems begin with a description of nature; in Winifred Gerin’s words

“What the day was like, and how the earth looked” (67). The tranquil state of nature is often

described by the poet thus:

Loud without the wind was roaring

Through the wan autumnal sky;

Drenching wet, the cold rain pouring

Spoke of stormy winter’snigh.

All too like that dreary eve

Sighed within repining grief;

Sighed at first, but sighed not long-

Sweet- How softly sweet it came!

Wild words of an ancient song.

Undefined, without a name (56-57).

The “wild words” of the “ancient song” makes her recollect the bygone days of her happy

childhood when the self was inseparable from nature:

How sweetly that brought back to me

The time when nor labour nor dreaming

Broke the sleep of the happy and free (ibid)

This joyous state of childhood makes us remember the happy child of Wordsworth’s The

Prelude, Book I and the innocent state of childhood in William Blake’s Songs of Innocence.

The absence of that blissful state of mind, as well as heavenly nature, has been the central

subject matter of many of Emily Bronte’s poems:

The night is darkening around me,

The wilds winds coldly blow;

But a tyrant spell has bound me

And I cannot, cannot go (103).

This sense of loss is all-pervading in Emily Bronte’s poetry, leading Irving H. Buchen to

designate her as the “poet of loss” (248). This elegiac sense of loss is central to Emily Bronte’s

poems as in almost every poem the poetic self is recollecting that experience of loss or

meditating upon it. And the landscape is the most compatible vehicle for expressing that

emotion. Emily Bronte was perhaps the most a-historical poet of the Victorian era as “she did

not possess even her sister Charlotte’s ability to depict a human consciousness as it passes

through phases of development, from isolation to psychic integration” (Ross 153). And this

characteristic of her makes her stand apart from her celebrated contemporary Tennyson. The

speakers in Emily Bronte’s poems are not interested in conveying a sense of continuation from

innocence to experience, fragmentation to unity; rather they stand for the emotions resulting

from those tumultuous experiences.

A binary between the microcosm and macrocosm, i.e. man and nature is self-evident in

Emily Bronte’s poetry. In her world, the solace in the human world is vulnerable to benign

nature. This anti-naturalist spirit is something she shares with Thomas Hardy and Matthew

Arnold. Among the successive generations Walter Pater, Wallace Stevens, Phillip Larkin are

the flag bearers of this school of poetry. Ann Marie Ross in this context writes:

Emily Bronte’s poems affirm again and again Phillip Larkin’s perception, that

among the objects in nature “none of this cares for us” (The Whitsuntide

Wedding) or Wallace Steven’s perception in “The Showman” that man

apprehends in nature that can only be approximated by a doubling of negations:

“the nothing that is not there and the nothing that is” (158).

In an early poem of her called “Lord of Elbe”, the poetic selfseems to find a resemblance

between the fire in the domestic hearth and the stars in the sky:
Bright are the fires in your lonely home

I see them far off, and as deepens the glooms

Gleaming like stars through the forest- boughs

Gladder they glow in the park’s repose (Bronte 89).

Through the careful use of simile, in a roundabout manner, she has pointed out the gap between

the domestic corner of solace and bleak nature. In a later poem, this unbridgeable gap between

domestic space and outside nature is presented thus:

From our evening fireside now,

Merry laugh and cheerful tone,

Smiling eye and cloudless bough,

Mirth and music, all are flown;

Yet the grass before the door

Grows as green in April rain;

And as blithely as of yore

Larks have poured their day-long strain (Bronte 139)

But the poetic selves in Emily Bronte’s poems never experience the sense of desolation that

was common in the Victorian landscape poetry, especially in Arnold’s poetry. She was never

afflicted with the Victorian man’s dilemma concerning nature – whether to follow the

Augustan philosophy or the Romantic philosophy concerning it (Roper 9). The figures in her

poetry never interact physically with nature – we never see them ascend or descend hills or

mountain, nor pass through valleys as in many of Arnold’s poems. In this context we should

remember that the landscape in Emily Bronte’s poetry is “the indurate northern landscape [that]
resists the efforts of man to tame, to humanize it” in contrast with the hospitable southern

landscape that Arnold portrays in his poems (Ross 174).

Solitude has been one of the most pervasive themes in Emily Bronte’s poetic oeuvre,

leading Helen Dunmore to aptly title her collection of Emily Bronte’s poetry as Poems of

Solitude(2004).A large number of critics have found her preoccupation with the theme of

solitude as a fictional reflection of the reclusive life that she used to live. The voice of Margaret

Drabble is a representative one in this context, as she in “The Writers as Recluse: The Theme

of Solitude in the works of the Bronte’s” writes:

I am sure that one of the reasons why the Brontes have so captured the

imagination of the reading world… is that they present themselves as

archetypal figures. Their situation was an archetype of the romantic writer’s

imagined solitude… Emily was a true solitary, a true recluse: she had no

friends, wrote no letters to speak of, hated to travel or to be away from home,

and seemed to commune more with animals, books, nature, and God, than

with human beings (259-61).

If we agree with Yeats’ theory that: “a poet writes always of his personal life, in his finest

work, out of its tragedy, whatever it be, remorse, lost love, or mere loneliness” (200), then the

solitude in Emily Bronte’s poetry seems to have autobiographical significance. In this context

we should also keep in mind that the solitude in her poetic meditations does not bear any

melodramatic undertone – it would be a fallacy to interpret her solitude as the tragic fate of a

spinster as her solitary life was more a choice than compulsion, as she, being “a solitude-loving

raven, no gentle dove”, as Charlotte Bronte puts it, “found in the bleak solitude [of the moors]

many and clear delights…” (“Hermitary”).This note of “delight” becomes self-evident if we

take up a close reading of this poem by Emily Bronte wrote on May 11, 1837:
O may I never lose the peace

That lulls me gently now,

Though time should change my youthful face,

And years should shade my brow!

True to myself, and true to all,

May I be healthful still,

And turn away from passions call,

And curb my own wild will (282).

Solitude was never a dreadful thing for her poetic selves, as she announced:

I'm happiest when most away

I can bear my soul from its home of clay

On a windy night when the moon is bright

And the eye can wander through worlds of light --

When I am not and none beside --

Nor earth nor sea nor cloudless sky --

But other spirit wandering wide

Through infinite immensity (Bronte 306).

Solitude for her was a liberating experience as she writes:

And like myself lone, wholly lone,

It sees the day’s? long sunshine glow;

And like myself, it makes its mean

In unexhausted woe.
Give me the hills our equal prayer:

Earth's breezy hills and heaven's blue sea;

We ask for nothing further here

But our own hearts and liberty (Bronte 261).

Disillusioned with the hypocritical, inhuman world, Emily found herself triumphant as, in her

own words; she “fought neither for my home nor God”. Being confident about the enlightening

nature of her solitary state, she is said to have felt the presence of “God within [her] breast”

and finally announce:

No coward soul is mine

No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere

I see Heaven's glories shine

And Faith shines equal, arming me from Fear (81-82).

The solitary figure in Bronte’s poetry often regains her “faith in himself and the universe”

(Gezari492) in her dream, as it happens in the poem “A Day Dream”. As the poem begins, she,

a “sullen” figure, is lying “alone” on a “sunny brae”. But gradually she is relieved of her

miserable state, “a fit of peevish woe” as she sees in her dream “thousand thousand gleaming

fires” and hears “thousand thousand silvery lyres” (Gezari 489).

Though critics like Robin Grove argue that Emily Bronte’s poetic oeuvre “shows no

convincing chronological development” (45), Inga- Stina Ewbank has traced “a development

towards a stronger moral consciousness” (106-107). Ross has explained it thus: “If the

strategies of escape and withdrawal remain constants in Emily Bronte’s poetry, at least in her

later poetry she is able to create speakers who more fully explore the relationships between

internal and external reality” (188). Though the dominant tone in the early poems has been an

urge for escape as the poetic self feels alienated from nature, in the later poems the self achieves
a greater understanding towards the relationship between human beings and nature: “ [They

often] counterpoint[their] subjectivity against the tangible existence of nature” (ibid). The

omnipotent nature and its enduring quality often provide relief to the poetic self from mundane

worldly existence. The earlier poems often record minute detailing of nature and its objects,

but gradually, in the later poems, especially in the poems written during 1841-1846 nature and

its objects attain symbolic status; less attention is given to the detailing of nature. The rhetorical

figure of antithesis is the dominant one in the later poems. For instance, we can mention

Emily’s frequent oxymoronic use of adverbs like “never” and “always”, “all and one” in her

poems. Ross has traced a “tendency towards an antithesis of extremes, towards hyperbole” in

Emily Bronte’s poetic development (198). Her strategic use of verbs and adjectives in her later

poems bear witness to this thesis. In the poem “Stars”, Bronte has used verbs like “thrilled”,

“throbbed”, “burn”, “drank”, “scorched”, “struck” and traced the progression of the poetic self

from attraction towards repulsion to the natural objects (Gezari 405). Similarly in the poem

“Death that struck when I was most confiding” (Bronte 39-40), the verbs and particles trace

the progress of the poetic self from birth to division and finally reunification. In the poems of

the earlier stage, Bronte has used a number of adjectives to give voice to the emotions of the

poetic self, as it happens in the poem “Were they shepherds who sat all day?”: the brows are

“fevered” and “pallid”, the heart is “sickened”, joy is “blissful”, the day “dreary” or “gloomy”,

and the wind “restless” (Bronte 152). While describing nature, these adjectives also throw light

on the mental state of the self in the poem:

The wind, I hear it sighing

With autumn’s saddest sound;

Withered leaves as thick are lying

As spring flowers on the ground (ibid).

The bare, “sad” autumn landscape often stands for “the emptiness of both physical and psychic

space” of the narrative self in poetry as well as the creator: “Emily Bronte’s poems often depict

the speaker’s withdrawal amidst nature as they depict her withdrawal from nature; for, as the

single figure inhabiting the uninhabited expanse of the moors she may experience the more

acutely her isolation” (Ross 202) as it happens in the following poem:

Come, sit down on this sunny stone’

’Tis wintry light o’er flowerless moors—

But sit – for we are all alone

And clear expand heaven’s breathless shores (Bronte 134).

In making the theme of isolation central to her poetic oeuvre, Emily Bronte exhibited a

continuum with the dominant tradition of Victorian poetry, but her writing was more a

subversion of the dominant tradition that a reiteration of it:

If Bronte exalts isolation at the expense of participation in the world, the

major poets of the period, especially Arnold, tend to view it as, at best, a

palliative for the life enclosed within the ‘brazen prison’ of Victorian urban

society, and, at worst, an escape from the duty to participate in the world

(Ross 303).

In Arnold’s poetry, the isolated speakers seek refuge in nature. For example, in the poem

“Parting” the desolated lover is complaining to nature of his ladylove Marguerite’s indifference

towards him, and is trying to embrace the motherly nature:

Blow, ye winds! Lift me with you!

I come to the wild!

Fold closely, O Nature!

Thine arms round thine child (“Poetry nook”).

But nature itself is void of the human emotions and fails to substitute human love “because it

contains no reference point to human values” (Ross 283). The speaker of Emily Bronte’s “To

Imagination” seems to be already conscious about the incompatible relationship between

human world and nature:

Reason indeed may oft complain

For nature’s sad reality,

And tell the suffering heart how vain

Its cherished dreams must always be (Bronte 39).

Another distinction between Bronte and Arnold can be seen in their different treatment to the

memories of the past. Unlike Arnold’s “A Summer Night” where memories fade into “the dewy

dark obscurity at the far horizon’s rim”, in Bronte’s “The farewell’s echo from thy soul”the

past gets fused into the present as the speaker recollects her wrongdoings in the past and claims

to experience a lifelong “repentance”:

I know that I have done thee wrong –

Have wronged both thee and heaven—

And I may mourn my lifetime long

Yet may not be forgiven (192).

This endless cycle of remembrance and repentance gets reiterated in many of Bronte’s poems,

like “Remembrance”, “Death that Struck When I was most confiding”, “This Summer Wind”.

Unlike Arnold, Bronte never details the event that her narrator remembers as the act of

remembrance was given central importance by her:

Bronte omits spatial-temporal references, deletes the content of remembered

experience in order to emphasize the fact of recollected emotion. Since the

speaker’s emotion is revivified in the present, she fails to draw a distinction

between an event remembered in the past and emotions it engenders in the

present. Bronte’s speakers do not so much meditate upon the past as use to

revivify the present (Ross 293).

This condensation of the past at present has been a signature style of Bronte and it makes her

stand apart from her celebrated contemporary Tennyson. Interestingly, both of them shared an

affinity for using the same symbolism of window and domestic space, but with differing

treatments. While for Tennyson, this symbolism was intended to emphasize the “contrast . . .

between a modern setting and a circumscribed past of myth, legend or fairy tale” (Ross 425),

for Bronte it symbolized continuity between the domestic setting of home and nature outside,

as it happens in the following poem:

Yes, as I mused, the naked room,

The flickering firelight died away

And from the midst of cheerless gloom

I passed to bright, unclouded day –

A little and a lone green lane

That opened in a common wide;

A distant, dreamy, dim blue chain

Of mountains circling every side(Hewish 50);

But, in “Mariana”, Tennyson, in spite of detailing the domestic space, distances his lonely

protagonist’s emotions from her surroundings and emphasizes on her self-delusory state,

through the words “dreamy house”, and presents her experiences thus:

In a white curtain, to and fro,

She saw the gusty shadow sway (“Poetry Foundation”).

Ross explains it thus: “Whereas in Tennyson’s poetry window and enclosure more often

symbolize the disparity between the speaker’s desire and his actual condition, the same image

in Bronte’s poetry symbolize the imaginative fusion of actual condition and dream or desire”


Of all her contemporary poets, it was Thomas Hardy with whom Emily Bronte shared

some affinities in her attitude towards the themes of time and landscape. The fusion of past and

present has been a dominant characteristic of both of them. Yet there are some individual traits

that made them stand apart from each other: firstly, we miss in Emily Bronte’s poetry the sense

of discovery that is all-pervasive in Hardy’s poetry: the speakers of Hardy’s poems minutely

detail all that they “see” and “hear” in nature and also the “lessons” they have learned from

nature. But this detailing about nature cannot be seen in Bronte’s poetry. And secondly, the

subtle fluctuation between past and present has been a trademark of Hardy’s poetry. But in

Bronte’s poetry, this oscillation takes a new shape: as “swiftly and inexplicably in her poems

we are shifted to the past; instants of time, associated with disparate emotions, shift rapidly”

(Ross 327). Ross has read the image of “pond’s edge” to be the epitome of the “fluctuating

margin between events” in Hardy’s poetry, but in Bronte’s poetry the events move towards

transcending the physical world (ibid):

Till far beyond earth’s frenzied strife

That makes destruction joy,

Thy perished faith shall spring to life

And my remorse shall die (Bronte 192).

Though criticized by many to be “self-indulgent and self-dramatizing, crude and extravagant,

or lacking in judgment and finish” like Emily Dickinson’s poetry (Howe 23-24), Emily

Bronte’s poetry has been praised by Gezari for being “the record of a powerfully independent

mind responding to her own inner experience in the world and seeking always an abrogation

of human limits compatible with a stern morality”(69). Almost as elusive as the life of their

creator, her poetical works are the best specimens of her individual, self-taught philosophy.

But to consider them as personal statements of her poetic mind would be a mistake as Virginia

Woolf reminds us: “the impulse which urged her to create was not her own suffering or her

own injuries, [but the] gigantic ambition [to comment on the relations between] the whole

human race [and] the eternal powers” (189). It was this ambition of hers that made her give

birth to a new kind of poetic language, which was personal and impersonal, conventional and

individual at the same time.

Works Cited

Primary Sources:

− Arnold, Mathew. “Parting”. Poetry nook. Web. 28 March, 2018.

− Bronte, Charlotte. ‘Biographical Notice of Ellis and Acton Bell’. In Emily Brontë,
Wuthering Heights. London: Penguin Popular Classics, 1994, p. 7. Print.
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Hodder & Stoughton: 1908.
− Freud, Sigmund. The Interpretation of Dreams.1900; Rpt. New York: Avon Books, 1965,
p. 349-56. Print.
− “The Relation of the Poet to Daydreaming”. In Character and Culture. New York: Collier
Books, 1963, p.41-42. Print.
− Tennyson, Alfred. “Mariana”. Poetry Foundation. Web. 10 March.
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− Akbay, Yesim Sultan. “The Mighty Voice of The Silenced: The Victorian Sappho’s
Literary Painting”. Journal of Süleyman Demirel University Institute of Social Sciences 28
(2017): p.371-382. <
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− Allot, Miriam. ed. The Brontes: The Critical Heritage. London: Routledge & Kegan Paul,
1974, p.60-61. Print.
− Bethurum, Dorothy. “Chaucer’s Point of View as Narrator in the Love Poems”.PMLA, 74
(1959).Rpt. in Chaucer Criticism. Ed. R.J. Schoeck and J. Taylor. Vol. 2. Notre Dame: Notre
Dame University Press, 1961, p.211-31. Print.
− Buchen, Irving. “Emily Bronte and the Metaphysics of Childhood and Love”. Nineteenth
Century Fiction, 22 (1967).Rpt. in Emily Bronte.Ed. Jean-Pierre Petit. Penguin Critical
Anthology. Harmondworth, Middlesex: Penguin Books, 1973, p.248. Print.
− Burke, Kenneth. A Rhetoric of Motives. Prentice-Hall,1950, 238. Print.
− Ewbank, Inga- Stina. Their Proper Sphere: A Study of the Bronte Sisters as Early Victorian
Female Novelists. London: Edwin Arnold, 1961, p.106-107. Print.
− Drabble, Margaret. “The Poet as Recluse: The Theme of Solitude in the Works of the
Brontes”. Bronte Society Transaction, 16 (1975), p.259- 69. Print.
− “Emily Bronte, The Poet of Solitude”. Hermitary. Web. 29 March 2018.
<>. Poetry Foundation. Web. 29 March 2018.
− Gerin, Winifred. Emily Bronte: A Biography. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1971, p. 67. Print.
− Gezari, J. Last Things: Emily Brontë’s Poems. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.
kindle Edition.
− Gilbert, S. M. Gubar, S. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the
Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, USA: Yale University Press, 2000, p.44-83. Print.
− Grove, Robin. “‘It Would Not Do: Emily Bronte as a Poet”, in The Art of Emily Bronte, ed.
Anne Smith. New York: Burnes and Noble, 1976. P.47-49. Print.
− Hewish, John. Emily Bronte: A Critical and Biographical Study. Macmillan,1969. Google
Books, <https://>.
− Howe, Susan. My Emily Dickinson. Berkley: North Atlantic Book, 1985, p.23-24. Print.

− Jenner, S. Identity and the Victorian Woman Poet: Working in and Against the Poetess
Tradition, Published Master’s Thesis, UK: The University of Birmingham, 2010. Print.
− Mermin, D. “Victorian Women’s Poetry, Late Romantic to Late Victorian: Gender and
Genre”, 1830-1900, Review, Victorian Poetry, 37.1. (1999), p.125. Print.
− Roper, Alan. Arnold’s Poetic Landscapes. Baltimore: John Hopkins University, 1969, p.9.
− Ross, Ann Marie. “The Dreamer in The Landscape: A Critical Study of Emily Bronte’s
Poetry”. Diss. U of California,1980. Print.
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web. 25 Feb. 2018. <>.

− Yeats, W.B. Complete Writings of Oscar Wilde: Review. New York: The Nottingham
Society, 1909, p.200. Print.
The Disappearance of Homosocial Relationships and Female Agency in the

Adaptations of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights

- Courtney Simpkins

Emily Brontë’s novel introduces readers to the cultural codes of her nineteenth century

society, where women, and men, were often met with standards of living nearly impossible to

achieve. Wuthering Heights also uncovers the importance of homosocial relationships between

women – registered in their personal conversations – particularly between Nelly and Catherine.

