Suffering in Wuthering Heights
Suffering in Wuthering HeightsEmily Bronte published Wuthering Heights in 1847. It is a novel that reflects the Romantic era because of the deep emotions it conveys. Using an extensive list of literary devices, Bronte was able to develop numerous themes.
Some of the key devices include compliments or doubles, foils, Byronic Heroes, conflict, symbols, imagery, and foreshadowing.In Wuthering Heights, the theme of suffering is apparent in almost every character and is developed through the use of rhetorical and literary devices.Authors can develop theme in more than just one way. Sometimes it can simply be certain situations or characters that make a theme apparent. In Wuthering Heights though, Bronte does not simply lay out a theme. She pieces the theme of suffering together by using many literary devices.
Doing so utilizes writing to its full potential and adds more depth to the story. It was not always just a character that revealed suffering in the novel, but tools used by the author that created suffering without the need of a physical cause. Foreshadowing and symbols are some of these tools.There are multiple uses of complimentary characters in the novel; Catherine and Young Catherine being one of the most obvious. Both characters share the same name which is a clear reflection, but they are also similar in how they behave. They are free spirited and adventurous which led to problems with other characters.
Their actions led to suffering in either themselves or someone else.One common problem they caused was that they fell in love with someone they should not have. Catherine fell in love with Heathcliff but chose not to marry him because he was a low life. Heathcliff said to Catherine, “I havenotbrokenyourheart-YOUhavebrokenit;andinbreakingit,youhavebrokenmine” (Bronte 258). This affair caused her to be unhappy with her decision, and put Heathcliff on a lifelong journey to revenge. Young Catherine falls in love with Linton even though her father was against it since Linton lived at Wuthering Heights.
The forbidden love caused both parties to suffer because they could not stand to be apart. Young Catherine went as far as sneaking behind Nelly and her father in order to see Linton.When Nelly found this out she threatened to tell Edgar because she knew it would cause him pain, and that was the last thing Young Catherine wanted. Heathcliff and Catherine are another set of complimentary characters because of their behavior. The two characters are so similar that even they see the resemblance.
“Nelly, I AM Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being” (Bronte 130). Both characters are extremely selfish and say and do things that will benefit themselves. Heathcliff’s mission for revenge is focused on Hindley, but he does not care who he hurts in the process.Catherine also becomes focused on one thing: Heathcliff. Once he returned home she regained the friendship with him, but hurt her relationships with people like Isabella, Edgar, and Ms.
Nelly.”Catherine andIsabellawere sitting in the library, on hostile terms, but silent:” (166) This quote describes the scene after Catherine tried to warn Isabella about Heathcliff. Isabella thought Catherine was jealous and that Heathcliff would never actually harm her. However, Heathcliff would later abuse her mentally and physically. Even though Catherine was honest to Isabella about Heathcliff’s behavior, Catherine still caused her sister-in-law harm without meaning to.
Heathcliff and Hareton are compliments as well because they grew up under similar circumstances. When he was a boy, Heathcliff was brought into a strange family. It was never a complete family to him because the only person who cared for him, Mr. Earnshaw, died soon after his arrival. Since he was so different, the family did not accept him and he was never as educated as Catherine or Hindley.
Hareton was born into a broken family as well, so Ms. Nelly took care of him early on; much like how she took care of Heathcliff. She watched over Heathcliff because she feared “he should suffer neglect after death had removed [Mr. Earnshaw] (Bronte 85). Once Heathcliff gained custody to Hareton, he abused him and did not raise him well. Both boys struggled growing up.
Another similarity is that they both fall in love with a girl named Catherine. Heathcliff was hurt by Catherine, though Hareton did not suffer from his love with Young Catherine.While Heathcliff had many compliments, he was also a foil to Edgar. Both men had extremely different backgrounds. As stated before, Heathcliff grew up in a harsh reality. Edgar, on the other hand, had a wealthy family and was generally pleased with his life.
They both end up in love with Catherine. Heathcliff was the first to be harmed by Edgar’s love for Catherine since he stole her away. However, Edgar was later hurt by the woman he loved because she had feelings for Heathcliff. Heathcliff’s return put a strain on Edgar’s marriage. Eventually Catherine died, hurting both men even more.It can be questionable about why exactly Catherine and Heathcliff act the way they do.
They sometimes seem to feel relief from when they inflict pain on others. (“Effects of Intense Suffering in Wuthering Heights) It is obvious that Heathcliff had a difficult childhood. It is believed that children who grow up with harsh surroundings will often turn out “bad”. Nelly thought that he was genuinely a good person while he was still young. She was shocked when he returned and had completely changed for the worst.
