Wuthering Heights Lecture ch 12 &13

Wuthering Heights
Ch 12
• Bronte explores depths of
human passion
• Catherine’s 3 day fast
and her delirium. Symbol
of Catherine’s struggle to
find an equilibrium
between the forces of
nature and the civilised
• In her delirium Catherine
talks to Heathcliff though
he is not there:
Conveys depths of human passion
• “It’s a rough journey and a sad heart to travel it;
and we must pass by Gimmerton Kirk, to go that
journey! We’ve braved its ghosts often together,
and dared each other to stand among the
graves and ask them to come… But Heathcliff I
dare you now, will you venture? If you do I’ll
keep you. I’ll not lie there by myself: they may
bury me 12 feet deep and throw the church
down over me, but I won’t rest till you are with
me I never will!” p111
Conveys depth and scope of the
emotions of an extraordinary love
• In this speech Catherine dares Heathcliff to die
for her so they can lie together at last in their
graves in the churchyard, once more stressing
the idea that love breaks all barriers and makes
extraordinary demands.
• Love is portrayed as a powerful emotion that
transcends life and death.
• The love between Catherine and Heathcliff is an
extraordinary love (pure and concentrated) that
threatens to consume and destroy the lovers.
An exploration of human passion…
• “Wuthering Heights is an exploration of human passion
at different levels and of the effect exercised by the
interplay of these levels upon human life in its individual
and social aspects alike. Creative or destructive in
their consequences, making for life or death, basic
human emotions are presented in a state of purity
and concentration; no other novel of the Victorian
period has penetrated so far into the depths of passion,
or followed with such unrelenting logic to their ultimate
consequences the intensity of its operations.”
- Derek Traversi, The Bronte Sisters and Wuthering Heights
The tragedy of such a love
• Social and religious norms, as reflected in the multiple
voices and perspectives, and images present in the
novel show clearly, that society is not able to understand
nor condone such excesses of love.
• The double narrative conveys the limitations of both
Lockwood and Nellie Dean to understand the depth of
emotions expressed by Catherine and Heathcliff.
• Bronte’s use of the image of the church being thrown
down on Catherine after death captures powerfully her
fear of being repressed by society dictated by religious
convention and norms. It portrays a spirit longing to
break free from the artifices of the civilised world to find
its union with nature where it belongs.
Nellie as narrator
• The author makes a deliberate choice of
• The kind of narrator has implications for
the nature and meaning of the whole text.
• In the case of Bronte’s characters, their
narratives highlight many mysteries and
uncertainties, and there are sharp conflicts
between their points of view.
Narrative Feature
• Nelly Dean’s narration is, technically, direct
discourse, recorded by Lockwood in his journal,
yet it bears most of the narration in the novel.
• Nelly’s narration in turn includes much quoted
dialogue and monologue., which in their turn
include vital pieces of narration.
• Homodiegetic narrators are also characters in
the story world. (closer to the action) - Nelly
• Both Nelly and Lockwood homodiegetic – but
personalities and involvement in action are very
What affects the reliability of a
• The narration is inflected everywhere by our sense of who is
Lockwood is an imperceptive man, lacking in emotional depth.
Nelly Dean is more perceptive, less self absorbed, with a good
enough heart and a sufficient enough supply of common sense to
give her greater reliability than Lockwood.
Yet she is much closer to the chrs , having lived with them all her
life, she has distinct hopes and fears on their behalf and from time to
time even plays a role in the action.
• We need to offset for perceived biases, self-interest, love, hatred,
envy, fondness, immaturity, personal agenda
Nellie as narrator
• In Ch 12 Nellie is “convinced that the
Grange had but one sensible soul in its
walls, and that lodged in my (her) body”
and went about her duties as if nothing
was the matter though Catherine was
starving herself to death…
• And was convinced ‘that she acted a part
of her disorder” and felt that “she believed
she was dying.”…
Limitations of the narrator
• However, later when Nellie describes Catherine’s corpse to the
invalid Lockwood, she interrupts her own tale with a question that
confesses to her own limitations as a narrator:
“One might have doubted, after the wayward and impatient
existence she had led, whether she merited a haven of peace at
last…Do you believe such people are happy in the other world,
sir? I’d give a great deal to know.”
• Here, the conventional wisdom of Nellie Dean struggles to
understand the life and death of her mistress, Catherine.