Through its representation of the close contact between the servant and mistress, one of the

more important arguments in the novel focuses on the idea of class distinction and whether or

not a person should be able to move freely between classes. Furthermore, Brontë critiques the

patriarchal society working mercilessly to create weak women who must submit to the will of

men. In their adaptations, David Skynner and Coky Giedroyc alter these arguments, but neither

film enhances or detracts from the original points made. While the storyline is changed,

sometimes enough to create entirely new situations, nevertheless, the two directors worked

diligently to eliminate enough of the novel’s details to fit in a two-hour time frame, but still

maintain the essence of Emily Brontë’s protofeminist novel.

The tumultuous relationship between Catherine Earnshaw Linton and her trusted

servant and confidant, Ellen “Nelly” Dean, is arguably one of the strongest homosocial

relationships in Wuthering Heights. Emily Brontë gives two women the oldest, and arguably

strongest, relationship, and through this defends against the nineteenth century societal

assumption that women, when together and gossiping, were dangerous creatures. Traditionally,

only the lower class gossiped about the upper class, but not vice versa (Gordon 723), but the

fact that the two women from different classes gossip together, means that the distinction
between social classes and social discourses become blurred. Jan B. Gordon also states that

“gossip represents a kind of collective conspiracy to gain access to that which is spatially or

socially hidden, and tends to be subversive” (723). This type of class distinction was important

in the nineteenth century, but in the novel, Brontë speaks out against it. Many of the most

significant sections of dialogue occur between Catherine, Heathcliff, and Nelly – all of whom

are located in different social classes.

Another argument is Brontë’s anti-nineteenth century creation of strong female

characters who seem to defy all odds. Catherine is a prime example of this for she is often

described as wild, and close to nature. Even after she is interred, her ghost and corpse appear

– and there’s no way to be closer to nature than to be buried within it. When Catherine isn’t

seen as wild, she’s often perceived as cunning, especially in her scheme to create a “better life”

for Heathcliff and herself via Edgar Linton. She is not the quintessential nineteenth century

woman in her actions and attitude. By creating a character who is sure of herself, even in her

downfalls, Brontë’s arguments are solidified in the text. According to Arnold Shapiro,

[Emily Brontë] has great sympathy for her characters, but she mercilessly

exposes their weaknesses, as well as the weaknesses of the society surrounding

them. She has a great vision of the possibilities of love, but she also quite clearly

shows how the limitations of human beings and society can make that love

unattainable…at the end, she gives us hope for the future, neither sentimentally

nor compromisingly. She calls for a revolution – the reversal of the old ways of

thinking and behaving. She wants society to live by the values which it has

always mouthed but never yet really tried. (285)

The upper-class women in the novel, Catherine and Isabella, are empowered and independent.

Although Catherine’s personality initially seems uncultivated and Isabella’s more refined, both

women show their strength by the end of the novel, regardless of their status in society.

Isabella is an important example of a victim of domestic abuse, but she is also one of

the most forgotten characters. She has little agency throughout much of the novel – until she

flees Wuthering Heights – and critics often “represent Isabella as arrested in her infantile

girlhood” but W. C. Roscoe, in 1857, stated that “Isabella Linton becomes imbued with said

coarseness, when in fact it is only as Isabella Heathcliff that this transformation takes place”

(Pike 349). Although Isabella is not a major character in the novel, her femaleness supports

Brontë’s theme; she is first presented as weak and mild, then shown, like Catherine, as strong

and abrasive. She instantly becomes enthralled with Heathcliff, runs off with him, and proceeds

to suffer in a negative relationship. She is degraded and abused by Heathcliff, and she

eventually flees, pregnant with his child. During the nineteenth century, women were often not

allowed to request divorces, and taking a child away from their father constituted kidnapping;

Isabella disregards this legality. In the moment, Isabella replaces her timid disposition with a

new bold and brave one when she finally escapes the drunken, tyrannical powers of Heathcliff.

Probably one of the more prominent arguments Emily Brontë makes is the importance

of female strength in the nineteenth century. Catherine’s determination to marry a man for

reasons that are important to her – but go against society’s traditional views of marriage –

shows a power not characteristically ingrained in females. In the following scene, most

famously known as the “I am Heathcliff” scene, Catherine and Nelly Dean converse about

Catherine’s love for Edgar Linton; the discussion moves forward to her secret love for

Heathcliff. Here, we see Catherine voicing shallow reasons for wanting to marry Edgar Linton,
such as his appearance, his wealth, and his emotions. Nelly, though of lower class, honestly

replies, showing her level-headedness and maturity over Catherine:

“I’m very far from jesting, Miss Catherine,” [Nelly] replied. “You love Mr.

Edgar, because he is handsome, and young, and cheerful, and rich, and loves

you. The last, however, goes for nothing. You would love him without that,

probably; and with it, you wouldn’t, unless he possessed the four former


“No, to be sure not – I should only pity him – hate him, perhaps, if he were

ugly, and a clown.”

“But there are several other handsome, rich young men in the world;

handsomer, possibly, and richer than he is…” (Brontë 61)

Catherine’s desires are superficial and misdirected, but nevertheless, she wants Edgar for

reasons that only make sense to her. Her inherent strength – her independence – is

overshadowed and hidden by this trivial desire. At this point, Brontë critiques these women

and their situations by showing how senseless it is for a person, especially a woman, to want

to marry for trivial reasons rather than more heartfelt ones. Insincere marriages were

commonplace; Catherine knows her marriage to Edgar Linton would be of this kind, no matter

how much this tortures and haunts her.

Since Linton is wealthy, and Heathcliff is currently not, Brontë’s argument

demonstrates that the clash of economic interests and social class is an important factor in

nineteenth century society. She shows this by juxtaposing Heathcliff’s and Linton’s financial

situations throughout the novel. This allows the audience to relate more to the characters’
experiences, since many of her female readership went through similar situations. Regardless

of whether or not these women had romantic feelings for the men courting them, deciding

between the wrong and right spouse centered on how much the relationship would improve a

woman’s life and financial situation. Heathcliff simply cannot offer Catherine what she

“needs” by nineteenth century standards, and Edgar Linton can. In the continuation of this

earlier scene, Catherine is still speaking with Nelly about her reasons for marrying Edgar, but

her feelings are continuously wavering as she details even further how much she and Heathcliff

are meant to be together; However, she needs Edgar Linton’s power, social status, and money

to aid Heathcliff to rise to the point where she wants him to be:

“…Nelly, I see now, you think me a selfish wretch, but, did it ever strike you

that if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars? Whereas, if I marry

Linton, I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother’s power.”

“With your husband’s money, Miss Catherine?” [Nelly] asked. “You’ll find

him not so pliable as you calculate upon: and, though I’m hardly a judge, I

think that’s the worst motive you’ve given yet for being the wife of young


“If I can make any sense of your nonsense, Miss,” [Nelly] said, “it only

goes to convince me that you are ignorant of the duties you undertake in

marrying; or else that you are a wicked, unprincipled girl. But trouble me with

no more secrets. I’ll not promise to keep them.” (63-65)

Many women sought economic marriages, because, given the lack of educational opportunities

and paucity of professions for women, they and their families would be adequately supported
throughout their lives. Brontë’s twist on this, however, is that Catherine’s goal is to use Edgar’s

money for Heathcliff, who is not her family, but the man with whom she is in love. With Edgar,

Catherine knows she will never truly love him the way she does Heathcliff; this all-

encompassing love, in her mind, completely justifies the undertaking of this economic

marriage. Nelly attempts to discourse with her on the subject, but she becomes increasingly

frustrated with the situation. Catherine steps out of the woman’s traditional role in the

relationship, by making economic decisions for Heathcliff.

Emily Brontë is also engaging with gender discourses in this moment, because

Catherine’s willpower and strength of purpose far exceeds gender norms nineteenth-century

women were supposed to subscribe to. Although seemingly manipulative, she nevertheless

takes an active role in Heathcliff’s present and future, without first offering him a chance to be

an active agent in his own life. She attempts to make the decisions for him, especially when

she concludes, to Nelly’s surprise, that a separation between herself and Heathcliff is

“impracticable” and will never occur.

Much to her dismay, and despite the power and passion she shows throughout this entire

conversation, that is precisely what happens because Heathcliff does not understand how to

approach a woman who unintentionally emasculates him and makes him feel inferior. In her

article “‘The Situation of the Looker-On’: Gender, Narration, and Gaze in Wuthering Heights,”

Beth Newman – in relation to Catherine’s continual demand that Heathcliff look at her face or

simply in the eye – states that,

a gaze that escaped patriarchal specular relations would not simply reverse the

positions of male and female, as Catherine’s malign look pretends to do, but
would eliminate the hierarchy altogether...In assuming the role of spectator,

she seeks a “masculine” position that because she is a woman, redefines her as

a “monster” or “witch.” Even as a spectator, then, Catherine is locked into

exaggerating the role of the woman whose gaze is dangerous to men, engaging

in a kind of female impersonation or masquerade, an imitation of femininity as

a construct. (1032-1033)

Newman indicates that Catherine is a firm mix of femininity and masculinity, causing other

characters to not know how to react. She is stubborn in many situations, and no one, not even

her own family or husband, can settle her down; she wants what she wants, and she stops at

nothing to get it.

Heathcliff does not hear the remainder of Catherine’s and Nelly’s conversation, because

he has silently fled from the room as quickly as he entered; after this night, he moves abroad

and doesn’t return until three years later, after he has acquired an education and earned enough

money to raise him to the same, or even a higher, status as Edgar Linton and his family. To top

this off, he purchases both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff is finally

the type of man Catherine wants to be with: handsome, rich, and in love with her. Here, Emily

Brontë raises her argument about class distinction and mobility again when Heathcliff uses his

extravagant purchases to show his rise from lower-class to upper-class. Catherine’s platonic

and romantic feelings about Edgar and Heathcliff directly rival one another in purity and

intensity, but she cannot seem to make the final decision about how, and with whom, she wants

to spend her life: with a man whom she believes to mirror her soul, or with a man who appears

to be her opposite – tame and polished where she is wild and unkempt – who can give her the

money to fuel her happiness.

Unfortunately, some of Brontë’s central arguments do not receive as much attention in

the film adaptations as in the novel; the 1998 cinematic Wuthering Heights, directed by David

Skynner, alters many details of the novel, as does the 2009 version, enriching some arguments

and diminishing others. Modern film critics and audience members often “resort to the elusive

notion of the ‘spirit’ of a work or an artist that has to be captured and conveyed in the adaptation

for it to be a success” (Hutcheon 10). The language of this observation is quite terse, and some

may even say this is a lackluster way to study an adaptation. I disagree with that sentiment,

because studying the alterations made often allows the audience to experience a slightly

different story, with arguments of its own. Adapting one medium to another does not inherently

create a better/worse hierarchy; it simply allows the two to interact with one another in a

different way. Perhaps a screenwriter’s or director’s desire to keep a film “true” to the novel

should be considered an homage to the author’s vision. An example of this, and the original

novel-to-film adaptation, is the 1924 adaptation of Frank Norris’s McTeague. In order to

convey the essence of Norris’s novel, the filmmaker Erich von Stroheim produced an eight-

hour film entitled Greed. Of course, the director was forced to cut the final product down to

two hours, resulting in the seemingly disjointed version of the story (“Cruel and Unusual”).

Unfortunately, this is not what Erich von Stroheim set out to do with his adaptation; he wanted

to create a vivid, visual depiction of Norris’s text, but the studio couldn’t, or wouldn’t, allow

for this long of a movie. We see this same sentiment in eight adaptations of Jane Eyre. These

attempt to pack a five-hundred-page book into a two-hour time span. However, the 2006

adaptation, directed by Susanna White, comes in right under the four-hour mark, and is much

closer, more loyal, and true to the novel than many of the other films.

In his book, Film Adaptation and Its Discontents, Thomas Leitch outlines several types

of adaptations, the first type being “curatorial adaptations.” These “subordinate whatever
specific resources they find in cinema to the attempt to preserve their original texts as faithfully

as possible” (96). In other words, the writers and directors of these adaptations work tirelessly,

regardless of cinematic conventions, to keep the spirit of the source text alive, and the original

arguments intact, much like the adaptation of Jane Eyre. The second type, “adjustment,” is

where “a promising earlier text is rendered more suitable for filming by one or more of a wide

variety of strategies,” including compression, expansion, correction, updating, and

superimposition (98). This type of adaptation alters a text that is too long or too short, or it

provides an alternate outcome. Likewise, George Bluestone states, in relation to the film

adaptations of Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights,

[with] all the additional changes that a new medium demands…it becomes all

but impossible to effect a “faithful” rendition. If nothing else, the impossibility

of retaining Emily Brontë’s tropes would make the shift inevitable. The

cinema cannot retain…the simile which shows how Heathcliff’s anguished cry

is ‘like a savage beast getting goaded to death with knives and spears.’ In

abandoning language for the visual image, the film leaves behind the author’s

most characteristic signature, her style. (113)

Similarly, much of Jane Eyre’s arguments in the novel are shown via Jane’s inner thoughts,

which cannot be adequately reproduced on screen, unless a majority of the film were to use a

voice-over, which could make for non-entertainment. Consequently, deleting portions of the

narration, or inventing dialogue between characters, is not unheard of and can be quite

impactful to the overall story. However, many of Emily Brontë’s arguments within Wuthering

Heights are represented through dialogue. Nevertheless, in the adaptations, some of these are
eliminated completely or occur between completely different characters, thereby inherently

altering the “meaning” of the original.

Emily Brontë chooses to introduce Nelly as the narrator, to help the story progress

naturally, but Nelly does not appear in David Skynner’s adaptation nearly as often as in the

novel. This choice by the director greatly impacts the story, because the conversations between

Nelly and the two leading characters no longer seem as significant where their history is not

shown. However, within the first five minutes of the movie, Heathcliff’s love for Catherine is

strongly impressed upon the minds of the audience. Rather than allowing Catherine and Nelly’s

relationship to figure as the most important homosocial companionship, as perceived in Brontë

text, Skynner’s characterization seems to suggest that they mean very little to one another, and

Heathcliff and Catherine’s relationship is placed center stage. The film also takes agency away

from Catherine, since she must fight for agency among her male counterparts. She eventually

has a sort of heart-to-heart with Nelly almost an hour into the film, much farther than it occurs

in the novel. This conversation happens soon after Heathcliff is accosted by Edgar and Hindley

about his different attire and the fact that Heathcliff can “scrub [him]self for all [he’s] worth,

but [he’ll] never get the darkness out of [his] skin” (Skynner 28:36-28:41). Hurt by the

comments from her suitor and her brother, Catherine looks to Nelly for support. Since these

two women were not established as confidants prior to this meeting, the exchange isn’t as

meaningful, and Nelly doesn’t actually give Catherine advice.

Furthermore, the section of the dialogue where Catherine and Nelly discuss her

engagement to Edgar Linton is completely eliminated from Skynner’s adaptation. The decision

to remove this conversation from the script changes the power and dynamics of this scene and

effectively eliminates one of the only allies, and the voice of reason, to Heathcliff and
Catherine’s story. Moreover, Nelly isn’t given the opportunity to become equal to Catherine.

Unlike in the novel where both women are able to discuss freely the engagement to Linton,

and Nelly even gives her opinion on the matter, woman-to-woman, without fear of censure or

retribution, the film undercuts this provocative relationship by excluding important

conversations. Skynner’s scene shows Nelly giving Catherine advice, but the conversation is

abrupt, and does not come across as profound and meaningful as the scene in the novel. Nelly

isn’t given the screen time to plead her case to Catherine, unwittingly adhering to the societal

standards of class distinction by being silenced by the upper-class.

In this film, the scene in question begins with Catherine telling Nelly she is convinced

she is wrong about marrying Edgar, articulating her dream of heaven, stating, “I have no more

business to marry him than I have to be in heaven” (Skynner 40:00-40:04). Like in many Gothic

novels, as soon as Catherine states her realization, there is a crack of thunder and a flash of

lightning; the thunder is an aid to revitalize the audience’s attention, and the lightning fills the

frame with white light bright enough to almost wash out the characters’ faces. She continues

the conversation with Nelly, saying,

CATHERINE: And if my brother had not brought Heathcliff so low, I

should never have thought of it. But it would degrade me to marry Heathcliff


NELLY: So you would leave him quite deserted in the world?

CATHERINE: No. No. And if Heathcliff and I married, we should be

beggars… (40:05-40:27).
Where Brontë’s text bleeds emotion, this adaptation is seriously lacking; the characters don’t

move around the space and sufficient time is not given to the scene to build the emotion

required to achieve the same feeling that Brontë does. Here in the adaptation, Catherine is

shown kneeling at Nelly’s feet, looking up to her as she speaks, rather than as in the novel,

where she is laughing and “holding [Nelly] down, for [she] made the motion to leave [her]

chair” (Brontë 63). Since there is obviously no joking going on between Nelly and Catherine

(perhaps stemming from the fact that Nelly is not one of the primary characters in this

adaptation), the writer and director negate the importance of conversation between Nelly and

Catherine. Although cinematic versions of these novels have a time limit, typically hovering

around the two hour mark, the deletion of much of this scene may have been done purposefully

to save time for other aspects of the novel to be illuminated more vividly on screen.

Nevertheless, the conversation continues:

CATHERINE: …we should be beggars. Whereas if I marry Linton, I can

aid Heathcliff to rise and place him out of my brother’s power.

NELLY: That’s a terrible reason for marrying Linton.

[Catherine rises from the floor and begins walking around.]

CATHERINE: It’s the best reason. I do love Edgar, but my love for him is

like, it’s like the foliage in the woods: time will change it. But my love for

Heathcliff is like the rocks beneath. Nelly, I am Heathcliff. He’s always,

always in my mind. Not as a pleasure, as I am pleasure to myself, but as my

own being.

NELLY: But how will you bear the separation?

CATHERINE: There will be no separation. Edgar will tolerate him. We’ll

be as much to each other as we always were.

NELLY: Does Heathcliff know this?

CATHERINE: [confusingly] What?

NELLY: He was here. Before. In the room.


As we can see, this portion of the scene has changed vastly in the adaptation. Here, the

discussion of Catherine using Edgar’s fortune to elevate Heathcliff and expecting Edgar to

simply “tolerate him” is drastically shorter. Where Nelly has almost as many lines as Catherine

in the novel, here she is given less than ten, continuing to cast her as a secondary character

rather than a primary one. As a strong female character in the novel, Nelly stands out among

the others for her ability to speak on behalf of, and against, other characters, regardless of their

gender or class. Many of Brontë’s arguments in Wuthering Heights are exemplified through

Nelly’s character because her narrative is used to defy many of society’s most absurd and

illogical standards of conduct. But here, Nelly’s importance is diminished by excluding her

narration and her centrality to the story.

Analyzing Emily Brontë’s critique of nineteenth century class distinctions and society’s

focus on wealth is difficult with Skynner’s adaptation, since much of the novel’s text is excised.

The simple act of eliminating this text inherently changes the meaning; Catherine’s somewhat

manipulative plan is brushed over, her power is diminished, and the modern audience almost

completely misses the point that Catherine’s unreasonable request reflects the classist

stereotypes. By making Catherine emotional and wild, Brontë gives her more agency because

in the novel she will stop at nothing to “have her cake and eat it, too.” She truly believes that

she will be able to not only have a marriage with Linton and a relationship with Heathcliff, but

that these two men will be able to coexist with one another. Catherine believes this up until

Heathcliff returns years later, yet she still cannot comprehend why it is not possible to have
both Heathcliff and Linton in her romantic life. In some ways, Skynner’s adaptation actually

reverses Brontë’s arguments by showing Catherine as a weak woman, who is driven by

irrationality. The adaptation presents marriage and romantic relationships in a more favorable

light than the novel does. Presenting the audience with a less dramatized version of the story

negates the importance of Catherine’s agency. In the novel, Catherine’s need to help Heathcliff

rise in society is often seen as an example of manipulation by the character, but in the

adaptation, she is incapable of being manipulative because her strength is limited by the other


Many of the arguments Emily Brontë makes in Wuthering Heights are also altered or

eliminated from Coky Giedroyc’s 2009 adaptation. Once again, Nelly’s character does not

appear as vital to the film as she is in the novel. In the novel, Catherine went to Nelly for

multiple reasons: mentoring, friendship, advice. In the film, that option is no more and she

must find another person – equal or not – to confide in. Some may say that Nelly’s

disappearance from the film could be seen as an attempt to give all agency to Catherine, since

she will undoubtedly need to stand up and speak for herself. However, I do not believe this to

be the case. Yes, she is given every opportunity to be strong and outspoken, but many of these

opportunities are disregarded by other characters who use their physicality to overwhelm

Catherine. Edgar and Heathcliff both speak for Catherine throughout the adaptation, and she

seems to lose not only her best homosocial connection, but her voice as well.