Catherine, in contrast, had a wonderful childhood. Her family was well-off and she did not have a traumatic experience like Heathcliff. Her father did die, but the effects of the death are never mentioned in the novel. The one major conflict she faced as a child was her love for Heathcliff. But could that be enough to turn her bitter? She may be a character who is born evil and does not realize the harm they do to others.
She even causes herself to suffer. Yes, Heathcliff is the cause of her suffering, but she is the one who drives herself mad. (“Effects of Intense Suffering in Wuthering Heights)A Byronic hero was a common tool used in writing during the Romantic Era. Heathcliff is a prime example of a Byronic Hero. He shares many of the characteristics involved with the literary device.
He has been cited as a primary example of a Byronic Hero; “Heathcliff purposely spreads devastation through revenge. He is no a character who cannot control his Byronic characteristics; he is in fact very aware of how he behaves” (Stein). The Byronic Hero in this story is one of the main causes of suffering in all the characters. He brings pain to anyone he encounters and he is aware and unapologetic of it. The problems he creates with the other characters “..
. show the consequences of his egotism, self-absorption, and misanthropy in very real ways” (Stein 29).Heathcliff was a character that tended to build on his own suffering. Since he is a Byronic Hero, he is passionate and emotional. Whenever something bad would happen, mainly involving Catherine, he would break into a fit.
Instead of addressing a problem head on, he would worry himself and involve others. It was not enough just to win Catherine back. He had to completely get revenge on multiple people in order to make himself happy. Heathcliff even wanted to get back at Catherine for breaking his heart. They seem like they honestly enjoyed causing pain and maybe even feeling it because they were not hesitant with their terrible actions.
Even though he was successful, for the most part, with his revenge, he never stopped suffering because he never settled down with Catherine.Catherine was similar in how she dealt with her issues. She often wallowed in her sadness and caused herself more pain. She would involve others for what seemed like her own enjoyment. Many times of suffering were avoidable yet she never missed an opportunity to cause a problem. An example of this is when Heathcliff returned home she clung to him, knowing it upset Edgar.
She denied the fact she wanted to be with Heathcliff even though she knew it was true. This led to so many more issues than there would have been if she had admitted it in the first place.Conflicts occurred between many of the characters as well as within themselves. The devices of man versus man and man versus self are both used by Bronte to show the hurt that the characters experience. Love is an emotion that caused some of the most conflicts within the novel.
“Bronte’s picture of romantic love, which is characterized by total honesty, hysterical emotion and implacable need, is not an attractive one. Love here is neither civilizing nor a force for good; it is a force of nature” (Emck). Emck is saying that love is a natural force that does what it pleases. In the case of Wuthering Heights, love causes more problems than good. People love people they should not, they do not have any love for those they should, or their love for someone causes them to get involved in other people’s conflicts.
Love does not just have to be romantic though because in the novel it is shown greatly by Ms. Nelly who, because of love, has issues with Catherine, Heathcliff, and Young Catherine. Conflict in the novel is often sparked by some sort of emotion which reflects the Romantic era. “It features the uncouth, changeling-like Heathcliff who is adopted into a family where he excites the most violent emotions” (Emck). Emotions are the key force behind everyone’s suffering in the novel.
The use of windows as a symbol for a barrier is a common occurrence in the novel. The mention of characters near windows happens quite often and holds some significance. Early on in the novel, Heathcliff and Catherine end up near the Linton’s window.”We crept through a broken hedge, groped our way up the path, and planted ourselves on a flower-plot under the drawing-room window” (Bronte 74). The two children looked inside and saw this high class family.
They judged Edgar and Isabella because they were fighting over something that seemed like nonsense to the two viewers.In this case, the window was a barrier of the two different families; focusing on Heathcliff as the outsider. Later Catherine was on the other side of that window but Heathcliff was still separated and different.Deeper into the novel when Catherine was ill, she wanted a window open but Nelly felt it was too cold so she would not open it. Nelly’s reasons for not opening the window was as follows; ‘Because I won’t give you your death of cold” to which Catherine replied ‘You won’t give me a chance of life, you mean” (Bronte 201).
Here, a window was a symbol as a barrier of life. Catherine did not want the cold, she wanted something that others were keeping from her; Heathcliff. The symbolic windows were causing people to suffer because it kept them from something they wanted.The moors and hills around the two estates acted as barriers between the families. The geography separated Heathcliff and Catherine after she was taken in by the Linton family. It is not that he could never go to Thrushcross Grange, but a physical divide showed that there was also something else separating the two: class.
Heathcliff was the one who suffered more in this situation.Much like her mother, Young Catherine also experienced hills as a barrier. She was unaware of what laid behind the hills because she never went to Wuthering Heights. In fact, she was completely unaware of the importance of that estate. She would sit by her window and wonder about what was beyond the glass and the hills. When she finally snuck over to Wuthering Heights, she was told never to go back.