• Her morality cannot understand the tragic passions of Heathcliff and
Catherine as she asks, an equally ignorant or if not the more
superficial Lockwood answers, to inexplicable questions of the
Reliability of Nellie’s Narration
• Nellie’s reliability as a narrator is once again questioned when:
she deliberately and willfully keeps away knowledge of Catherine’s
mental and physical deterioration from Edgar.
• Could Nellie have helped save the relationship as Catherine
desperately needed Edgar to reassure her of his love for her? “Nelly,
if it be not too late, as soon as I learn how he (Edgar) feels, I’ll
choose between these two…”
A symbol of Catherine’s struggle to find an equilibrium between the
forces of nature and the civilised world
• “… but it is nothing” says Nelly Dean though “the haggardness of
Mrs Linton’s appearance smote him (Edgar) speechless.”
• “ I (Nelly) began to defend myself, thinking it too bad to be blamed
for another’s (Catherine’s) wicked waywardness.”
The Mirror and its Significance
• Only Catherine and Nelly are in the closed room, yet
Catherine apprehends danger lurking nearby.
• While gazing into the mirror, she calls out: "Don't
you see that face?" After trying to calm her, Nelly
takes Catherine's hand and resolutely declares:
"There's nobody here! . . . It was yourself Mrs.
Linton, you knew it a while since." But Catherine
refuses to be appeased, and Nelly tries again: "That
is the glass-the mirror, Mrs. Linton; and you see
yourself in it, and there I am too, by your side"
• Nelly's reflection in the mirror, beside Catherine,
hints at Catherine's fears that, because of her own
weakening will, Nelly will soon seize control.
The Clash of Wills – Nelly &
• Nelly projects herself (un)consciously into
Catherine's tormented life, describes the stage
of Catherine's youthful stormy love for Heathcliff
as a tempestuous, wild, impulsive and
aggressive outburst.
• Nelly shows little sympathy, and she does not in
general reveal any true understanding except in
the most difficult moments.
• The reader's sympathy for Catherine increases
the more that Nelly distances herself from the
heroine of her story.
Effects of Bronte’s Narrative Structure ( the
double narrative and multiple voices)
• highlights the mysteries and uncertainties
around characters and situations, and the sharp
conflicts that arise
• conveys the personal limitations of both the
• conveys diverse perceptions of human nature
• portrays class divisions and prejudices
• enhances our understanding of the conflict
between nature and civil society with its religious
and societal norms and expectations that tend to
repress the free spirit and the animus.
Ch 13
• Isabella’s letter – conveys how the “species has been
weakened by poor breeding methods, hyperdomestication, and the hyper-adaptation of external
nature to humanity’s fallen nature.” Barbara Munson Goff Between
Natural Theology and Selection: Breeding the Human Animal in Wuthering Heights
• Isabella represents an extreme case of characters
struggling to adapt to the natural world having cut
themselves from the land that created the wealth.
• However, being a survivor she decides, “I’m not going to
act the lady among you, for fear I should starve.”
• Catherine Linton (second generation) most adaptable of
all characters: she is able to survive the ruggedness of
the Heights but thrives in the civility of the Grange.
Isabella’s letter and its significance
Echoes Cathy’s first unplanned visit to the Grange, when Skulker
prevented her from escaping.
Throttler is Skulker’s pup, but instead of preventing Isabella from
running away, he dissuades her from entering the house.
The inhabitants of Wuthering Heights display the same sentiments.
Isabella is met by young Hareton, who greets her with an oath and
threat to set Throttler on her if she does not “frame off.”
“hey Throttler, lad! whispered the little wretch, rousing a half bred bull
dog from its lair in a corner.”
Joseph makes fun of Isabella’s speech, which strikes him as affected
“Mim! mim! mim! Did iver Christian body hear owt like it? Minching
and munching! Hah can Aw tell whet ye say?”
Isabella’s letter
• Bronte’s use of direct speech in Isabella’s letter
within Nelly’s narrative discourse, and her use of
dialects and idiolects:
gives credence to Isabella’s account
creates a sense of immediacy – we are made to
feel, hear and see what happens at WH.
conveys vividly the conflicts that arise between
Isabella and the inhabitants of WH.
Isabella’s language in the letter
• Reflects the arrogance of the gentile class, their prejudices and an
awareness of the importance of personal property and inheritance.