The writers did not explicitly eliminate portions of dialogue, unlike the Skynner

adaptation. They simply rearranged the portions into a new sequence, sometimes between

different sets of characters. As the scene in the film progresses, Catherine turns to Nelly for a

little support:
NELLY: Do you love Mr. Edgar?

CATHERINE: Of course I do.

NELLY: Why do you love him?

CATHERINE: I do is not sufficient?

NELLY: By no means. [Catherine and Nelly sit, facing one another.] You

must say why.

CATHERINE: Well because he is handsome and pleasant to be with.

NELLY: [whispering] That’s bad.

CATHERINE: And I shall be rich. I’ll be the greatest woman in the


NELLY: [whispering] Bad still. However, I suppose your brother will be


[Catherine leans forward in her chair.]

NELLY: Edgar Linton is a good man and he will save you. ’Tis neither

practical nor desirable for you to marry Heathcliff. And if you love Edgar and

Edgar loves you, where is the obstacle?

CATHERINE: Nelly, my love for Edgar is like the foliage in the woods.

Time will change it, I’m well aware, but my love for Heathcliff resembles the

eternal rocks beneath.

[Heathcliff is shown placing a saddle on his horse’s back.]

CATHERINE: My great miseries in this world have been Heathcliff’s

miseries. If all else perished and he remained, I should still continue to be.

Nelly, I am Heathcliff. Not as a pleasure but as my own being. I cannot think

of our separation. I will not talk of our separation again.

(Part 1, 59:49-1:02:07)
This adaptation does resurrect an equalizing conversation between Nelly and Catherine, but

this is one of the only times we encounter her in the film. However, Giedroyc’s decision to

give Nelly more screen time than in the first adaptation solidifies their connection in this scene.

She is present enough for the first hour of this film for the audience to realize when

conversations between Nelly and Catherine occur, Catherine’s outlook is often changed in the

process. The only problematic detail is that Nelly is rarely seen after this scene, and her

relationship with Catherine is forgotten.

Nearly ten minutes before this conversation, the audience’s emotions are heightened by

Catherine and Heathcliff kissing in the moors, followed by a scene similar to the one previously

mentioned where Edgar and Hindley accost Heathcliff. Edgar does this by assuming Heathcliff

is a servant, and Hindley calls him a “vagabond” and a “dirty gypsy” (50:30), which mirrors

the descriptions of Heathcliff in the novel. Where this film varies significantly from the

previous adaptation is in the physical agency of Catherine at this moment. Skynner’s scene

shows a more timid, frozen Catherine, but here she pushes Hindley away from Heathcliff,

punches him on the arm and back, and finishes by slapping Hindley in the face, leaving

scratches on his left cheek (50:40). Her anger knows no boundaries. She has no qualms about

the violence she unleashes on Hindley on behalf of Heathcliff. Here we see that Giedroyc’s

version of Catherine is closer to Emily Brontë’s wild and untamed heroine than Skynner’s.

This also gives Giedroyc’s adaptation more authority due to its faithfulness, in the eyes of

fidelity critics, when being compared to the original text.

However, one of the more interesting – and drastic – changes this adaptation makes

actually subverts both the homosocial relationship and the earlier show of Catherine’s female

strength. Rather than a conversation between Nelly and Catherine, the “I am Heathcliff” scene
has been transformed in Giedroyc’s 2009 adaptation, and it begins when Heathcliff walks into

the room with Catherine, where their conversation commences:

CATHERINE: Edgar Linton’s asked me to marry him.

HEATHCLIFF: And have you given him your answer?

[Catherine shakes her head “no”.)

HEATHCLIFF: But you did not say no.

[Catherine shakes her head “no”.)

HEATHCLIFF: And have you considered how you will bear the separation

from me, and how I will be quite deserted in the world without you? Did you

consider that?

CATHERINE: You quite deserted and we separated? Who is to separate us,


HEATHCLIFF: You will be Mrs. Linton.

CATHERINE: Yes. And as Mrs. Linton I can aid you to rise and place you

out of my brother’s power.

HEATHCLIFF: With your husband’s money, you will rescue me? Do you

think I can endure such a thing?

[Catherine attempts to kiss Heathcliff.]

HEATHCLIFF: You will be Mrs. Linton.

[Heathcliff walks out of the room.] (Part 1, 58:43-59:48)

Giedroyc’s choice to have this scene begin as a conversation between Catherine and Heathcliff

is quite inventive. Suddenly, Heathcliff is not merely a bystander in Catherine’s plan to make

him rise to Edgar Linton’s status through Edgar Linton’s wealth, but he is an active proponent
of his need to become someone important in his own way. This is shown visually through an

earlier conversation with Nelly, where Heathcliff asks her, “and when will I ever have the

chance to be as rich as [Edgar Linton]?” (49:08). Creative liberties taken by Giedroyc do not

impede Brontë’s inherent storyline; in some ways they enhance certain aspects to further bring

out her critiques of nineteenth century culture, but in other ways they diminish Brontë’s

creation of a woman who has agency.

As previously mentioned, the novel depicts Heathcliff witnessing this conversation

about money, but this adaptation’s choice to depict Heathcliff and Catherine having this

conversation with one another gives Heathcliff all of the agency in his own social ambition.

The power Catherine once had is diminished, and she must now share the power with

Heathcliff, and the actor, Tom Hardy, uses his large physique and booming voice to cease all

discussion on this matter. This major difference between novel and adaptation – along with the

now reduced character of Nelly – transforms the social arguments made by Emily Brontë; the

adaptation shifts her argument from homosocial relationships possessing the ability to elicit

power to one where stereotypical masculine traits continue to reign over female voices.

Similarly, Isabella Linton’s character is quite different in this adaptation. She initially

comes across as a very timid character, and during the argument between Edgar, Hindley, and

Heathcliff, she appears speechless. Wide-eyed, she looks nervous and fearful when the fight is

finished. The males in this scene have literally scared this woman by being brutes. None,

including Heathcliff, have redeeming qualities about themselves here, because this scene is

used to show the harshness of Hindley’s actions toward Heathcliff and Catherine; although

Heathcliff is always meant to be vulnerable while being brutalized by Hindley, the women are

also victims of this abuse. This enhances Emily Brontë’s argument because the audience is

never left wondering with whom they should sympathize, including the female victims who
were also made to watch the scene unfold. Later in the movie, Isabella is quite infatuated with

Heathcliff since he has changed both aesthetically and financially. This is quite similar to how

the novel portrays Isabella, but nearly midway through the movie, in a line that is original to

this adaptation, Heathcliff is the first to state that Isabella is not, in fact, meek, and he states

that “it’s as though [Edgar] has a woman’s gentleness, and [she has] all the fight” (Part 2, 4:45-

4:50). The addition of this line completely alters the perception of Isabella. Whereas in the

novel she is quite timid until the moment she decides to leave Heathcliff for good, here – much

earlier in her storyline – Heathcliff is upfront in presenting her as a person who is strong, much

like Catherine. Isabella’s strength, again like Catherine’s, is taken away by Heathcliff. No

matter the change here, Coky Giedroyc’s adaptation stays true to the novel’s depictions and

critiques of marriage and gender hierarchy in the nineteenth century.

Both of these adaptations alter the arguments being presented by Emily Brontë in

Wuthering Heights. Among the arguments being changed are those about homosocial

relationship that blur the lines between different social standings in society, class distinction

and mobility, and the power behind each gender – and those characters who seem to break all

stereotypes of any gender specifically – which contributes to the characters’ movements

between classes, places, and emotions. In all three works, Heathcliff is unkempt and unruly,

but Linton is polished and controlled. Similarly, Catherine is untamed and uninhibited, but

Isabella is more restrained and timider. The differences between these characters make the

story more dynamic, since they exemplify the two ends of the gender spectrum. As the

depictions of these characters transform, so do Emily Brontë’s arguments. No longer are

Nelly’s and Catherine’s conversations connected directly to the strength and independence of

Catherine. Her desire to change Heathcliff’s status to meet her own is underplayed in Skynner’s

adaptation; in Giedroyc’s Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff assumes much of the power rather
than Catherine. The major differences in the two adaptations both enrich and diminish the

arguments in the novel, and actually create texts that pay tribute to, yet stand apart from, Emily

Brontë’s original manuscript.

Works Cited

− Bluestone, George. Novel into Film. Balitmore: Johns Hopkins Press, 1957. Print.

− Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. 1847. 3rd ed. New York: W. W. Norton & Co., 2000.


− “Cruel and Unusual: The Exquisite Remains of Erich von Stroheim.” Harvard Film Archives.

Harvard University, July 2012. Web. 21 April 2016.

− Gordon, Jan B. “Gossip, Diary, Letter, Text: Anne Brontë’s Narrative Tenant and the

Problematic Gothic Sequel.” ELH 51.4 (Winter 1984): 719-745. JSTOR. Web. 20 March 2016.

− Hutcheon, Linda. A Theory of Adaptation. New York: Taylor & Francis Group, LLC., 2006.


− Leitch, Thomas. Film Adaptation and Its Discontents: From Gone with the Wind to The

Passion of the Christ. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 2007. Print.

− Newman, Beth. “‘The Situation of the Looker-On’: Gender, Narration, and Gaze in

Wuthering Heights.” PMLA 105.5 (1990): 1029-1041. JSTOR. Web. 2 Nov 2015.

− Pike, Judith E. “‘My name was Isabella Linton’: Coverture, Domestic Violence, and Mrs.

Heathcliff’s Narrative in Wuthering Heights.” Nineteenth-Century Literature 64.3 (2009): 347-

383. JSTOR. Web. 2 Nov 2015.

− Shapiro, Arnold. “Wuthering Heights as a Victorian Novel.” Studies in the Novel 1.3 (1969):

284-296. JSTOR. Web. 1 Nov 2015.

− Wuthering Heights. Dir. Coky Giedroyc. Perf. Tom Hardy, Charlotte Riley, Andrew Lincoln.

2009. PBS, 2009. DVD.

− Wuthering Heights. Dir. David Skynner. Perf. Robert Cavanah, Peter Davidson, Orla Brady.

1998. PBS, 2005. DVD.

Hauntology and Encircling of Time in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights

- Madhumita Biswas

Globally celebrated poststructuralist Algerian-French philosopher, Jacques Derrida, in

his 1993 seminal book Spectres of Marx coins a deconstructive concept termed “Hauntology”

which is a portmanteau of “haunting” and “ontology”. Hauntology pertains to situation of

temporal, historical, and ontological disjunction in which the apparent presence of being is

substituted by a deferred non-origin. Colin Davis in his essay “Hauntology, Spectres and

Phantoms”, observes this Derridean hauntology as a representation of continual flux of time in

which, “the figure of the ghost as that which is neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor

alive” (373) In the realm of Hauntology, what we encounter is not the presence of the presence

but the forever absent spectre of a past-presence that continually haunts our spatio-temporal

consciousness of time and the phenomenological order. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights

with its inverted plane of spatio-temporal consciousness and incoherent order of reality,

exhibits a kernel of this "haunting" that forever dismantles the novel's moorings in a present

reality and in its stead engages in a referential order that forever harks back to some forever

receding and irrevocable "past". The gothic narrative is rendered as an "unheimlich" that haunts

by way of its invocation of a temporal order that is beyond the normative narratives of the past

and yet which persistently renders inconsistent our consciousness of the present and future.

Bronte seems to reverse the ethical teleology of the Victorian romantic novels by substituting

reproductive futurity with the spectre of a haunting and ever-persistent past-presence.

In Wuthering Heights, haunting takes place in myriad forms, both actively and

passively throughout the novel. However, the first instance of haunting that sets the gothic
enigma of a mystery unravels itself in the present-day scenario, circa 1801, when Mr.

Lockwood, an affluent young man from South England, a new tenant of the farmhouse property

at “Thrushcross Grange” of Yorkshire, visits his neighbouring landlord Mr. Heathcliff who

lives at an isolated moorland manor house named “Wuthering Heights”, to exchange greetings

as well as to introduce himself. But Mr. Lockwood upon visiting Wuthering Heights quickly

finds himself in a very awkward and unwelcoming situation which he describes by stating that

“the ‘walk in’ was uttered with closed teeth, and expressed the sentiment, ‘go to the deuce’;

even the gate over which he [Mr. Heathcliff] leant manifested no sympathizing movement to

the words;(9)” and later his in-house experience grows even graver. Lockwood meets an odd

bunch of people at the house apart from the forever morose and harsh Mr. Heathcliff, whom

he describes as “a dark skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman” (11)1; he

meets Heathcliff’s widowed daughter-in-law, an young lady; a young man with uncouth

dressing and manners; two servants Joseph and Zillah, and a pack of dogs. As destiny has its

way of things, Lockwood instead of having an unpleasant evening at Wuthering Heights gets

stuck there for overnight owing to a blizzard. And this night results in holding the most

significant key event of the novel. As chapter three opens, Lockwood is being escorted by

Zillah, the servant girl, towards a room with massive precaution of not making a noise; “for

her master [Heathcliff] had an odd notion about the chamber she would put [Lockwood] in,

and never let anybody lodge there willingly” (24). As pin-drop silent framework, shadowy

figures reminiscent of noir-fiction, fastens the suspense of any gothic story, the description of

the room in minute detail builds the gradual suspicion of an impending horror, and may be the

furniture can be read as token representation of the symbolic lingering of desire attached with

material things, giving the impetus to haunting:

The whole furniture consisted of a chair, a clothes-press, and a large oak case,

with squares cut out near the top resembling coach windows. Having
approached this structure, I[Lockwood] looked inside, and perceived it to be a

singular sort of old fashioned couch, very conveniently designed to obviate the

necessity for every member of the family having a room to himself. In fact, it

formed a little closet, and the ledge of a window, which it enclosed, served as a

table. I slid back the paneled sides, got in with my light, pulled them together

again, and felt secure against the vigilance of Heathcliff, and everyone else.

The ledge, where I placed my candle, had a few mildewed books piled up in

one corner; and it was covered with writing scratched on the paint. This writing,

however, was nothing but a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and

small - Catherine Earnshaw, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff, and

then again to Catherine Linton. (24-25)

As British scholar and critic, Jodey Castricano states, that the topic of fear and desire cannot

be separated from that of “ghostly inheritance,” whether in the sense of what is received by

descent or succession or what returns in the form of a phantom to tax the living (9). The riddle

begins, Catherine, the main female protagonist, in all her possible and impossible probabilities,

in her given spatio-temporal time zone has been unleashed into the contemporary world

through her name scratched upon the book, absent yet present in her inscribed presence.

Lockwood is unaware of who or what happened to Catherine, and thus, began to read her

diaries, delving into the memorabilia of Catherine:

In vapid listlessness I leant my head against the window, and continued spelling

over Catherine Earnshaw - Heathcliff - Linton, till my eyes closed; but they had

not rested five minutes when a glare of white letters started from the dark, as

vivid as spectres - the air swarmed with Catherines; and rousing myself to dispel

the obtrusive name, I discovered my candle-wick reclining on one of the antique

volumes, and perfuming the place with an odour of roasted calf-skin. I snuffed

it off, and, very ill at ease under the influence of cold and lingering nausea, sat

up and spread open the injured tome on my knee. It was a Testament, in lean

type, and smelling dreadfully musty: a fly-leaf bore the inscription - 'Catherine

Earnshaw, her book,' and a date some quarter of a century back. I shut it, and

took up another and another, till I had examined all. Catherine's library was

select, and its state of dilapidation proved it to have been well used, though not

altogether for a legitimate purpose: scarcely one chapter had escaped, a pen-

and-ink commentary - at least the appearance of one - covering every morsel of

blank that the printer had left. Some were detached sentences; other parts took

the form of a regular diary, scrawled in an unformed, childish hand. At the top

of an extra page (quite a treasure, probably, when first lighted on) I was greatly

amused to behold an excellent caricature of my friend Joseph, - rudely, yet

powerfully sketched. An immediate interest kindled within me for the unknown

Catherine, and I began forthwith to decipher her faded hieroglyphics. (25)

Lockwood reads the memoir of Catherine Earnshaw and learns a few incidents of her

childhood. But during reading these journals he falls asleep and had nightmares twice. The first

nightmare is suggestive of the reading he was doing just a while before falling asleep, and the

second nightmare is rather multilayered, as it elongates and manifests as a meta-narrative of a

nightmare. It is in this second nightmare that Lockwood encounters the frightening apparition

of Catherine. In the first dream Lockwood wakes up at the sound of a fir-tree brunch toughing

his lattice, “as the blast wailed by, and rattled its dry cones against the panes!”(29) But then he

falls asleep again and the dream within a dream begins:

This time, I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the

gusty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir bough repeat its
teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause: but it annoyed me so much,

that I resolved to silence it, if possible;… stretching an arm out to seize the

importunate branch; instead of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a

little, ice-cold hand! The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to

draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice

sobbed, “Let me in - let me in!” “Who are you?” I asked, struggling, meanwhile,

to disengage myself. 'Catherine Linton,' it replied…” I'm come home: I'd lost

my way on the moor!” As it spoke, I discerned, obscurely, a child's face looking

through the window. Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt

shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it

to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, “Let

me in!” and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with fear.

…the instant I listened again, there was the doleful cry moaning on! “Begone!'

I shouted. 'I'll never let you in, not if you beg for twenty years.” “It is twenty

years,” mourned the voice: “twenty years. I've been a waif for twenty years!”


This horrific second nightmare of Lockwood is rendered problematic as it is symptomatic of

an actual haunting; because Lockwood did not know either Catherine Earnshaw or Catherine

Linton, and thus, the internal correlation between them is entirely impossible for him to

visualize. And certainly he had no way of dreaming anything which he did not know, as dream

is said to be a manifestation of our unconscious repressed desires. Catherine’s haunting desire

beyond the grave to “re-entre” Wuthering Height is not Lockwood’s to experience, especially

when he is a complete outsider and had not heard anything regarding Catherine’s (Earnshaw,

and later Linton) struggles in life[which he later learns as a “gossip” from his grange help Ellen
(Nelly)Dean]. So, in this given context how do we explain this “hauntological” occurrence?

How the spatio-temporal past is overlapping with the presence of the present?

Taking a cue from Mark Currie’s observations on temporality of time from his

renowned work About Time, Narrative, Fiction and the Philosophy of Time (2007), we can

categorise time into two divergent realms: to be precise, “cosmological and phenomenological

time” (33) Cosmological time denotes the time we measure and experience through a clock,

linear time which treats time as a line succession of “nows”, whereas, phenomenological time

is deduced as a persistent temporal advancement as the “constituent parts of a perpetual

present”(34). During Lockwood’s post-traumatic nightmare experience he mentions how time

is “stagnant”, mentioning a halt in the progressive “nows”, pointing to a temporal potential


The second haunting represents itself through a symbolic narratorial liminal space when

Lockwood returns to Thrushcross Grange and falls ill following his spectral experience at

Wuthering heights, and Nelly Dean stars depicting her version of Catherine’s life; “Eighteen,

sir: I came when the mistress was married, to wait on her; after she died, the master retained

me for his housekeeper… I'll turn the talk on my landlord's family!” (37) And thus, the

“gossip” begins as Lockwood encouraged Nelly by asserting interest, “Well, Mrs. Dean, it will

be a charitable deed to tell me something of my neighbours: I feel I shall not rest if I go to bed;

so be good enough to sit and chat an hour.” (39) From this point, Nelly becomes the primary

narrator of the story. Now, it is noteworthy, that whatever Nelly saw, and interpreted as “truth”,

can be solely her own version of “truth”, pertaining to her own understanding of the self and

the “other”. It is evident from the novel that Nelly as a maid servant in a nineteenth century

country-house has internalised patriarchy deeply, and her views on Catherine’s life is tainted

by her patriarchal rendition of Catherine’s spirit as a girl, and her courage and grace as a

Observing the shift in the narratorial authority is important while discussing the second

haunting as the leap in cosmological time zones: from present day Lockwood’s narrative to

present day’s “Past” narrative as a re-envisioning from memory by Nelly, creates a spatio-

temporal disruption from which a liminal space for spectrality can itself emerge. In Nelly’s

case the concept of cosmological time is severely perturbed because the narrative starts in the

aftermath of the events when the ghost of the protagonist has already begun haunting the living.