The hills acted as the “wall” between the families. This wall eventually led to more suffering from her, Linton, and Edgar.As a Romantic novel, imagery is used throughout the novel and reveals suffering to the reader. Linton was always ill, but as he got involved with Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange he became worse. When Young Catherine would see him he would have fits. : Hewasimmediatelyseized by a suffocating cough” ( Bronte 383) Bronte describes his appearance while he is ill so that the reader gets an understanding of what he was going through.
By detailing how his illness affected him physically, it becomes easier to see his suffering. ” Hesighedandmoanedlikeoneundergreatsuffering,andkeptitupforaquarterofanhour;” (384) Also, he suffered emotionally because of his difficult relationship with Young Catherine. Even his emotions were described as something that affected his physical health. The emotional pain only made his illness worse.In the beginning of the novel, foreshadowing is used to predict Catherine’s suffering. When Lockwood stayed at Wuthering Heights, he was put into a forbidden room.
When he sat near the window he noticed the names “Catherine Earnshaw . . . Catherine Heathcliff . .
. Catherine Linton” (Bronte 30) written on the wall. “The glare of white letters started from the dark, as vivid as spectres—the air swarmed with Catherines” (30). This room had a presence of Catherine. The different last names revealed that Catherine was facing some sort of internal struggle.
It foreshadowed the problems she would later have with Edgar and Heathcliff. Another example of foreshadowing is that Young Catherine was named after her mother. It becomes clear that the two characters are doubles, but their names reveal that before their actions ever do. Before the life of Young Catherine is exposed, Nelly foreshadows that she will be like her mother. “andthedaughterturnedoutasecondedition of the mother” (Bronte 248). It is almost like Young Catherine took Catherine’s place.
Her mother died the day she was born so they never lived alongside each other. Young Catherine also had some sort of relationship with anyone Catherine did. And like her mother, she suffered because of her relationship with Heathcliff, while also causing others pain as well.The novel consists of many themes, but other themes actually help develop the theme of suffering. Some other dominating themes include patriarchy, class, and society.
It can also be argued that Wuthering Heights has hints of feminism. In all of the families in the story, there is a male at the head of the household. Often times, this male can cause pain in those he oversees. Hindley is a drunk and abuses his son which caused both Nelly and Hareton to suffer. When Heathcliff took over that household, he abused Hareton, and later Isabella and Linton.
(“The abusive patriarch and patriarchal family.)Class is an early developing theme in this novel. From the start it is known that Heathcliff is extremely low class, the Earnshaws were middle class, and the Lintons seemed slightly better off than them. When it came down to Catherine choosing who to marry, she chose Edgar for the pure fact it would be a good choice for her and her family. If she was extremely wealthy she may have been able to choose love over wealth, but it was not this way. So in this case, the setup of classes caused Catherine and Heathcliff to suffer.
Society tends to have definitions of how people should act and what they should be like, especially during the Victorian Era. Multiple characters in the story did not fit into the box which society told them to be in. Many times, this led to the characters suffering in some way. For example, Young Catherine was thought of as a well behaved young lady and was expected to always listen and never question why she hardly left the estate. Another was that Linton was completely opposite from the definition of a “man”. Even Heathcliff tortured him about how he was so weak and small.
It seems as if suffering just leads to worse things in the novel. Characters get their hearts broken and many of them die. Some good can come from all that suffering though. Young Catherine and Hareton were never fond of each other. Young Catherine often teased him because of his lack of education. They both shared a mutual adversary though: Heathcliff.
He had made them suffer at one point or another. Even with all the pain, they “are able to overcome Heathcliff’s abuse and to find love and a future with each other” (“The effects of intense suffering.”).Without suffering, this novel would be completely different. The story itself is driven by suffering. From the very beginning readers learn about a miserable man, Heathcliff.
Generally, someone is miserable because they are suffering from something. Almost every event or action seems to feed off another and it all leads to suffering. The characters do not know how to deal with their issues well, so they take their problems out on someone else. This is a constant cycle that does not even end at the death of a character.Emily Bronte uses an extensive list of literary devices and writing tools to help create the theme of suffering in Wuthering Heights. Compliments or doubles, foils, Byronic Heroes, conflict, symbols, imagery, and foreshadowing are all part of creating this theme.
Practically every character experiences suffering at least once in the story; Catherine and Heathcliff more so than others, but this is mainly due to the fact they bring it upon themselves. Most of the other characters are simply victims rather than victimizers. Surprisingly, love is the biggest cause of suffering in this story. Through the use of characters, devices, and situations, suffering becomes one of the most relevant themes in the novel. ? Works Cited Bronte?, Emily. Wuthering Heights.
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