“ I entered the kitchen – a dingy, untidy hole”
“ruffianly child, strong in limb and dirty in garb”
“I must shake hands, and – yes - I must kiss him.”
“He replied in a jargon I did not comprehend”
“This is Edgar’s legal nephew,” I reflected. It is right to establish a
good understanding at the beginning.”
“Shall you and I be friends, Hareton?” was my next essay at
“Where is my maid servant? Direct me to her, as she won’t come to
Isabella’s account: conveys Man’s greed
and his territorial, ruthless nature
• Displayed in Hindley’s response in direct
“No,” thundered Earnshaw, “should he offer to
leave me he is a dead man, persuade him to
attempt it, and you are a murderess! Am I to lose
all, without a chance of retrieval? Is Hareton to
be a beggar? Oh, damnation! I will have it back:
I’ll have his gold too; and then his blood; and
hell shall have his soul!
Man protects his turf
• Nelly’s perception of Edgar’s “kindest caresses”
and “fondest words.”
“Ah I thought myself, she might recover, so
waited on as she was. And there was double
cause to desire it, for on her existence
depended that of another; we cherished the
hope that in a little while, Mr. Linton’s heart
would be gladdened, and his lands secured from
a stranger’s gripe, by the birth of an heir”.
How accurate is Nelly’s reading of Edgar’s love
for Catherine? Does he care only about
protecting his assets as she hints?
Bronte’s use of animal imagery
• speculates and explores the emotional
and moral similarities between Man and
beast. The ‘Animal Nature of human
• uses words to describe animals and
humans interchangeably.
• to comment on Man’s refusal to recognise
the fundamental connection between
humans and animals.
Bronte’s use of animal imagery to describe the
elemental nature of the inhabitants of WH
• “Hareton seized and commenced drinking (milk
in a gallon pitcher) and spilling from the
expansive lip.”
• “The infant ruffian continued sucking, glowered
up at me defyingly, as he slavered into the jug.”
• “I assure you a tiger or a venomous serpent
could not rouse terror in me equal to that which
he (Heathcliff) wakens.”
• “Is he come back, then?” asked the hermit,
glaring like a hungry wolf.
Nest of little lapwing skeletons
Ch 12
• Catherine “in her feverish bewilderment…tore the pillow
with her teeth…”
• Cathy says that HC set a trap over the nest of some
lapwings; the older birds wouldn’t come near it, so the
babies died.
• In a similar manner parent-child relationships in the
novel are distorted and cruel. Mr. Earnshaw detests
Hindley; Hindley nearly kills Hareton; and Hindley as a
substitute father mistreats Cathy and Heathcliff.
Heathcliff as a substitute father, does everything he can
to degrade Hareton.
• Like the trap over the nest the child is portrayed as being
as vulnerable as the lapwing babies at the mercy of
Nature, red in tooth and claw
Nature, red in tooth and claw
• Catherine’s remarks, “I made him (Heathcliff)
promise he’d never shoot a lapwing, after that,
and he didn’t.”
• The bird was not shot but it was Nature that
prevents the birds from getting to the nest. “We
saw its nest in the winter , full of little skeletons.”
• The nest of little lapwing skeletons is God’s,
winter’s, or the mother’s work not Heathcliff’s.
• However, Catherine fears that circumstances
may bring out the worst in Heathcliff.
Nature both predatory and healing / source of life
and death / creative and destructive
Catherine: “I’m sure I should be myself were I once
among the heather on those hills…Open the window
again wide, fasten it open! Quick why don’t you move?”
Nelly: “Because I won’t give you your death of cold.”
Catherine: “Because you won’t give me a chance of life,
you mean.”
Catherine: “However, I’m not helpless yet, I’ll open it
myself…careless of the frosty air that cut about her
shoulders as keen as a knife.”
• Parallel structures in their discourse bring out
the duality in Nature.
Golden crocuses
• Mr. Linton had put on her
pillow…a handful of
golden crocuses
• These are the earliest
flowers at the
Heights!...They remind
me of soft thaw winds,
and warm sunshine, and
nearly melted snow.
• Linton lavished on her the
fondest words; but
vaguely regarding the
Pigeons’ feathers
• Some parallels between Catherine’s
illness and Emily Bronte’s wilful and
persistent walk towards her death.
• “they put pigeons’ feathers in the pillows –
no wonder I couldn’t die.”

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