So, there is a possible contradiction in ontological presence of Catherine. Catherine as an

apparition is present at the present, covering the twenty years’ gap between her physical death

and haunting in 1801 and then again, there is Catherine’s life being narrated in a retrospect

from childhood to her untimely death, adding the consequence to the in-between years. We can

argue that prolepsis in Wuthering Heights is meant to give the past events a greater significance;

in other words, the retrospective quality of temporal progression gives the text a kind of

“fictional self-consciousness” as Currie words it (47). This jarring consciousness addresses the

author-reader reaction function. As Derrida observes, this ghostly textual encoding is mostly

at the service of affecting reader response (Specters of Marx 15) And Catherine’s spectral

existence adds to the reader response as they reevaluate her in the present through a lens of her

embedded life history.

According to professor Julian Wolfreys nineteenth-century English literature

conventionally used “spectrality” as a mark of subversion of the dominant and the egocentric

(ix). He believes that the liminal quality of the specter as something not alive, yet not

completely dead and absent, has enabled political writers to use ghost stories as a textual

instrument to delineate a subversive social presence (xii). It is fascinating that the agency of

the spectre does not in fact limit itself to revealing the otherisation, the subversive; it also

concerns the ultimate devices of representation. Definitely, in highlighting how ontology,

history, culture have operated and still continue to function on a tool of exclusion, the spectral
character enacts a reconsideration of conventional practices and of representation in general. It

moves towards to an awareness that, however unintentionally, representation always results in

obscure zones and unconscious spaces that resist an ultimate meaning formation. And by

Nelly’s representation of Catherine, this subversion is doubly utilized. First of all, the “gossip”

about the spectral character is being narrated by a marginalized servant character. Here, the

marginal, the servant becomes the authorial narrator, thus, subverting the power norms.

Secondly, being a marginal cog in the patriarchal hegemony of Thrushcross Grange and

Wuthering Heights, she instead of her all well-meaning narration, paints a domesticated and

unhappy picture of Catherine during her married life, which she mistakenly calls to be a happy


The third occurrence of spectral intervention takes place through a “faux re-

incarnation” of Catherine in her daughter Cathy who was born prematurely at seventh month,

just a while before her mother’s death. Daughter of Cathernie shares her mother’s post-marital

name, Catherine Linton, and also shares her wildness of spirit and character. The text holds in

its core the regenerative process, as if one Catherine is dying to give birth to a newer version

of her:

Time wore on at the Grange in its former pleasant way till Miss Cathy reached

sixteen. On the anniversary of her birth, we never manifested any sign of

rejoicing, because it was also the anniversary of my late mistress’s death. (170)

The uncanny resemblance and overshadowing is constantly hinted upon in the text numerous

times. Catherine Linton is embodiment of every unfulfilled desire and dream of her mother.

Little Cathy’s wonderings and life ventures directly mirrors her mother:
While surveying the country from her nursery windows, she would observe:

“Ellen, how long will it be before I can walk to the top of those hills? I wonder

what lies on the other side – is it the sea?” (153)

The chapter division of this novel is also noteworthy, as the thirty –four chapter long novel is

equally divided into two parts, like mirror-images, one half reflecting the other, and this

mirroring gives a premonition that history is going to be repeated: the first half reaches its

climax at chapter-sixteen, and declares the end of the story of the first generation, with

Catherine’s death. Chapter-seventeen opens with the story of the second generation with young

Catherine Linton, Hareton Earnshow, and Linton Heathcliff, the representative progenies of

the previous generation’s protagonists. The internal dynamics start repeating itself as the story

progresses. Here, although the new generation is primarily unaware of their critical ancestral

past, the baggage of the past looms heavy on them, and through them the haunting transgresses

from one generation to the other: As Slovenian continental philosopher, Slovaj Žižek observes,

haunting always implies a debt and it “materializes a certain symbolic debt beyond physical

expiration” (qtd. in Catricano 11) In this sense, the return of the phantom is uncanny and is

indicative of inheritance, a “transgenerational haunting” that manifests the voices of one

generation in the unconscious of another (Castricano 16). And according to Derrrida, in this

“transgenerational” process, the textual structure becomes both “uncanny” and “double”

(Otobiographies 33) just as the exceptional narrative structure Bronte has created. This

“uncanny” double occurrence happens when Catherine’s ghost finally gets to enter Wuthering

Height in a metaphorical sense through her daughter’s acceptance into the manor as Linton

Heathcliff’s wife, and then after Linton’s death, enters into the enigmatic union of the haunted

souls, through an impossible conjugal union with Hareton Earnshaw. With this Catherine’s

rebirth encircling completes, she becomes Catherine Earnshaw once again, residing happily at

Wuthering Heights with Hareton who is undoubtedly a reflection of Heathcliff. But this
marriage is a radical new turn from the Victorian conventionality. Hareton once again posits

the same social markers that rendered Heathcliff unfit for marriage with Catherine at the very

first place. Hareton Earnshaw is uneducated, socially awkward, and wild in his features, and

most importantly, he is economically at the bottom of the class paradigm. Hence, his friendship

and gradual marriage with young Catherine is an unorthodox union undermining every

Victorian ideology about the socio-economic match-making system. Gilbert and Gubar

consider Hareton “the illiterate outcast [who can play] as metaphorically the true son of his

[Heathcliff's] own true union with Catherine” (77). Hareton, therefore, plays a twofold part:

First by giving the unattainable final accreditation of Catherine and Heathcliff’s marriage

through his own, and then representing an exceptionally reversal of the gender-roles in the

nineteenth century society, where the he, “the man of the house” is illiterate, and is getting

educated and financially emancipated through his wife. As Kate Flint explains: “It is Cathy who

teaches Hareton to read, thus giving him the key to unlock literature: the very thing which, the

novel demonstrates by its own existence has the potential to unsettle norms, to pose questions

rather than provide answers” (177) and that is precisely what an apparition does. It creates a

spatio-temporal space for finding different truisms.

The last, but not the least, and perhaps essentially, the most significant hauntological

ideology that manifests itself throughout the novel, and creates a spiral of continuum of time

as cosmological and phenomenological occurrence is found in the constant deferred existence

of Heathcliff himself. Heathcliff’s existence is the foreground on which the whole spectral

deferred “neither present, nor absent, neither dead nor alive” temporality unravels. The

haunting is for Heathcliff, through Heathcliff, and at times by Heathcliff, as he becomes the

embodiment of the haunted. Catherine is forever present in Heathcliff’s perception, yet he earns

for the spectral as she is presently absent, for him she is “neither dead nor alive”, as in one

hand he lives in perpetual denial of Catherine’s death and on the other hand to feel her presence
he tries to summon the spectral presence, which would be otherwise impossible if death has

not taken place at any juncture. So, to emphasize once more, Heathcliff provides the incoherent

order of reality, exhibiting a kernel of the "haunting" that forever dismantles the novel's

moorings in a present reality and in its stead engages in a referential order that forever harks

back to some forever receding and irrevocable "past". The ideology of ghost and spectrality is

deeply embedded within multilayer narrative of this novel as the story goes through a multitude

of deaths of the characters, starting from Mr. Earnshaw and Frances, and then followed by Mr.

and Mrs. Linton, followed by Catherine, Isabella Linton, Edgar, Linton, and Heathcliff

respectively. If we look closely, we will find that the story is weaved in a matrix of deaths, and

inevitably death leads to spectrality. The authorial fascination with death-ridden story-line can

be attributed to Bronte’s autobiographical element as Bronte’s mother died when she was very

young, and she also experienced the deaths of her two elder siblings soon after, resulting in

spending a considerable amount of time “playing along the graves in the churchyard, roaming

over the lonely Yorkshire moors”( Bronte, Introduction 5) which might have played a central

part in inspiring these stories. The first spectral presence initiated a parallel haunting in

Heathcliff himself:

What do you mean?' asked Heathcliff… 'If the little fiend had got in at the

window, she probably would have strangled me!' I returned. 'I'm not going to

endure the persecutions of your hospitable ancestors again. Was not the

Reverend Jabez Branderham akin to you on the mother's side? And that minx,

Catherine Linton, or Earnshaw, or however she was called - she must have been

a changeling - wicked little soul! She told me she had been walking the earth

these twenty years: a just punishment for her mortal transgressions, I've no

doubt!' 'What CAN you mean by talking in this way to ME!' thundered

Heathcliff with savage vehemence. 'How - how DARE you, under my roof? -
God! he's mad to speak so!' And he struck his forehead with rage. I did not know

whether to resent this language or pursue my explanation; but he seemed so

powerfully affected that I took pity and proceeded with my dreams; affirming I

had never heard the appellation of 'Catherine Linton' before, but reading it often

over produced an impression which personified itself when I had no longer my

imagination under control. Heathcliff gradually fell back into the shelter of the

bed, as I spoke; finally sitting down almost concealed behind it. I guessed,

however, by his irregular and intercepted breathing, that he struggled to

vanquish an excess of violent emotion.(32) [Then]

He got on to the bed, and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it,

into an uncontrollable passion of tears. 'Come in! come in!' he sobbed. 'Cathy,

do come. Oh, do - ONCE more! Oh! my heart's darling! hear me THIS time,

Catherine, at last!' The spectre showed a spectre's ordinary caprice: it gave no

sign of being; but the snow and wind whirled wildly through, even reaching my

station, and blowing out the light.(33)

And at Catherine’s deathbed when Heathcliff visits her in tremendous anguish the

central tension as intense love proves to be the deferring force behind the encircling of

time, the repetition. As contemporary theorist Mark Fisher have used the term

“hauntology” to describe a sense where the present-alive is haunted by the “lost

futures”. Hauntology has been described as a "pining for a future that never arrived;"[8]

in contrast to the nostalgia and revivalism which dominate the eighteen years of

Catherine’s being dead, and Heathcliff is continually seeking out the hauntological

disjunctions of contemporary acceptance of present, as he refused “ to give up on the

desire for the future."[3] But what sort of future are we talking about?
I plainly saw that he could hardly bear, for downright agony, to look into her

face! The same conviction had stricken him as me, from the instant he beheld

her, that there was no prospect of ultimate recovery there - she was fated, sure

to die. 'Oh, Cathy! Oh, my life! how can I bear it?' was the first sentence he

uttered, in a tone that did not seek to disguise his despair.[…]

“You and Edgar have broken my heart, Heathcliff! And you both come to

bewail the deed to me, as if you were the people to be pitied! I shall not pity

you, not I. You have killed me - and thriven on it, I think. How strong you are!

How many years do you mean to live after I am gone?”…'I wish I could hold

you,' she continued, bitterly, 'till we were both dead! I shouldn't care what you

suffered. I care nothing for your sufferings. Why shouldn't you suffer? I do!

Will you forget me? Will you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say

twenty years hence, "That's the grave of Catherine Earnshaw? I loved her long

ago, and was wretched to lose her; but it is past. I've loved many others since:

my children are dearer to me than she was; and, at death, I shall not rejoice that

I am going to her: I shall be sorry that I must leave them!" Will you say so,

Heathcliff?' (155)

Heathcliff asked “Do you reflect that all those words will be branded in my

memory, and eating deeper eternally after you have left me? You know you lie

to say I have killed you: and, Catherine, you know that I could as soon forget

you as my existence! Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness, that while

you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell? (156)

To Heathcliff the agony is overwhelming, he reassuringly utters no “misery and degradation,

and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us” if not it was
Catherine herself,; then he goes on to declare that it will not be an actual living without

Catherine, as how can he live while his soul will be in a “grave?” And as promised Heathcliff

lived a wretched life which he finally confides in Nelly nearly the concluding chapter:

I'll tell you what I did yesterday! I got the sexton, who was digging Linton's

grave, to remove the earth off her [Catherine’s] coffin lid, and I opened it. I

thought, once, I would have stayed there: when I saw her face again - it is hers

yet! - he had hard work to stir me; but he said it would change if the air blew on

it, and so I struck one side of the coffin loose, and covered it up: not Linton's

side, damn him! I wish he'd been soldered in lead. And I bribed the sexton to

pull it away when I'm laid there, and slide mine out too; I'll have it made so: and

then by the time Linton gets to us he'll not know which is which! (274)

He narrates his unfathomable anguish of living with the fact of Catherine’s death. It is

perhaps the spectral presence which kept him sane instead of driving him crazy:

he has disturbed me, night and day, through eighteen years - incessantly -

remorselessly - till yesternight; and yesternight I was tranquil…You know I was

wild after she died; and eternally, from dawn to dawn, praying her to return to

me her spirit! (274)

Heathcliff proclaims his “strong faith in ghosts” And then confesses of doing an

unimaginable thing. His desperation and tormented displaced self are evident from his

actions, he narrates:

The day she was buried, there came a fall of snow. In the evening I went to the

churchyard. It blew bleak as winter - all round was solitary. I didn't fear that her

fool of a husband would wander up the glen so late; and no one else had business
to bring them there. Being alone, and conscious two yards of loose earth was

the sole barrier between us, I said to myself - 'I'll have her in my arms again! If

she be cold, I'll think it is this north wind that chills ME; and if she be

motionless, it is sleep." I got a spade from the tool-house, and began to delve

with all my might - it scraped the coffin; I fell to work with my hands; the wood

commenced cracking about the screws; I was on the point of attaining my

object, when it seemed that I heard a sigh from someone above, close at the

edge of the grave, and bending down. "If I can only get this off," I muttered, "I

wish they may shovel in the earth over us both!" and I wrenched at it more

desperately still. There was another sigh, close at my ear. I appeared to feel the

warm breath of it displacing the sleet-laden wind. I knew no living thing in flesh

and blood was by; but, as certainly as you perceive the approach to some

substantial body in the dark, though it cannot be discerned, so certainly I felt

that Cathy was there: not under me, but on the earth.

I was sure she was with me, and I could not help talking to her…I felt her by

me - I could almost see her, and yet I could not. […] she must be somewhere at

the Heights, I was certain! And when I slept in her chamber - I was beaten out

of that. I couldn't lie there; for the moment I closed my eyes, she was either

outside the window, or sliding back the panels, or entering the room, or even

resting her darling head on the same pillow as she did when a child; and I must

open my lids to see. And so I opened and closed them a hundred times a night -

to be always disappointed! It racked me!... It was a strange way of killing: not

by inches, but by fractions of hairbreadths, to beguile me with the spectre of a

hope through eighteen years!2 (276)

The spectre of Catherine went to rest with Heathcliff’s death. In death they finally reunited,

buried side by side. The moor lands hold witness to their undying love and the venture

thereafter. According to the country folks, “he [Heathcliff] walks: there are those who speak to

having met him near the church, and on the moor, and even within this house.” Some has “seen

two on 'em looking out of his chamber window on every rainy night since his death.” (319)

Thus, although they are absent their spectral existence is unavoidably present.

Finally, to conclude it can be said that with the advent of a late-capitalist society in the

latter half of the 20th century we have arrived at a point when the imperative on us is to engage

in a futurism premised upon neo-liberal concepts of modernity, progress and heteronormative

reproductivity. In such a situation when the spectres of history recede back to a forgotten realm

and remain in cultural memory as mere artifacts of monolithic and stagnant epistemes, it

becomes an ethic prerogative for us to re-imagine and re-configure the unaccustomed past in

radically new and unimaginable ways. The haunting of the past as an excess and an ephemeral

"presence" is precisely this ethical intrusion of the Lacanian Real in the monolithic path of

progressivist history. Lockwood in Wuthering Heights embodies the communal memory that

needs to be haunted time and again by the sudden and unimagined intrusion of the forgotten

"past". Catherine and Heathcliff's love resides in the kernel of an originary desire that refuses

normative compatibility in the age of utilitarian motives. It can never be written in the present

order of Symbolic meanings but functions outside it, often causing speculative ruptures both

within and outside the play of societal norms and gestures. It serves the space of this ethical

haunting so pertinent for a monolithic society that is comfortably smug in its ipseity of selfdom

and the metaphysics of "presence".

1. If not mentioned otherwise, all the quotations would refer to Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. UBS
Publishers’ Distributors Pvt. Ltd. 2007. Print.

2. Emphasis added.

Works Cited

− Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. UBS Publishers’ Distributors Pvt. Ltd. 2007.Print.

− Castricano, Carla Jodey. Cryptomimesis: The Gothic and Jacques Derrida's Ghost Writing.

Montreal: McGill-Queen's UP, 2001. Print

− Currie, Mark. About Time Narrative: Fiction and the Philosophy of Time. Edinburgh:

Edinburgh UP, 2007. Print.

− Davis, Colin. “Hauntology, Spectres and Phantoms.” French Studies 59.3 (2005): 373-9.


− Derrida, Jacques. Otobiographies / Jacques Derrida. Trans. Christie MacDonald. Lincoln,

NE: U of Nebraska P, 1988. Print.

− Specters of Marx: The State of the Debt, the Work of Mourning, and the New International.

Trans. Peggy Kamuf, Bernd Magnus, and Stephen Cullenberg. New York: Routledge, 2006.


− Flint, Kate. “Women Writers, Women's Issues.” The Cambridge Companion to the Brontës.

Ed.Heather Glen. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2002. 170-91. Print.

− Fisher, Mark. Ghosts of My Life: Writings on Depression, Hauntology and Lost Futures.

Zero Books, 2014. Print.

− Gilbert, Sandra, and Susan Gubar. “Looking Oppositely: Emily Brontë’s Bible of Hell.”

Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. Updated ed. New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2007.

33-88. Print

− Wolfreys, Julian. Victorian Hauntings: Spectrality, Gothic, the Uncanny and Literature. New

York: Palgrave, 2002. Print

Life – Death – Afterlife in Wuthering Heights

− Madhumita Majumdar

Haworth was a remote, semi-industrial village, built on the edge of the moors — the

railways did not come there until 1867. A report by a public health inspector of the time stated

that Haworth was one of the least sanitary villages in England, and did not have a single water

closet. Incidentally water supply came into the village after flowing through the over-full burial

ground beside the church. Half the population died before the age of six and the average life

expectancy was 26 (Wilson). This place the Brontës called home!

Amongst the three Bronte sisters, Emily Brontë was said to be a bundle of passions.

Her only novel, Wuthering Heights reveals Emily’s obsessions with some dark subjects. Where

did this darkness and turbulent passion come from? A part of the answer lies in the house of

Haworth Parsonage where the Brontë children lived their short and all too tragic lives.

At 5ft and 6inches, Emily was the tallest of the three novelist sisters. Gondal, a mystical

land of magic was weaved by Emily and her sister, Anne as children to escape the pain that

was theirs forever after the untimely demise of their mother. In the Gondal poems Emily’s

different voices and personae interestingly visit and explore the themes of imprisonment and

death. The dark and overpowering emotions manifested in the poems by a younger Emily

certainly channelize into her invention of Catherine and Heathcliff, the characters in her only

novel, Wuthering Heights. Charlotte, the more practical one along with their brother, Branwell

invented the Kingdom of Angria. The tiny books written by the sisters at Haworth are a sign

of their closed and secret world. Neighbours of the Brontës noted that in the presence of

strangers, the little children would ‘hug one another like timorous animals huddling against

predators. They spoke not with the local Yorkshire dialect, but with the Northern Irish brogue
of their father, the Rev Patrick Bronte’ (Wilson). As the Brontës spent most of their lives

cloistered away in Haworth Parsonage, often in poor health, people have tended to assume that

they were timid as they were retiring but the truth is far from this. Claire Harman in a new

biography, Charlotte Brontë: A Fiery Life (2015) mentions an interesting episode that reveals

the fiery side of Emily. It is said that one day the family dog, Keeper – a mastiff dirtied a

counterpane with his muddy paws; this left Emily so angry that she punched the hapless dog

very hard almost leaving him blind. Thus, it is not uncanny when Heathcliff and Catherine

share this cruel streak of their creator. Catherine when she sees Isabella is deeply attracted to

Heathcliff warns her sister-in-law thus:

He’s fierce, pitiless, wolfish man. He’d crush you like a sparrow’s egg if he found you

a troublesome charge. He’d be quite capable of marrying your fortune. (Wuthering

Heights, p.93).

And we can recall the scene when Heathcliff eloped with Isabella, he hung the latter’s puppy

leaving it to die. Intimidated but Isabella too is attracted to violence though she is finally

incapable of performing it (she says this when Heathcliff kills her puppy):

I surveyed the weapon inquisitively, a hideous notion struck me. How powerful I

should be possessing such an instrument! I took it from his hand and touched the

blade. He looked astonished at the expression on my face assumed during a brief

second. It was not horror, it was covetousness (Wuthering Heights,p.65)

It is thus perhaps not very strange that Emily Brontë's spiritual belief and secular

spiritualism is symbolized by her love of nature and typified by 'shadows of the dead' which
she saw around her. Gilbert and Gubar saw Emily Brontë's poetry and beliefs as threatening

the rigidly hierarchical state of heaven and hell, and suggested that Emily believed that the

dead remained on the earth and moved around her (Gilbert and Gubar, p.225). Emily

apparently saw dead friends and dead family members watching her at night. A brief stay at

Brussels and the tutoring of M. Heger saw Emily and her elder sister learning French. Soon

after Emily left Brussels, she composed a prose allegory, "Le Palais de la Mort," that influenced

the second of the two poems Self-Interrogation." In the essay as well as the poem Death is

personified. In the poem Death logically convinces the human speaker that life is hardly worth

living with its emptiness. Janet Gezari notes that the said poem is one the grim poems of Emily

written especially after the death of Aunt Branwell in 1842 that brought Charlotte and Emily

back to Hawthrone. This would mean the end of the brief stay for Emily who unlike her elder

sister would never return to Brussels. The poems are here stated to reiterate the point that Emily

was again and again returning to the notion of Death and sometimes an afterlife in works

poems, prose and of course her novel.

The Brontës have been associated with the ghostly, an association that continues till

date. It is a well-known fact that the house at Haworth has been converted into a museum as

tribute to the Brontës. Throughout the twentieth century, biographers and creative writers have

seen Emily as someone who longed for death and communed with spirits. Lucasta Miller, the

author of The Bronte Myth (2001) speaks of séance conducted at the parsonage way back in

1940. Again as recently as 2006, Cornelia Parkar along with novelist Justine Picardie was

commissioned by the Parsonage Museum as part of her Brontean Abstracts to record and

conduct a séance! Parker justified her foray into spiritualism that when science could not

answer her questions, then using psychic methods seemed an interesting path (Regis and

Wynne, p.17). Spiritualism, the belief that the dead communicate with the living became
fashionable throughout Europe around 1850 (Queen Victoria and Prince Albert participated in

Spiritualist séances as early as 1846. On July 15 that year, the Clairvoyant Georgiana Eagle

demonstrated her powers before the Queen at Osborne House, on the Isle of Wight). Here was

Emily talking something similar in her novel, Wuthering Heights. Even after Catherine

Earnshaw is dead, Heathcliff invokes her asking her to haunt him:

Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. You said I killed

you – haunt me then. The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe –I know

that ghosts have wandered the earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive

me mad. Only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God!

It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!

(Wuthering Heights, p.150)

Incidentally a little before Catherine died, she envisions a heaven. Catherine is heard saying:

‘I’m wearying to escape into that glorious world, and to be always there: not seeing it dimly

through tears, and yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart, but really with it, and in

it’(Wuthering Heights, p.143). It is as though she had in mind a heaven that was like the moors

in every way but without the constraints of physicality: the spirit of natural freedom pervading

everywhere. Heathcliff on the other hand cannot imagine how Catherine can be happy with her

soul in the grave, alone and away from her Heathcliff. Interestingly when Catherine is

contemplating the marriage proposal from Edgar, she is not exactly looking with euphoria or

happiness to her new life rather the doom of death loom large. She speaks of her dream to

Nelly: ''I was only going to say that heaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart

with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out into

the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy''

(Wuthering Heights, p.148). One thing is clear Catherine wishes not to leave Wuthering
Heights; and secondly, it foreshadows, warns of, Catherine's life after death. Nearly every

character in Wuthering Heights is afflicted with death at a young age, which creates a fixation

on death!

Edward Chitman, Emily’s biographer, wrote that Emily Brontë's religious symbolism

showed no hope for everlasting life and her spirit languished in 'dead despair'. Emily believed

in the 'soul' that was crushed by worldly experience. It is death that released the soul to peaceful

oblivion rather than everlasting life, so Emily concluded. Emily desired freedom and 'liberty'

for an unconfined and 'chainless soul' (Wuthering Heights, p.146). Emily Brontë's derisive

view of patriarchal heaven suggests that it cannot contain or even partially fulfill her wild

desires or experiences. She has no fear of hell or its perennial fire because her 'will' is strong.

It is then safe to conclude that Emily’s frustration and secular spirituality blended to create her

idea of life and after-life.

All Emily wanted was peaceful sleep, vibrant with imagination and thought and away

from earthy woes. The moors where she lived and nature all around are intrinsically linked to

her spiritual beliefs, but this adoration is different from another Victorian, Gerald Hopkins.

Hopkins visualized nature as an essential part of God's glory while Emily was more into the

mystical aspect of nature and the moods produced rather than the contours of nature.

Obviously, Emily’s poetry is reflective of the changing faces of her own faith as well as the

changes in belief within her society as this was also the time when the Victorians began

increasingly to see a separation of the 'moral sense from the religious institutions that had once

expressed it' (Gilmour, p.93). Emily, who could never bring herself to accept the patriarchal

and ordered concept of Christianity, came to reflect upon some of the processes of doubt in

Victorian England. No wonder, Emily allows Heathcliff literally to stare at his death and share
the grave of his beloved. The sky above and the wild nature all come to endorse this union of

Heathcliff and Catherine that did not find fruition in the social domain. Heathcliff strongly

believes that death cannot separate him and Catherine:

Because misery and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan

inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken

your heart – you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine

(Wuthering Heights, p.144).

In his final days Heathcliff seems to be communicating directly with Catherine’s presence and

is so drawn towards a world beyond the material that:

I have to remind myself to breathe - almost to remind my heart to beat! And it

is like bending back a stiff spring: it is by compulsion that I do the slightest act

not prompted by one thought; and by compulsion that I notice anything alive or

dead, which is not associated with one universal idea. (Wuthering Heights,


Indeed, Heathcliff’s own approach to death in Chapter 34 leaves Nelly unsure as to whether he
is dead or alive:

Mr. Heathcliff was there - laid on his back. His eyes met mine so keen and fierce, I

started; and then he seemed to smile. I could not think him dead: but his face and throat

were washed with rain; the bed-clothes dripped, and he was perfectly still. (Wuthering

Heights, p.393)
Incidentally the strangest notion about death in the novel gives the corpse a certain

value, as if in the afterlife the body mattered. After Catherine’s death, Heathcliff enters her

room to find a locket round her neck that contained a lock of hair of Linton. Heathcliff replaces

it with his hair but as Linton enters the room Heathcliff leaves in a hurry and that means his

and Linton’s hair happen to be twined in the locket of Catherine. In fact, it was a popular

practice of the time to bury with the dead things needed in the afterlife. John Callcott Horsley,

a popular Victorian painter, wrote in his diary about a little red-velvet bag that he hung around

his wife Elvira’s neck after her death in 1852. It contained his and his children’s locks which

his wife had cut herself when she sensed that she was nearing her death, labelling each person’s

name and the date when it was snipped! Like Horsley and his family, both Edgar Linton and

Heathcliff want a fragment of their bodies to go with Catherine hoping that it would act as

connect between life and death. The other was also true, the memorabilia of the dead like a

lock of hair or even a hairpin was preserved by those left behind. In all probability Charlotte

Brontë' too wore an amethyst bracelet entwined with the hair of Emily and Anne as a physical

link with her dead sisters. Having such mourning jewellry was again the fashion of the day, till

photography replaced it.

Wuthering Heights has many characters who visualize or believe in postmortem lives.

Nelly’s conventional heaven to Catherine’s dream about being kicked out of heaven and

landing on the paradise of the earthly moors are few examples. There are country folks who

report of having seen the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff. A young shepherd claimed his

sheep refused to be guided because the dead lovers flit across the road and the shepherd is not

alone in his claim. Catherine promises Heathcliff that “they may bury me twelve feet deep, and

throw the church down over me; but I won’t rest till you are with me—I never will!”

(Wuthering Heights, p.113). He believes her, having always had a “strong faith in ghosts”
(Wuthering Heights, p.257). Catherine’s corpse buried with his hair in her locket is not enough

for Heathcliff – he designs to press his flesh against hers after his death. In fact, Heathcliff digs

up Catherine’s grave twice. When Linton dies, and his grave is dug next to his wife, Heathcliff

strikes one side of the coffin loose and bribes the sexton “to pull it away, when I am laid there,

and slide mine out too . . . by the time Linton gets to us, he’ll not know which is!” (Wuthering

Heights, p.256). His yearning for Catherine even after her death includes her body; he wants

to find her “resting her darling head on the same pillow as she did when a child,” and it doesn’t

matter if his heart is “stopped and my cheek frozen against hers” (Wuthering Heights, p.212).

Nelly is shocked and asks if Heathcliff was not afraid of disturbing the dead thus. This kind of

eroticism with the dead bodies or parts of it was not unknown to the Victorians. I wonder if

Emily had been thinking of Tennyson’s 1842 Locksley Hall which she knew well wherein the

speaker thinks it “Better thou wert dead before me . . . Better thou and I were lying, hidden

from the heart’s disgrace, / Roll’d in one another’s arms, and silent in a last embrace” when

envisioning the idea of Heathcliff’s obsession of Catherine’s dead body. Heathcliff desires his

body to become one with that of Catherine’s in the grave. Catherine has a strong presence in

her afterlife – it is her icy hand that pulls Lockwood and more importantly it is she Heathcliff

believes does not allow him to sleep or eat. In one of his attempts to feel her, Heathcliff decides

to sleep on Catherine’s box bed but gets “beaten out of” it, and the moment he closes his eyes,

she is “either outside the window or sliding back the panels, or entering the room….”

(Wuthering Heights, p.257). He finds her in all things even in everyday objects. Inanimate

things also seem to come alive given a kind of afterlife by Catherine’s presence. The windows

or the two old balls in a cupboard, one marked “C” and the other “H” is all invested with

Catherine’s afterlife presence. In this way Catherine begins to surround everything around

Heathcliff so much so that he is filled with a fatalistic desire of his own death!
This belief that an afterlife shimmered through objects or animals was part of ancient

folk customs. J. Hillis Miller rightly points out that the end of Wuthering Heights is part of the

long tradition where love is a private religion. Interestingly the recounting of the love romance

narrative almost begins as a postmortem. Lockwood enters Wuthering Heights and our novel

narrative begins. By that time, Heathcliff is extremely bereaved and not in the most stable state

of mind. Nelly begins to tell Lockwood the story of Wuthering Heights and almost in the

beginning we know that Catherine has died young. In the final illness, Catherine and Heathcliff

embrace each other with Catherine saying: “I wish I could hold you, till we were both dead!”

(Wuthering Heights, p.168) Yes, Catherine and Heathcliff are aware that their romance can

only have an afterlife. Both Heathcliff and Cathy threaten not to rest in their graves if their

wishes concerning their burials are not honored. Cathy declares that she will walk if Heathcliff

is not with her, and Heathcliff threatens to haunt Nelly Dean if she doesn't make sure he is

placed by Cathy's side. In Chapter 29 of the novel, Heathcliff carries this odd notion still further:

he modifies Cathy's coffin and his as well so that they can lie in a single grave so by the time

Linton got to them, Heathcliff opined, the former will not know who is who! In an afterlife,

their bodies will be united. Once Edgar banished Heathcliff from the Grange, Catherine locks

herself and starves herself for three days falling ill. Heathcliff later enters the Grange to see

Catherine and then she asks:

How many years do you mean to live after I am gone? ... Will you forget

me – will you be happy when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years

hence, ‘That’s the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved her long ago, and

was wretched to lose her; but it is past. I’ve loved many others since – my

children are dearer to me than she was, and, at death, I shall not rejoice that I

am going to her, I shall be sorry that I must leave them! (Wuthering Heights, p.160)
Catherine is afraid that in death, she will be forgotten by the living Heathcliff. Yet when she

dies, Nelly comments that no angel in heaven could be more beautiful than her. In death, she

achieves calm. In death, Catherine feels peace that she had not in her life.

When death had been imminent, Catherine was unable to recognize herself as she saw

herself in the mirror and the mirror itself became a sign of premonition for her death. Emily as

mentioned earlier was growing up in Haworth where forty per cent of the population died by

the time, they were six years. Patrick Bronte, her father, from 1820 on presided over more than

111 deaths annually. From 1824 to 1830, the number of deaths rose to 140 per year, in just this

small rural area of Haworth in northern England (Barker, p.101). Naturally, death and afterlife

are a recurring theme that keeps coming to the works of Emily. In her brief life she wrote more

than a hundred poems out of which about thirty happen to be on death and afterlife. Then to

suggest that Emily’s only novel Wuthering Heights was reflective of her upbringing and belief

on notions of life, death and afterlife should not sound far-fetched.

Works Cited

− Barker, Juliet. The Brontes, The Overlook Press: New York 1997. Print.

− Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights, New Delhi: Fingerprint Classics, 2016. Print.

− Gibert, Sandra and Susan Gubar, The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the

Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination, Yale: Yale University Press, 2000. Print

− Gilmour, Robin. The Victorian Period: The Intellectual and Cultural Context of English

Literature 1830-1890, London: Longman, 1993. Print.

− Regis, Amber K. & Deborah Wynne. Charlotte Brontë: Legacies and After lives, Oxford:

Oxford University Press, 2017. Print

− Tennyson. Web accessed on 10th Feb. 2018

− Wilson, A N. Insanity. Beatings and a brother's forbidden passion. As a lost book by Charlotte

Bronte is auctioned, the truth about literature's oddest family; Mail Online: 12th Nov. 2011.

book-Charlotte-Bronte-auctioned-truth-literatures-oddest-family.html#ixzz5B9j5M3V2. Web

accessed on 10th Jan. 2018.


− Barker, Juliet. The Brontës: A Life in Letters. London: Penguin, 1997.

− Colby, Vineta. The Singular Anomaly:Women Novelists of the Nineteenth Century. London:

Athlone, 1970.
The Byronic Ellis Bell and the Victorian Female Author/Reader

- Neepa Sarkar

Wuthering Heights remains one of the oft discussed novels in English literature and

though initially rejected as ‘eccentric’ and illogical on its publication in 1847; it gained

universal appreciation in the twentieth century for its complex narrative structure and intense

psychological appeal. By choosing to tell the doomed romance of Catherine and Heathcliff

spread over the Yorkshire Moors, Emily Bronte gives her readers a glimpse into a facet of

human condition previously not examined by any other novelist. The novel represents the

changing world of the English middle-class gentry faced with poverty, exploitation, loss,

displacement and hunger however much reference to the world beyond the Moors seems to be

resolutely avoided by the author and the action abounds in Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross

Grange mainly. With the novel form firmly establishing itself in the nineteenth century and

with a concomitant rise in female readership, women writers tried to express the female

experiences of home, self and identity into this new form- till then not completely

institutionalized by the male. However, as compared to the male writers, women authors had

to struggle more to not only publish themselves, but as well as, simultaneously resist and

conform to the patriarchal traditions to get their voices heard. It was no surprise then that the

Bronte sisters chose male noms de plume to publish their works in the conventional Victorian

society and also question the cultural notions regarding gender performances and

representations of women writers while trying for a semblance of ‘literary autonomy’ (Gilbert

and Gubar 16).

Much remains unknown about Emily Bronte’s (1818-1848) brief life and like her, her

only novel Wuthering Heights defies simple categorization and infact goes against the

prevailing Victorian notions of the feminine ideal and the woman’s exclusive place in the

domestic sphere. Resisting an easy, monocular interpretation and categorization, Wuthering

Heights remains a fascinating text for readers with its Victorian focus, albeit unconventionally,

on responses to women’s experiences of home, family and the female self. The world of

Wuthering Heights apart from everything else is also the world of alternate possibilities of

reality wherein power, authority and dominance do not simply remain relegated to the

masculine domain but are, sometimes, exercised by some of the women characters as well.

The novel was published in 1847 as part of a three novel publication written by the

‘Bells’ (though the publisher Thomas Newby published the other two only after viewing the

popularity of Charlotte Bronte’s Jane Eyre); there was ample curiosity regarding the true

identity/authorship behind these androgynous names – Currer, Ellis and Acton. These

pseudonyms helped the Bronte sisters to represent the female self and psyche onto the page in

an uninhibited manner which often appalled their contemporaries. With the publication of

Charlotte Bronte’s Biographical Notice (1850) the identities of the Bronte sisters came to the

forefront along with the news of the death of Emily/ Ellis Bronte/ Bell; however the Victorian

readers remained reluctant to believe it for their novels had been portrayals of female assertion

of desire and passion as well as a recognition of the female individual subjected to and

restricted by cultural oppression which seemed to be against the prevalent gendered norm of

femininity. The encompassing patriarchal perception viewed the male as the Self, the subject

who is knowable and human whereas the female was the Other, not fully human nor fully

knowable and hence the ‘abject’. Abjection, to acknowledge Julia Kristeva’s usage of the term,

is a function of the psyche through which the subject’s identity is formed by expelling anything
that points to the fragility of the body and its borders. Kristeva states that experiencing the

abject induces both fear and fascination, a return to the state of the maternal semiotic to “the

place where meaning collapses.” (Powers of Horror 2) Kristeva in Powers of Horror conceives

a phase in the composition of subjectivity that exists prior to the Imaginary and which requires

the subject to abject (separate) itself from the mother and this stage is also prior to the subject’s

entry into language. In this novel the love as depicted between Catherine and Heathcliff seems

to be boundless with no recognition between the self and the other (before Catherine’s

acceptance of Edgar Linton’s proposal). Their escape to the Moors at every opportunity appears

not only an unrestricted entry into the unsupervised realm of the wild (nature) away from

cultural restrictions but also a sort of regression into childhood where demarcations regarding

the self and the other are yet to begin and be strengthened. Subsequently, with Catherine’s

acceptance of Edgar’s marriage proposal Heathcliff, the foundling, is forced to abject from his

idealized self-object (Cathy). Before this abjection, Heathcliff remains powerless and alone,

driven by rage but unable to do much. However, after this abjection brought on by Cathy’s

words, “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now” (Wuthering Heights 87); he disappears

for three years only to return educated, rich and with a plan for revenge and reciprocal violence.

In certain ways Wuthering Heights was influenced by the classical tragedies and its

revenge plot and also the issue of property which faces loss, displacement, change of ownership

and restoration is depicted in detail. Terry Eagleton in Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the

Brontes (1975) looks at this novel as a tale which can be interpreted as reflecting class and

familial conflicts. For instance, after the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Hindley ill-treats Heathcliff

(a foundling, who has been named after the dead infant son of the Earnshaws) and denigrates

him to the position of a servant. This also brings to mind the instance in the beginning of the

novel when Mr. Earnshaw reveals a child from inside his coat instead of the gifts (Hindley’s
fiddle is broken and Cathy had asked for a whip which is now lost) promised to his children,

Hindley and Catherine. Cathy is the first to react to this loss and spits on Heathcliff for which

she gets a thorough scolding from Mr. Earnshaw, who remains fond of Heathcliff till his death.

…both began searching their father’s pockets for the presents he had promised

them. The former was a boy of fourteen, but when he drew out what had been a

fiddle, crushed to morsels in the great coat, he blubbered aloud; and Cathy,

when she learnt the master had lost her whip in attending on the stranger,

showed her humour by grinning and spitting at the stupid little thing, earning

for her pains a sound blow from her father to teach her cleaner manners

(Wuthering Heights39).

For Terry Eagleton, Wuthering Heights remains a superior novel mainly because it is able to

uphold the inherent contradictions present in a class-based society in an organized way and

depict it through a domestic lens.

The entry of the foundling into the Earnshaw household not only causes a stir but also

instills a surreptitious fear in Hindley in terms of loss of ownership and authority in the

domestic sphere ultimately leading to his mistreatment of Heathcliff which increases after the

death of Mr. Earnshaw. The gift episode in the beginning of the novel seems a reversal of the

popular fairytale Beauty and the Beast wherein the Beast has been displaced and brought into

a domestic household, giving Heathcliff an almost supernatural, mysterious, forceful Byronic

stature. Heathcliff remains the ambiguous hero-villain of the novel, tortured like Hamlet to

wreak his revenge as if it were his duty and sole purpose. Heathcliff remains in the novel like

a primitive, elemental force; mysterious and fierce. Dorothy van Ghent in Form and Function

in the Novel refers to Heathcliff’s ‘anthropomorphized primitive energy’ (153) as penetrating

the whole structure of the novel. An outsider and of unknown origins, Heathcliff is represented

as ethnically marked and meant to remain the perpetual other in the story:“Who knows but

your father was Emperor of China, and your mother an Indian queen, each of them able to buy

up, with one week’s income, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange together? And you

were kidnapped by wicked sailors and brought to England” (Wuthering Heights 61).

Both Cathy and Heathcliff are required to abject albeit momentarily to be restored to

the symbolic order of the society and both for a certain amount of time perform the roles in a

triumphant manner. For instance, when Cathy marries Edgar and settles into domesticity and

Heathcliff’s disappearance for a short while only to reappear as an educated and rich man.

Emily Bronte through these instances also seems to be questioning the fragile veneer of

‘genteel’ society and cultural mores which passion and primitive energy (id) can rip apart at

any instant. Marriage, in this novel, does not appear to be the resolution or accomplishment of

desire but the suppression of it and seems to be going against the notion of self and identity.

As Catherine utters, “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods; time will change it.

My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath…Nelly, I am Heathcliff”

(Wuthering Heights86).

The novel’s plot is framed by Lockwood’s voice, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange

who learns about its mysterious owner through the recollections of the housekeeper Nelly Dean

as well as from glimpses of Catherine’s journal. In true Gothic style the polyphonic narrative

makes the readers realize that neither narrator is reliable. This unreliability of narration

intrigues the readers and brings in the need to question the history which is underscored in the

episode when Lockwood chances upon the scratched ledge where a name gets repeated with
changing last names (Catherine Earnshaw, Catherine Heathcliff and Catherine Linton) or when

entering Wuthering Heights Lockwood detects the name Hareton Earnshaw on its door, though

Heathcliff is the supposed owner. Like Gothic romances, this novel too anticipates and

foregrounds the troubled past which has or will wreck the lives of those involved. Further this

complex plot gets highlighted more through visual glimpses that the characters achieve in

various episodes in the novel. Characters peeping through windows and doors, eavesdropping

or deriving voyeuristic pleasure or pain (whichever the case maybe) shatters the comforting

notion of the domestic, no longer the refuge but an instrument of imprisonment in the novel.

For instance, when Cathy and Heathcliff chance upon the Linton house and stealthily watch

the Linton children petulant and weepy, they begin distinguishing themselves as more mature

than the Lintons as Heathcliff later recounts to Nelly, “…we did despise them! When would

you catch me wishing to have what Catherine wanted” (Wuthering Heights 51)? but this

comfort of oneness and friendship is soon broken when Cathy is bitten by the guard dog and

Heathcliff after not being allowed entry into the Linton’s house has to leave her behind.

Heathcliff states, “… I suppose she was a young lady, and they made a distinction between her

treatment and mine” (Wuthering Heights 54).

The novel undoubtedly emphasizes upon the trope of imprisonment to convey the

spiritual and physical restraint that the characters undergo, especially the women characters

caught up in the patriarchal power relations and cultural oppression making the need to be a

‘genteel lady’ an expected social convention. So when Cathy has to stay at Thrushcross Grange

on account of her injury for five weeks and comes back as a mannered lady, she no longer is

the other or the ‘monstrous feminine’(Barbara Creed) for now she had appropriated herself to

the ‘performance’ based on gender and class. From then on in the plot Cathy appears

suppressed in terms of voicing her free spirit which is now caught up in the patriarchal
expectations of the Victorian feminine ideal. She is no longer the terrifying and the violent

brought up in the untrammeled wild Moors with an elemental fierce force, Heathcliff. Nelly

says, “…instead of a wild, hatless little savage jumping into the house, rushing to squeeze us

all breathless, there lighted from a handsome black pony a very dignified person, with brown

ringlets falling from the cover of a feathered beaver…” (Wuthering Heights 55).

Another instance of the fear of the ‘monstrous feminine’ is displayed in the beginning

of the novel when Lockwood dreams of a young Cathy trying to enter the house and begging

him to let him in, he brutally shuts her out, “the intense horror of nightmare came over me; I

tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, “let

me in--let me in” (Wuthering Heights 25)! Ultimately, the novel also questions the lack of

possibilities for women to lead a life of their own without succumbing to the patriarchal ideal

of femininity and domesticity. Many of the Victorian novels depict the Gothic trope of female

social and psychological imprisonment through its women characters for whom the only

chance to escape is through marriage or illness; death being the ultimate freedom. For

Catherine the choice of marrying Edgar does not work for she becomes more removed from

her sense of self and realizes late that her place is with the elements (nature). This novel not

only relooks at notions of sexual difference in terms of discourses of power and dominance but

also brings in the psychological effects of abjection, jealousy, violence, rage and revenge as

important components in deciphering and building of the self and identity.

The novel gives an emphasis to the ability of imagination as influenced by the Romantic

tradition with Lockwood becoming a parody of the romantic lover- gentleman. In the beginning

he is seen as a foolish and foppish man unable to grasp his situation and with no control over
his external circumstances and in contrast, Heathcliff appears as a stronger, powerful, brooding

man who is capable of instilling and implementing fear. The novel plays with binary

perspectives underscored in depictions of characters and circumstances. For instance,

Lockwood as the name suggests, appears submissive and human whereas Heathcliff like his

name is the wild nature which can never be contained. Infact, he appears both Gothic and

Byronic, reminding the readers of Byron’s The Giaour. This book is replete with Gothic

aesthetics, but Bronte is able to modernize the genre and instead of exotic locales, the plot takes

place in a common domestic household where the imprisonment (spiritually and socially) gets

contrasted with the openness of the wild Moors. Also, Thrushcross Grange is presented as a

more civilized and contained place as opposed to Wuthering Heights, elemental and passionate.

Here, the Byronic hero Heathcliff does not simply internalize his pain but also is able

to externalize it by inflicting pain upon others. The Gothic element reaches its culmination in

the plot when Heathcliff wants to dig up the corpse of Cathy and be buried with her; Cathy in

her death completes her haunting grasp over Heathcliff’s sense of self - ironically, when she

was alive, Heathcliff in his absence had occupied her mind and soul. However, Bronte brings

in the notion of the ‘Female Gothic’ trying to highlight the conditions of women in domestic

familial spheres. ‘Female Gothic’ a term coined by Ellen Moers was seen as women’s writing

concerned with expressing the hitherto unexpressed womens’ experiences but Bronte takes it

a step further by stating through the displacement (both psychological and social) of her

heroine, Catherine; the displaced voice of the female writer, under threat from patriarchal

suppression and objectification and weaves it cleverly into the body of her novel. The idea of

restraint borrowed from the Gothic genre helped her to explore the position of writing women

in Victorian times. Literature, here, becomes an allegory of the cultural focusing on the

questions of choice available to women in general and writing women in particular. Examining
Gothic feminist approaches to the female self, identity and role, the novel, subsequently, ends

on a conciliatory note. Towards the end, there is an emphasis on the reintegration of the self to

societal ways of living and this reintegration is underscored with Catherine Linton Heathcliff

marrying Hareton Earnshaw. Like all classical tragedies, the balance is regained with the

restoration of property and rights to the legitimate one. Breaking fictional and moral

conventions for its time, there is no doubt that Wuthering Heights remains experimental, both

in form and content, not only blending many literary genres but also examining the ideas of

power, dominance and powerlessness specifically in terms of the Gothic novel.

Works Cited

− Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New Delhi: Atlantic Publishers, 2008. Print.

− Creed, Barbara. The Monstrous Feminine: Film, Feminism, Psychoanalysis. New York:
Routledge, 1993. Print.

− Eagleton, Terry. Myths of Power: A Marxist Study of the Brontes. UK: Palgrave, 2005. Print.

− Gilbert, M. Sandra and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and
the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. London: Yale University Press, 1984. Print.

− Kristeva, Julia. Powers of Horror: An Essay on Abjection. New York: Columbia University
Press, 1982. Print.
Horror, Terror, and the Gothic in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre

- Prodosh Bhattacharya


“Terror and horror are so far opposite, that the first expands the soul, and awakens the

faculties to a high degree of life; the other contracts, freezes, and nearly annihilates them.” So

spoke Mr. S – in Mrs. Radcliffe’s “On the Supernatural in Poetry”. The distinction is best borne

out by the alternative versions of the line in Coleridge’s “Christabel”; Part I, when the body of

Geraldine undressed is described. What we read today is that Geraldine’s “bosom and half her

side” were “A sight to dream of, not to tell”. This is terror, and one would like to think that this

is the version that Byron read out to Shelley which “awakened” the “faculties” of the latter to

such a high degree that he envisioned a woman with nipples instead of eyes, and became

unconscious. The alternative version, which Hazlitt is said to have preferred, is “Hideous,

deformed, and pale of hue”1. This is horror, which leaves nothing to the imagination. Both

Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre invoke terror and horror, and it is to be seen in what ways

they do so.

Wuthering Heights

The first Gothic motif in Wuthering Heights2 is the eerie house itself and its master with

the dark eyes. As pointed out by Sheila Smith in “’At Once Strong and Eerie’: The Supernatural

in Wuthering Heights and its Debt to the Traditional Ballad”, from his initial appearance,

Heathcliff is associated with Satan. Mr. Earnshaw, using the neuter pronoun, says “it’s as dark
almost as if it came from the devil” (29). Nelly later admits to feeling that he “possessed of

something diabolical” (51). The infatuated Isabella, who elopes with him, writes to Nelly after

their honeymoon, asking whether he is mad, and, if not whether he is a devil. Eventually,

Heathcliff seems to have supernatural powers of control.

Lockwood’s entry into the house is followed by an encounter which brings to mind

another Gothic motif: the vampire. Lying in the oak closet, Lockwood is disturbed by the noise

made by the branch of a fir tree on the lattice:

[…] but it annoyed me so much, that I resolved to silence it, if possible;

and, I thought, I rose and endeavoured to unhasp the casement… “I must

stop it, nevertheless!” I muttered, knocking my knuckles through the

glass, and stretching an arm out to seize the importunate branch; instead

of which, my fingers closed on the fingers of a little, ice-cold hand!

The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back

my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed –

“Let me in - let me in!” “Who are you?” I asked, struggling, meanwhile,

to disengage myself. “Catherine Linton,” it replied, shiveringly … “I'm

come home: I'd lost my way on the moor!” As it spoke, I discerned,

obscurely, a child's face looking through the window. (20)

Going by Radcliffe’s distinction, this seems to be horror, particularly tactile horror with the

“little, ice-cold hand”. However, the motif is introduced only to be given an unexpected twist.

As Paula M. Krebs points out, rather than the ghost of Catherine, it is Lockwood who frightens

us. We have previously seen his behaviour with young Cathy which Krebs describes as

“inappropriately, ridiculously courteous.” (47) This makes his self-confessed cruelty to the

child-ghost all the more shocking:

Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the

creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and

fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes: still it wailed, “Let

me in!” and maintained its tenacious gripe, almost maddening me with

fear. (20-21)

It is the ghost which bleeds, not its purported human victim. To quote Krebs again, “The ghost

allows for human cruelty, which is substantially more dangerous than a moaning dead girl

outside a window.” (47) And this blood-stained horror is inflicted on the ghost by a human

being! The pathos is intensified by Heathcliff’s reaction, which allies him with the unfortunate

paranormal being without:

He got on to the bed and wrenched open the lattice, bursting, as he pulled

at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears.

“Come in! come in!” he sobbed. “Cathy, do come, Oh do – once

more! Oh! my heart’s darling, hear me this time – Catherine, at last!”

(23; emphasis author’s)

To quote Krebs again:

[Lockwood] tries to get rid of the ghost by slitting its wrists, a method

most commonly associated with suicide, not assault. Lockwood tries to

shut out this bleeding girl/woman/self by barricading the window with

books, but her wailing continues to haunt him; books cannot block out

this passion. And what Lockwood cannot block out with books isn't a
girl at all; it is a ghost, which is something he, a good, middle-class

English gentleman not living in a Horace Walpole novel, should never

have seen. In order to understand what he had experienced, Lockwood

must turn to Nelly, his connection to the Heights and the novel's

connection between folklore and fiction. (48)

At the same time, Catherine is a revenant at this point. Earlier, Heathcliff behaves like

a revenant when, after betraying her love, Catherine unleashes a demon she cannot control: “I

want you to be aware that I know you have treated me infernally … and if you fancy I’ll suffer

unrevenged, I’ll convince you of the contrary, in a very little while.” (88)

Heathcliff returns to the Grange out of love for Catherine. This is answered by

Catherine when she returns from the grave in response to his love. “The novel ends,” to quote

Smith, “with local rumours of Catherine and Heathcliff as revenants on the moors” (514). The

“rumours” elevate these ghosts to the level of terror, with the reader’s imagination free to run

riot envisaging the revenants on the moors.

Jane Eyre3

The influence of Wuthering Heights and of Emily Brontë’s poetry shows

[in Jane Eyre] elemental language and landscape. The Heath at

Whitcross recalls the Heights; the characters’ intense cris de coeur echo

the language of Catherine and Heathcliff. Rochester … owes something

to Heathcliff. Like Wuthering Heights, Jane Eyre can be read as … a

dialogue of fire and ice, hunger and rage. (xxx)

In addition to all this, the vampire motif too is present in Charlotte Brontë’s novel. But,

it is unambiguously combined with another Gothic motif, that of “the Madwoman in the Attic”.

Also, unlike in Wuthering Heights, we see the vampire as less a revenant and more a predatory

monster. Bertha’s depiction begins in “terror” mode. First, the laughter, then the unseen

presence outside Jane’s bedroom, which is followed by the fire in Rochester’s, and then the

encounter with Mason, unseen by Jane, when frantic cries of help are heard. The effect on the

reader’s imagination in these passages is indeed “terrifying”, because our faculties race to

imagine fear-inspiring presences which remain invisible. Finally, on the eve of her soon-to-be-

aborted wedding, Jane is visited by the demented Bertha whose reflection Jane sees “in the

dark oblong glass” (327). The key words in her description to Rochester of what she saw are

“discoloured face”, “savage face”, “roll of the red eyes and the fearful blackened inflation of

the lineaments”, “purple”, lips swollen “red and dark”, furrowed brows, and “black eyebrows

widely raised over the bloodshot eyes” (327). This is horror, with specific details leaving little

to the imagination. Stevie Davies, in her annotation to the passage, evokes the associations of

a black person, which, she says, are elided with those of the maniac. She adds that the purple

and distended features also emblematize Bertha’s rage at the usurpation of her rights (566).

Jane herself, however, is reminded of only one thing, as she tells Rochester: “‘the foul German

spectre – the vampire’” (327).

Bertha’s vampiric attributes have already been in evidence during her encounter with

her brother Mason referred to above. As the surgeon, Carter, says, while treating Mason after

he is attacked by Bertha, “The flesh on the shoulder is torn as well as cut. This wound was not

done with a knife: there have been teeth here!” (245) A horrified Mason later says, “She sucked

the blood: she said she’d drain my heart.” (246). Since we are not told what exactly has

happened, the effect is one of horror mingled with terror, the red herring in the shape of Grace
Poole contributing to this effect. Of course, in keeping with the tradition of the vampire

established by Polidori, Bertha has, in addition to her teeth, also used a knife on her brother

first, the teeth coming into operation when Rochester relieved her of the weapon.4

The irony, which Jane is at least partially aware of, is that Bertha is in many ways an

alter ego of the eponymous heroine.5 During Bertha’s visitation, Jane sees in the mirror the

madwoman-cum-vampire’s face instead of her own, implying, as Stevie Davies says,

“unconscious identification between the two” (566). The trope of the “bridal vampire” applies

mostly to Bertha, but Jane is not exempt from it casting its reflection on her. Bertha calls to

mind Sir Walter Scott’s Lucy Ashton, from The Bride of Lamermoor (1819), who, on her

wedding night, having murdered the man she was forced to marry “couched, like a hare upon

its from – her head-gear dishevelled – her night-clothes torn and dabbled with blood – her eyes

glazed, and her features convulsed into a wild paroxysm of insanity …[and] gibbered … an

exulting demoniac”. When Jane finally sees Bertha in the room in which the latter is sought to

be confined in vain, the latter is so dehumanized that the description uses the neuter pronoun:

“What it was, whether beast or human being, one could not, at first sight, tell: it grovelled,

seemingly, on all fours; it snatched and growled like some strange wild animal”(338). Grizzled

hair, “wild as a mane, hid its head and face” (338); sheer horror again. Terror, being unseen,

attracts the imagination and makes it function more intensely than it would normally. Horror,

with everything explicit, repels, and, in a way, shuts down what Radcliffe would call the

operation of our “faculties”.

In her turn, Jane, when retaliating against John’s attack, horrifies Bessie and her maid

Abbot who describe her as “a fury” and “a picture of passion”(14), going on to add that “ ‘she’s

like a mad cat’ “ (15) , epithets, which , taken out of context, may, with perfect appropriateness,

be used for Bertha. Mrs. Reed speaks to Jane herself of her “incomprehensible disposition, and

her sudden starts of temper, and her continual, unnatural watchings of one’s movements! I
declare she talked to me once like something mad, or like a fiend – no child ever spoke or

looked as she did” (267). Bertha similarly watches Jane, and the latter describes the former’s

voice as that “of a mocking demon” (243).

In comparison with the two women, the apparently dominant figure of Rochester is, in

effect, ineffective and subservient, in spite of his literary ancestry going back to the far more

aggressive Heathcliff. Captivated by the sex-appeal of Bertha, he marries her, only to be unable

to contain her irrational fury, though he is shown to be able to control her physically.6

Confining her, and then trying to commit bigamy with Jane, he is stymied, jointly by his

pusillanimous brother-in-law, the one with the “quivering limbs and white cheeks”(336-7), and

the solicitor dispatched by Jane’s uncle from Spain. In trying to save Bertha from the fire she

herself has started, he is blinded, and loses an arm. Eventually, he is nursed by Jane.


One is tempted to relate to two novels to two different traditions of the Gothic in English

literature. Wuthering Heights, which leaves the paranormal hovering on the threshold between

reality and fantasy, but never doubts or debunks it, seems to belong to the school of Horace

Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto and Matthew Gregory Lewis’s The Monk. Jane Eyre, on the

other hand, for all its powerful evocation of the paranormal, eventually settles for “the

supernatural explained”, a trend established and championed by the novels of Mrs. Ann

Radcliffe. However, with regard to terror and horror, Emily Brontë’s novel perhaps has more

of the former. The horror, when it comes, is given a novel twist, as seen in Lockwood’s reaction

to Catherine’s ghost. Charlotte Brontë, while equally effective in her own way, is perhaps more

conventional in progressing from suggestive terror to explicit horror.


1. The reference is from Judith Pascoe’s The Sarah Siddons Audio Files: Romanticism and the Lost Voice.

2. If not mentioned otherwise, all textual references are quoted from Emily Brontē’s Wuthering Heights (1847),
ed. R. J. Dunn, N. Y. & London: W. W. Norton & Company, 2003.Print.

3. If not mentioned otherwise, all textual references to Charlotte Brontë’s Jane Eyre (1847) are quoted from
Brontë. Charlotte, Jane Eyre (1847), ed. Stevie Davies, London: Penguin Books, 2006. Print.

4. In John Polidori’s “The Vampyre” (1819) in The Vampyre and Other Tales of the Macabre, edited by R.
Morrison, Aubrey surprises the titular vampire, Lord Ruthven, when the latter is with his victim in a novel. The
vampire attacks Aubrey as well, but escapes when rescuers arrive on the scene. Their torches reveal the victim to
be Aubrey’s beloved Ianthe who had described to him what vampires looked like, which, to his horror, had
amounted to “a pretty accurate description of Lord Ruthven”. (10)We are then told that “upon her throat were the
marks of teeth having opened the vein” (10), and Aubrey also finds in the hut “a naked dagger of a particular
construction” (10) Later, Lord Ruthven “dies” of a shot in the shoulder by robbers, and disappears after being
revived when the robbers expose his apparently dead body “to the first cold ray of the moon that rose after his
death” (16). Among Ruthven’s effects, Aubrey finds “a sheath apparently ornamented in the same style as the
dagger discovered in the fatal hut” (16). Incidentally, in the 1970 Hammer film Scars of Dracula, the Count,
infuriated by the faithlessness of his vampire bride Tania, repeatedly stabs her with a dagger.

5. Sandra Gilbert and Susan Gubar in The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and the Nineteenth-
Century Literary Imagination provides a detailed reading of the two characters along these lines.

6. “She was a big woman, in stature almost equaling her husband, and corpulent besides: she showed virile force
in the contest – more than once she almost throttled him, athletic as he was. He could have settled her with a well-
planted blow; but he would not strike: he would only wrestle. At last he mastered her arms; Grace Poole gave him
a cord, and he pinioned them behind her: with more rope, which was at hand, he bound her to a chair” (338-9).
Davies, in her commentary, says that Bertha is further dehumanized by being viewed as a perversion of femininity

Works Cited

− Brontë. Charlotte, Jane Eyre (1847), ed. Stevie Davies, London: Penguin Books, 2006.

− Brontë, Emily, and Richard J. Dunn. Wuthering Heights. New York: W.W. Norton, 2003.

− Gilbert, Sandra M, and Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic: The Woman Writer and
the Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven: Yale University Press, 2007.

− Krebs, Paula M. “Folklore, Fear, and the Feminine: Ghosts and Old Wives, Tales in
wuthering Heights.” Victorian Literature and Culture. 1998, Print.

− Lewis, M G. The Monk - the Original Classic Edition. Dayboro: Emereo Pub, web.2012.
− Pascoe, Judith, The Sarah Siddons Audio Files: Romanticism and the Lost Voice, The
University Michigan P: Arbor. Web. 26 Aug 2018,

− Polidori, John W, Robert Morrison, and Chris Baldick. The Vampyre: And Other Tales of
the Macabre. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008. Print.

− Radcliffe, Ann. On the Supernatural in Poetry. Place of publication not identified: New
Monthly Magazine, 1826. Print.

− Scott, Walter, and Andrew Lang. The Bride of Lammermoor. Boston: D. Everyman, 1893.

− Smith, Sheila. "'at Once Strong and Eerie': The Supernatural in Wuthering Heights and Its
Debt to the Traditional Ballad." The Review of English Studies. 43.172 (1992): 498-517.
Space and Landscape in

Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and George Sand's Mauprat

- Tatjana Šepić

Emily Brontë (1818-1848) with her single novel Wuthering Heights and some two

hundred poems is different in many ways from her French counterpart George Sand (1804-

1876), a prolific authoress of more than eighty novels, different autobiographical texts,

(fictionalized) travel accounts, plays, journal articles, and abundant correspondence. Besides

her rich and diverse literary production, George Sand was also a prominent public figure,

actively involved in political and social events of her time. Many well-known nineteenth

century writers, artists, musicians, thinkers were her lifelong friends.

Apart from her novel and poems, Emily Brontë left behind only two short letters and

two diary papers. She had no friends, no interest in writing letters and searched for no

companionship beyond the narrow family circle. For generations of readers to this day, Emily

Brontë has remained an enigma. By the end of the 19th century, her life, as well as that of her

sisters Charlotte and Anne, had become so interwoven with their literary production that the

question of the Brontës “had scarce indeed been accepted as belonging to literature at all”

(James 70). George Sand's literary work, on the other hand, until just a few decades ago was

completely overshadowed by her tumultuous love affairs and a scandalous lifestyle. Over the

years, the novels and lives of both writers have inspired numerous biographies and created a

myth around them, which still sparks readers' interest worldwide.

In spite of the obvious differences, these two contemporary women writers shared a

number of traits and had some common interests, such as the love of nature and music, and a
vivid and creative imagination. As passionate readers, they enjoyed freedom in their childhood

and teenage years to read whatever was available to them without any restrictions, something

rarely granted to girls at that time.

(Local) folk tales, ballads, legends and fairy-tales together with the books they read

shaped their literary tastes and inspired their first attempts at writing at an early age. Inclined

to daydreaming and making up stories as a way of coping with traumatic losses they both

experienced in their early childhood, little Emily and Aurore (future George Sand) started

creating their imaginary worlds that would accompany them for the rest of their lives. Emily

Brontë's poetry together with her lost Gondal saga and George Sand's oral and “silent” novel

of Corambé were the sources of inspiration and poetic space from which their mature works

Wuthering Heights and Mauprat would be created.

In popular imagery, Wuthering Heights and Mauprat are seen as great love stories of

men struggling to win the affection of seemingly free-minded and independent women, of

obsessive love and devotion which goes beyond the grave. But these charismatic stories hide

coded meanings underlying the surface of their literal representation.

Apart from some similarities in the plot and the polyphonic structure of “nesting

narrative frames” (Paglia 449) with multiple narrators, the recurring themes and motifs of love

and the denial of love, of nature and culture, man and woman, freedom and confinement as

antithetical polarities in the dialogue can be found in both novels at macro- and micro-levels.

The paper examines how this principle of dualism is used to create the universe of the novels,

i.e., its semantically coded space and landscape, which is played out in the relationship between

two houses, two estates: Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, Roche-Mauprat and
Sainte-Sévère. These two spheres constitute complementary and at the same time opposing

halves of “the novels' geography” (Pykett 111).

Clear temporal and spatial frames of the novels allow readers to determine the time (the

last decades of the 18th and the beginning of the 19th century) and the places of the events

narrated (Yorkshire and Berry). Yet, these spaces and landscapes are not simple fictional

transpositions of farmer's and gentleman's houses or fortified castles still found in Northern

England or central France, but elements that in the novels' context acquire symbolic and

metaphoric meanings. Besides the obvious contrast between a simple, primitive way of life and

the impression of neglect given by Wuthering Heights and Roche-Mauprat, and the beauty and

splendour of Thrushcross Grange and Sainte-Sévère, the two estates also function as magnetic

poles, representing at the same time the opposite principles of male and female, nature and

culture, affection and intellect, Dionysian and Apollonian in symbolic interdependence and


On the top of the hill, exposed to the “stormy weather” and “atmospheric tumult” (46)1

Wuthering Heights is a rude and inhospitable masculine world. Its few inhabitants spend their

time in hard work with the cattle and doing other day-to-day tasks of a working farm. The

castle of Roche-Mauprat is a “sterile nest” (Bernard-Griffiths 259) of brigands and

blackmailers. On the other hand, Thrushcross Grange and Sainte-Sévère, situated in a fertile

valley, sheltered by a park, are a feminized world of luxury, Apollonian gentility, culture and

idealized family life.

Wuthering Heights is one of the few novels where the characters and their story are

fused with the physical world of the house and the lonely Yorkshire moors in such a way that
we experience them as inseparable. Although most of the events take place inside the house

(either on the Heights or at the Grange), nature is still so powerfully present at all times.

Its rare, terse, and very often frightening descriptions frequently turn into symbols, as

the winter landscape Lockwood encounters after the snowstorm, or, as we shall see later, the

description of the house in the opening chapter of the novel. Typically for the Romantic period,

in Brontë's narrative, as well as in Sand's, the function of nature is representational and

semantic, metonymic and metaphorical at the same time.

The moors in particular represent “an ‘other’ world”, “the space beyond and between”

(Davies, Heretic 181), the unsaid, which, like a blank margin of the text, sparks our imagination

developing “the sense of an elsewhere” (Davies, Emily Brontë 78). It is the world where the

visible and the invisible coexist, and where the mysterious and the supernatural interweave

with the physical reality to the very end of the novel.

The first impressions of the house on the Heights, as well as that of the castle of the

elder branch of the Mauprats, are given by the narrators' description of their exterior and their

surroundings. Looking through Lockwood's eyes we see the Heights as a fortress-like building

with “a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and a range of gaunt thorns”, the inscription

Hareton Earnshaw, the date 1500 above the principal door and a “grotesque carving (...) of

crumbling griffins, and shameless little boys” (46). Besides having a decorative function, these

figures considered in the context of the novel gain deeper meaning since with Brontë no detail

is insignificant.

The griffin's dual nature that combined the symbolic qualities of the lion and the eagle

was often associated with Jesus Christ, God and man. It was also seen as the Antichrist, the
Devil, a crippled creature unable to fly unconstrained like the eagle or walk nobly like the lion.

According to a legend, if either partner died, the other never searched for a new mate but

continued its life alone (New World Encyclopedia). The current landlord of the Heights, Mr

Heathcliff, shares some of the characteristics attributed to this legendary creature. Often

referred to as the devil, the Satan, Heathcliff is an emotionally crippled person who continues

a soul-mate relationship beyond death. The little boys who suggest “the primitive, youthful

phallic fertility of family origins” (Kavanagh 25) are in contrast to the present desolate and

barren landscape and the house which “defies the anger of heaven itself” (Bachelard 46).

The hawthorn, with its beautiful hermaphrodite flowers and lethal looking thorns,

symbolising male and female, life and death (Goddess Tree) stands for the union of opposites

thus foreshadowing the systematic dualism and the attraction of contraries the whole novel is

structured on.

Throughout the novel Brontë uses nature imagery and metaphors to describe human

behaviour or characteristics, while in representing the house and its surroundings, nature and

inanimate things acquire human “physical and moral” features (Bachelard 46). The firs are

stunted, “a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs (...), as if craving alms of the sun”

seem like human hands raised imploring mercy. “The narrow windows (of the house) are

deeply set in the wall”, and its “corners defended with large jutting stones”, the kitchen “is

forced to retreat” into another part of the house, and the sitting-room, (…) looks threatening

because of the “villainous old guns” and dark heavy chairs “lurking in the shade” (46, 47; my

Lockwood's description at the beginning of the novel brings out the contrast between

the outside world exposed to the tumult of the elements and the world within. But, instead of

the expected “perfect Heaven”, he gradually becomes aware that there is “an absolute tempest”

and “the storm” (49) inside the house as well. The Heights, its surroundings and the moor, are

a “psychic state” (Bachelard 72), and together with its landlord they create a landscape of

deeply hidden trauma, anguish and pain. They are an outward, visible reflection of the

overwhelming feeling of denial and abandonment of its “unloved” (Levy) inhabitants who like

the thorns stretch their limbs craving alms of love.

The Heights resembles ruined castles and old mansions of Gothic fiction where the

architectural images provided metaphors for describing the dark side of the psyche and the

“uncontrollable unconscious” (Lowry quoted in Naginski 201).

As Lockwood on his second visit progresses deeper and deeper into the house, he is

finally led into the forbidden chamber and the oaken closet with a bed. At the centre of “the

house's demonic energy” (Jacobs 215), he is not only drawn into its spiritual secrets, but he

finds he has closed himself with “a terrible stranger, his own self” (Davies, Heretic 79).

George Sand's unnamed narrator, similar to Lockwood, begins his story by the

description of the castle of Roche-Mauprat and the surrounding area. The landscape here is

also seen through the eyes of a traveller because the narrator is a young man from the city who

occasionally comes into the country. The words “on the borders of La Marche and Berry, in

the district known as Varenne” define the geographical area, and “a little ruined chateau” (1)2

the time-period the novel is set in – during the decline of feudalism since the castle has been

abandoned for decades. From this general view, the narrator takes us step-by-step across a vast
moor studded with dense forests of centenary oak and chestnut trees to the dark ravine and

gloomy castle of Roche-Mauprat.

In his attempt to enter the house on the Heights, Lockwood encounters a series of

obstacles and the hostility of its inhabitants. Sand's narrator also comes across an inhospitable

landscape. Verbs like “to cross”, “to stumble”, “to experience the greatest difficulty”, “to bar”

give the impression of an impenetrable territory dominated by wild nature while consonance

deserted, gnarled trunks, crouching, obscurity, dark (1) conveys the idea of a mysterious and

fearful place resisting foreigners.

Roche-Mauprat buried in everlasting darkness, like the Heights, mirrors the “psychic

state” (Bachelard 72) of its diabolic and bestial inhabitants steeped in the life of crime and

debauchery. Mauprat is the name of the family and of the estate which will prove to be barren

like a vast moor around it. A patronym of “a horrifying etymology” (Lacassagne 27) combines

two words with opposite meanings: male pratum literally means dangerous/ominous field. If

the Heights only seems like a fortress, Roche-Mauprat is a real fortified medieval castle with

its stout walls, turrets, portcullis and a drawbridge. Both the Heights and Roche-Mauprat are

spaces dominated by nature where the animality and passions of people are in interaction with

the forbidding environment and unrestrained energies of the elements the houses are exposed


Even though the castle is abandoned and in ruins when the story begins, it inspires fear

and a certain uneasiness with the local woodmen and colliers who believe that the ghosts of

the old Tristan de Mauprat and his descendants still inhabit the place. While the Heights is

situated on the top of the hill, Roche-Mauprat, like “an ambush predator” (Bernard-Griffiths
259), lies hidden behind a thick forest, not revealing its dilapidated turrets to visitors until about

a hundred yards from the principle portcullis.

Many years later, when Bernard decided to remove its roofing and to cut down all the

timber, the sun would shine for the first time upon “the damp walls within which [his]

childhood was passed” (7). “Dark”, “cold”, “damp” are words more commonly associated with

a grave than with somebody's home and they express the idea of privation and absolute cruelty

Bernard suffered for nearly ten years.

In the recollections of his childhood, the old Bernard does not give any direct

description of the interior of the Coupe-Jarret “den”3. It is left to the reader's imagination to

picture its huge open rooms, chilly vaults, dark corridors, massive walls where Tristan and his

sons, after plundering small farms of the neighbourhood and intimidating local peasants,

withdraw in the state of “perpetual siege” (21) with an enormous pile of hunting weapons,

duck-guns, carbines, spears, and cutlasses (12).

On the night of Bernard's first encounter with Edmée, it seems as if the barrier between

the outside world, where a fierce storm is raging, and the inside of the house has disappeared:

the rain, driven through the broken windows, is running in streams across the stone floor, the

old walls are trembling, the wind makes the resin torches flicker weirdly (54).

The furious tempest the castle is exposed to during that frightful night corresponds to

its inhabitants’ brutal savagery, and also to the fierce passion that the sight of the beautiful

Edmée arouses in an inebriated Bernard whose imagination is already inflamed by wine and

his uncles' mockery of his shyness with women. On several other occasions the stormy weather
or images related to the wind, heavy rain and thunder are used by Sand to translate the

characters' inner state of mind into words.

Both Mauprat and Wuthering Heights, as we have seen, examine the complex and

symbolic relationship between man and nature. While Brontë is faced with the choice between

Wordsworth and Coleridge, i.e., between benevolent and daemonic nature (Paglia 439), Sand's

choice lies between Rousseau and Marquis de Sade. Brontë's response is ambivalent, but Sand,

even though the dark shadow of the Divine Marquis is present in the novel, definitely follows

Rousseau's liberal idealism and belief that man is naturally good.

Whether taken in its mimetic or coded meaning, nature in Wuthering Heights is nearly

always violent and destructive. Beauty and creation coexist with ugliness and destruction.

Brontë has no illusions about the benevolence of nature or man's superiority over animals and

other living beings as it is written in the Bible. Like Darwin, she believes in our being “all

netted together” (quoted in Davies, Heretic 102) and having a common ancestor.

Therefore, images and metaphors from nature are not only used to measure the

characters' spiritual strength, as we shall see later, but it is a way for the writer to bring “the

anthropocentric system of language into question”, the system which reflects a “hierarchy of

domination and denomination which ignores the kinship between men and animals” (Davies,

Heretic 55, 113). In Wuthering Heights, animals, whether those on the farm or on the moor,

share the fictional space of the novel with the characters and have their own role in it.

In the description of characters, the preponderance of the imagery and metaphors from

the natural world – of animals, plants, earth, sky, clouds, natural forces such as wind, storm is
striking. Establishing the relationship of similarity or contrast between people and (physical)

characteristics, instincts and behaviour of animals, human frailty or moral deficiency of a

character is additionally emphasized. Linton is a “puling chicken” (242), Heathcliff mockingly

calls Edgar “a lamb” (153), “a sucking leveret” (154), while Lockwood “feels feeble as a

kitten” (73) after his visit to the Heights.

But this kind of imagery more often refers to wild animals whose ferocity Brontë

recognizes in man, and uses it to indicate a thin line which divides an apparently civilised

creature from his true, savage nature. The description of the male characters living at the

Heights, or of the members of the Coupe-Jarret family in Sand's Mauprat, is rife with beasts

and vicious animals and creatures as an expression of their brutality and/or brutish physical


Heathcliff is “a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man” (141), “a mad dog” (197) “a savage/brute

beast” (204, 207) with “sharp cannibal teeth” (212), “his forehead, (...) was shaded with a heavy

cloud; his basilisk eyes (...) wept tears of blood, (...)” (215, 209). Hindley, when drunk,

becomes a “wild beast” that “glares like a hungry wolf” (175) and Hareton is “a dog”, “a cart-

horse” (341), “a bear” (57), a wild and uncultivated young man whose whiskers “encroached

bearishly over his cheeks” (53).

Landscape imagery also frequently functions either as a metaphor for human feelings,

moods or condition. Catherine's face was just “like the landscape – shadows and sunshine

flitting over it” (29). Hareton scowls like “a thunder-cloud” (344) and was bred in “clouds of

ignorance and degradation” (351). Linton's soul is as different from Heathcliff's “as a

moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire” (121).

Recurrent imagery of wild, often menacing, animals and landscape is also found in

Sand's novel. The cunning and smooth-tongued Tristan is “a treacherous animal of the

carnivorous order, a cross between a lynx and a fox” (16) who rallies his progeny around him

“as the wild boar gathers together its young after a hunt” (12). Uncle Jean lurks to trap his

victims “crouching down like a cat ready to spring” (20) and the sorcerer Patience looks like

“a wild beast” whose eyes seem “ to flash like lightning at the end of the summer behind the

fading foliage” (36). Bernard is not only “an old branch happily torn from a vile trunk and

transplanted into good soil” (4) as he likes to describe himself, but he is also “a (wounded)

wolf”, “a bear”, “a badger”, “a kite”, “an ogre”, “a hulking dog”, “a savage”. A mane of long,

black hair falls loosely around his face, “a hyena smile” plays on his lips while the voice of M.

de la Marche is like “a raging torrent” in his ears (101).

In contrast to birds of prey and wild animals that the elder villainous branch of the

Mauprats is often associated with, nature imagery used by the narrator to talk about Edmée

stresses her frailty, delicate beauty and gentle character. She is “a hind”, “a lamb”, “a dove”, a

“linnet”, “the prettiest of all birds in the woods” threatened by “these vile night-birds” (75), the

evil and lecherous sons of Tristan. “The holy child of God” (147), “a star in the firmament”

(150) whose “goodness is like a moon that sheds light on all” (149) and whose “divine face”

(160) enchants Bernard the first moment he sets eyes on her, she will become his good angel,

a fairy that will help him in his struggle against “the rebel angels” of Coupe-Jarrets (Schaeffer


The name of Solange-Edmée de Mauprat, Edmea sylvestris combines that of Saint

Solange, the patron saint of Berry and that of a wild flower of the New World. Not only the
main female protagonist, but many other characters in the novel are linked with the world of

vegetation, in a way that we can talk of “the flower theme semiotics” (Flory 202) or the

semiotics of botany. The forest that surrounds Roche-Mauprat is a symbol of the old feudal

family that ruled there for centuries, while the beginning of Bernard's story is the history of the

family-tree of the Mauprats, its two branches, and of the hero himself who is like an old branch

torn from a vile trunk.

Patience, a rustic philosopher, lives in the abandoned Gazeau Tower, sleeps on a bed

of moss, and some stumps of trees, and survives on roots, wild fruit, and goat's milk. His real

name is Jean le Houx (Holly). As the ruler of the white realm, of winter, holly is associated

with dreams and the subconscious. It is also a metaphor for stubborn victories won, for life,

hope and good fortune (Goddess Tree). These are also characteristics of this exceptional figure

and the prophet of the utopian vision of the future.

Of all the characters in the novel, Edmée is most closely associated with the motif of

flowers which is employed to define her relationship with Bernard. The most powerful scene

involving flower imagery occurs when Bernard wanders out in a field where, intoxicated by

the beauty of nature, his eye falls upon a little daisy in which he, as if in some sort of delirium,

recognizes the face of Edmée. This reverie invokes Novalis and his dream of “the blue flower”.

The little daisy is “the miniature of being” (Bachelard 153), which like “the blue flower” is

associated with the face of the beloved girl. Bernard's wandering into the country does not

represent a return to nature, to the animal part of himself, but it marks the beginning of his

transformation. He experiences both the flower and the girl as the work of God, and the whole

landscape appears to him as “an earthly reflection of the scattered heavenly light” (Hecquet

115). The flower's white collaret fringed with purple can also be read as a metaphor for the
enclosed, harmonious space of the park of Sainte-Sévère in which the values of nature and

culture are fused, similarly to Novalis' “blue flower” that symbolizes “the synthesis of man and

nature in the image of love” (Bobinac 55).

To show not only the primitive, predatory instincts that drive Tristan and his sons, but

also to provide the understanding of their infernal nature and what Bernard's life at Roche-

Mauprat was, Sand uses imagery related to hell, devils, fire, and their opposites, as we have

seen, to speak of Edmée. Bernard's life is “infernal” (20) and his cousin tries to persuade him

to flee from Roche-Mauprat in order “to draw himself out of the abyss in which he lies” (62).

Their escape through the underground passages of the castle on the stormy night symbolically

marks the hero's coming out of the “infernal night” and the beginning of a new life with the

first morning light and the arrival at Sainte-Sévère. This passage from darkness to light, the

awakening of Bernard's consciousness will happen under Edmée's influence. The embodiment

of noble feelings, virtue, knowledge, culture, she is his “anima” (Muelhemann 9), the symbol

of light in any man's life. Yet, because of his wild nature, for a very long time Bernard will not

be able to get used to the order, calm and silence that reigned at Sainte-Sévère. He will look

back on his past life with bitter regret, dreaming of the unrestrained freedom he enjoyed in the

“accursed soil” of Roche-Mauprat (259), which now seems like “an earthly paradise” (101).

Bernard expresses his violent and fierce passion towards Edmée through a powerful

imagery full of aggression, similar to Heathcliff's words when he speaks of his feelings for

Catherine. To see M. de la Marche, Edmée's fiancé, or just to hear his name mentioned, “a flash

of jealousy fires [Bernard's] senses” (67). He stares at the girl with “flashing eyes” ready to

“tear out with his nails the heart” of any man who tries to win her from him (208, 212).
Although Brontë in her novel has few biblical references and quotations, the images of

heaven and hell, salvation and damnation are as frequent as those associated with nature. From

the very first page, when Lockwood describes the Heights as “a perfect misanthropist's

Heaven” (45), throughout the novel we encounter different, personal experiences of these two

opposing Christian concepts. Besides the spaces of the houses experienced as heaven

(Hindley's in the sitting-room by the fire, Joseph's in the kitchen, the Lintons' drawing room

for Catherine and Heathcliff, together with the moors and the Heights which will turn into

places of misery and suffering for Isabella and the younger Catherine), the word hell, and this

is particularly true of the two protagonists, is synonymous with agony and grief caused by their

separation and the loss of the beloved person. Catherine's dream of heaven turns into a

nightmare and when the angry angels “flung (her) out, into the middle of the heath on the top

of Wuthering Heights, (....) she woke sobbing for joy” (120-121). For years after her death

Heathcliff “will writhe in the torments of hell” (196), awaiting “his heaven” (363) because that

of other people means nothing to him (Brontë’s emphasis).

The house of nature is also “an infernal house” (106) whose inhabitants swear, curse,

threaten using forceful verbs full of energy. They are most frequently pronounced by

Heathcliff, or by some other character talking about him. Recurring images of hell and the devil

are used to underline his demonic nature or appearance. He is called “a devil”, “a Satan”, “a

lying fiend”, “a ghoul”, “a demon”, “a goblin”, “a hellish villain” who has “his kin beneath”

(209), “who fights like a legion of imps” (216) and whose conscience, as Joseph says, has

turned his heart into an earthly hell (355).

Nelly Dean describes the difference between the dark-haired, morose and unsociable

Heathcliff and a fair-haired, young Linton whose soft-featured face is brilliant with delight as
the contrast one sees “in exchanging a bleak, hilly, coal country for a beautiful fertile valley”


The same contrast between abundance and lack can be found in the two opposing

worlds of the Heights and the Grange. The Grange, symbolized by a thrush, “a pretty, non-

predatory bird” is “a nature managed” (Paglia 448) where the “atmospheric tumult” (46) of the

Heights is softened, “filtered and diluted” (Goodridge 61). Damp and empty rooms, a huge

sitting-room with the stone grey floor, dusty pewter dishes and an inhospitable hearth of the

Heights are in sharp contrast with the luxury and comfort of the Thrushcross Grange, the

Lintons’ beautiful drawing room carpeted with crimson and crimson-covered chairs, a white

ceiling bordered by gold, and a chandelier which seems like a shower of glass-drops

shimmering with little soft tapers. While most of the inhabitants on the Heights are illiterate or

can hardly read, and eat simple, peasant food, at the Grange cakes, negus and tea are served to

the genteel and refined Lintons who are guarded by servants and dogs.

Sainte-Sévère, like Thrushcross Grange, is a place of comfort and elegance, of material

wealth, but also of restrained, subdued passions. The “Manichaean theme” (Didier 183) of two

opposing estates as the expression of “the dialectics of inside and outside” (Bachelard 212) can

also be recognized in the fact that the home of the younger branch of the Mauprats, like that of

the Lintons, is always experienced from the inside: its carpets softer than moss, the curtains

and coverings of chintz, china vases with flowers exhaling a delicate perfume. It is a house of

hospitality and magnanimity, dominated by women and/or men who appear “qualified or

impaired” (Paglia 453) and whose power lies in the gift of speech as a contrast to the barbaric

behaviour and ignorance of the inhabitants of the antithetical houses.

Both novels examine the relationship between muteness and speech, and the role of

books and education. For the children at the Heights, the book is a source of knowledge

necessary to acquire social status, while the lack of it leads to barbarism. Catherine Earnshaw's

journal, written on the margins of the books, gives yet another image of this “cultural artifact”

(Williams 90). Prayer-books in Joseph's hands become “an instrument of oppression”, and in

the hands of children “a means of rebellious protest” (McKibben 35, 36).

The atmosphere of physical and spiritual neglect dominates the Heights from the

opening chapters. Heathcliff's words to his daughter-in-law “to put her trash away” (books),

and “to stop being at her idle tricks” (reading) (72) clearly indicate that it is a masculine world

where a feminised culture has no place. It is a simple working farm where, as Heathcliff has

taught Hareton, “everything extra-animal” should be despised “as silly and weak” (253).

The Grange is the realm of culture where the written word contained in all kinds of

documents such as wills, testaments, titles and leases secures Linton's social power and makes

possible the transmission of patriarchal culture from one generation to another (Gilbert and

Gubar 281). Books for Edgar are also an excuse to withdraw from the reality of the outside

world he cannot control. For the younger Catherine, whom we associated with books from the

beginning, these “images of an unreal security” (McKibben 38) will also become a kind of

refuge in the protected world of childhood. Even when they are taken from her at the Heights

she says that she has written them on her brain and printed them in her heart so that no one can

deprive her of them (332).

Bernard feels uncomfortable in the world of Sainte-Sévère where people speak an

entirely new language that he can understand but cannot speak. Very often he just stammers a
few confused words or simply remains silent and immobile. His appearance and behaviour are

very much like those of Heathcliff when he was first brought to the Heights: a ragged, black-

haired child who stared around and repeated some gibberish that nobody could understand, or

of the wild and uncultivated Hareton. The difference between Bernard and M. de la Marche is

the same as the one between Heathcliff and Edgar – the ignorance and muteness of the one

opposed to the ability for lively and refined causerie of the other.

Yet, very soon, Bernard realizes the power of words, of language. So does Hindley,

when he deprives Heathcliff of education and forces him to hard labour on the farm, or

Heathcliff himself when he brutalises Hareton, reducing him to a state of crude nature.

Heathcliff's physical appearance, as well as that of Bernard, and Hareton later, matched their

mental deterioration. All three of them became young brutes of ignoble look, who, deprived of

education, were also deprived of the gift of speech.

In spite of Heathcliff's effort to keep Hindley's son in the state of ignorance, Catherine

and Hareton gradually develop a relationship conducted around learning. Hareton's desire to

please his cousin and to win her love by the acquisition of literacy is similar to Bernard's

motivation for learning.

For Bernard and Patience, the passage from Roche-Mauprat and Gazeau Tower to

Sainte-Sévère represents the beginning of their intellectual development and acquisition of

social skills. But more than the house itself, it is the space of the park that has the role of

“intermediary” between two estates not only in terms of geography but of “sociopoetics” as

well (Flory 204). In the shadow of its “fine lordly oaks” (224) and in the atmosphere of

harmony, where the dimension of culture is brought together with that of nature, Bernard will
learn to control his wild passion and animal instincts and to transform them into feelings and

thoughts of an enlightened and civilised person, while Edmée will teach him a lesson of love

from a female point of view. Bernard, like Hareton, eventually acquiesces to become

cultivated, will achieve social status and come into his rightful inheritance. While the process

of acculturation proved to be fatal for Catherine and Heathcliff, Edmée and the younger

Catherine manage to reclaim the children of nature and, in the space of dialogue and exchange,

reconcile oppositions that divide the realm of culture and the realm of nature.

Opposites represented by Wordsworth and Coleridge, Rousseau and Sade, and brought

together in Blake's dualistic vision of the world, are present in the works of Emily Brontë and

George Sand. Similar to Blake's antithetical poems, simple at first sight, but rich in implications

and hidden meanings, Brontë and Sand, under the illusion of mimetic representation, create the

opposing spaces of multiple coded meanings. The Heights and the Grange, Roche-Mauprat and

Sainte-Sévère are yet another variation on the theme of the conflict between nature and culture,

body and soul, emotion and reason, masculine and feminine. As the result of the confluence of

their personal experience and the Romantic aesthetics, and revising the traditional binary

structures that have influenced Western thought since the age of Antiquity, the writers create a

vision of the world from the female perspective. Traditional roles are changed here since male

characters (Bernard, Heathcliff, Hareton) are identified with nature, instinct and irrationality

usually associated with the female principle, while heroines (Edmée, Catherine and partly

Catherine Earnshaw) embody reason, culture, and are capable of verbalizing emotions, all

typically male characteristics. Edmée is to Bernard, what Catherine is to Heathcliff, or the

younger Catherine to Hareton. Their relationship is the one between the body and the soul,

culture and nature. They are two parts of a symbolon4, two halves of the same being which can

form a new and different antithetical unity of opposites only when together.

1. References to Wuthering Heights cited in the paper are to the edition by David Daiches (Penguin Books,
2. References to Mauprat cited in the paper are to the edition by Edmund Gosse (London, 1902).
3. There was the senior branch of the Mauprats known also by the name Cut-throat (Coupe-Jarret) and the junior
one nicknamed Headbreaker (Casse-tête).
4. The Greek word symbolon was used to describe a clay seal that was broken in half and given to two people,
serving as a sign of recognition between them. Aristophanes used the word to denote two halves of a whole,
neither one being complete until they are reunited.

Works Cited

− Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Harmondeworth: Penguin Books, 1983. Print.

− Sand, George. Mauprat. London, Ed. Edmund Gosse, William Heinemann, 1902.

− Bachelard, Gaston. The Poetics of Space. Boston: Beacon Press, 1994. Print.

− Bernard-Griffiths, Simone. “L'hospitalité dans Mauprat (1837) de George Sand.” Espaces

domestiques et privés de l' hospitalité. Ed. Alain Montandon. Clermont-Ferrand: Presses

Universitaires Blaise Pascal, 2000. 257-281. Print.

− Bobinac, Marijan. Uvod u romantizam. Zagreb: Leykam international, 2012. Print.

− Davies, Stevie. Emily Brontë. Tavistock: Northcote House Publishers, 2007. (¹1998.). Print.

− Emily Brontë: Heretic. London: The Women's Press, 1994. Print.

− Didier, Béatrice. George Sand, Un grand fleuve d'Amérique. Paris: Presses Universitaires

de France, 1998. Print.

− Flory, Emmanuel. “Sémiologie des fleurs et jardins dans Mauprat.” Fleurs et jardins dans

l'oeuvre de George Sand, acte du colloque international du Centre de recherches

révolutionnaires et romantiques. Ed. Simone Bernard-Griffiths, Marie-Cécile Levet.

Clermont-Ferrand: Université Blaise Pascal, 4-7 février 2004. 201-212. Print.

− Gilbert, Sandra M., Susan Gubar. The Madwoman in the Attic, The Woman Writer and the

Nineteenth-Century Literary Imagination. New Haven and London: Yale University Press,

1984. Print.
− The Goddess Tree. <>. Web. 12 March 2018.

− Goodridge, J. F. Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights. London: Edward Arnold Publishers,

1971. Print.

− Hecquet, Michèle. Lecture de Mauprat de George Sand. Lille: Presses Universitaires, 1990.


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of Wildfell Hall.” Journal of Narrative Technique.16:3 (1986): 204-219. Print.

− James, Henry. “The Lesson of Balzac.” Emily Brontë, Critical Anthology. Ed. Jean-Pierre

Petit. Penguin Education, 1973. Print.

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1985. Print.

− Lacassagne, Jean-Pierre. “Préface.” George Sand. Mauprat. Paris: Éditions Gallimard, 1981.

7-29. Print.

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Volume 28, No. 2 (1996): 158-177. Print.

− McKibben, Robert C. “The Image of the Book in Wuthering Heights.” The Brontës, A

Collection of Critical Essays. Ed. Ian Gregor. Englewood Cliffs, N. J., Prentice-Hall, 1970. 34-

43. Print.

− Muelhemann, Suzanne. “Mauprat ou la création de l’homme.” Présence de George Sand, n°

8, (1980): 7-10. Print.

− Naginski, Isabelle Hoog. George Sand, Writing for Her Life. New Brunswick, N. J., Rutgers

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− New World Encyclopedia. Ed. Frank Kaufmann. Web. 12 March 2018.

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New York: Vintage Books, 1991. Print.

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(1980): 5-12. Print.

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Cahiers Victoriens et Edouardiens 34, (1991): 81-94. Print.

Notes on the Authors

Anhiti Patnaik

Anhiti Patnaik is professor at the Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Birla Institute
of Technology and Science - Pilani, Hyderabad. She completed her doctorate at the Cultural
Studies department of Trent University, Ontario specializing in Victorian literature and culture.
Her thesis examined the aesthetics of murder in the works of Charles Baudelaire, Oscar Wilde
and Walter Sickert. She was an Ontario Trillium Scholar and a fellow of The School of
Criticism and Theory, Cornell University. She read for a Masters and M.Phil in English at the
University of Delhi and a chapter of her thesis was recently published in Neo-Victorian Studies
Vol. 9.2.

Basundhara Chakraborty

Basundhara Chakraborty is currently pursuing her M.Phil from School of Women’s Studies,
Jadavpur University. She has completed her M.A. in English Literature from The University
of Calcutta in 2014. Her research interests include Feminism, Gender studies, Indian Writing
in English, Cultural Studies and Linguistics.

Courtney Simpkins

Courtney Simpkins is an instructor of English at Radford University, where she teaches first-
year Composition, British and Commonwealth Literature, and Victorian Literature courses.
She received her Master of Arts degree in English Literature from Radford University in 2016.
Her scholarly interests include literature of the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries, particularly
works by Frances Burney, Mary Shelley, and the three Brontë sisters.

Madhumita Biswas

Madhumita Biswas is a PhD scholar at the School of Women’s Studies, Jadavpur University.
She completed her M.Phil at the same school and received an MA degree from the Department
of English, Jadavpur University.

Madhumita Majumdar

Madhumita Majumdar, PhD (University of Jadavpur, India) is an Assistant Professor in English

at Bhangar Mahavidyalaya (affiliated to Calcutta University), Bhangar, 24 Paraganas (S), West
Bengal, India has been teaching at the college for 16 years now. Her areas of interest are
Victorian Literature, Indian Writing in English with inclination towards Dalit Literature. She
has presented papers at national and international seminars and has articles to her credit in
reputed journals and books.

Neepa Sarkar

Neepa Sarkar teaches in the Department of English, Mount Carmel College, Bangalore. She is
currently working on her doctoral thesis on Literature and Memory. She has presented papers
in many national and international conferences and has published research articles in
international journals − Melus Melow Journal (2014), Journal of Literature and Aesthetics
(2015), Glocal Colloquies (2016), and The Himalayan Journal of Contemporary Research,
H.P. University, Shimla (2015). Also, her poetry has been published in an anthology brought
out by Cyberwit publishers, India in 2016, and Daath Voyage journal (ISSN: 2455-7544), 2017.
Her poems were shortlisted for the Srinivas Rayaprol Prize (2015).

Prodosh Bhattacharya

Prodosh Bhattacharya began by specializing in Old English and Middle English literature, and
then shifted his focus to late-nineteenth and early-twentieth century popular fiction, obtaining
his doctorate on the novelist Marie Corelli. He has published extensively in all these areas,
including children’s literature. He began teaching in 1982, and has worked at Syamaprasad
College, Kolkata, Presidency College, Kolkata, and the University of Calcutta, before shifting
to Jadavpur University in 1996. He was Head of the Department of English at Jadavpur from

Tatjana Šepić

Tatjana Šepić is a senior lecturer at the Polytechnic of Rijeka, Croatia. She studied English and
French Language and Literature at the Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University
of Zagreb, Croatia where she also completed Postgraduate Studies in Literature and earned her
Master of Science in 2008 and a doctoral degree in 2015. Her research and writing are focused
mainly on (comparative) literature and 19th century women writers.

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