Wuthering Heights and Selected Poetry
Wuthering Heights was first published, it was rejected. Not in the
slang meaning, but in the truest sense of the word: Publishers
didn’t understand the book, or the author. They didn’t
understand the complexities and messages in the story or the true
strength of character its author possessed.
Emily Bronte was not a typical Victorian woman.
She was very reclusive and didn’t have much interest in the
outside world. She had pastimes that weren’t proper for women
during those times and her views on religion were not what you would
expect from a clergyman’s daughter. And, she was in possession of
a wonderful imagination that wouldn’t quit.
It is evident that the last four of the Bronte’s
all had good imaginations when they were very little. Charlotte,
Branwell, Emily and Anne frequently played games of imagination,
usually having to do with their kingdoms. Branwell and Charlotte had
the kingdom of Angria and Emily and Anne had the kingdom of Gondal.
They would play at these games for hours at a time, writing poems
and prose to propel their magical worlds.
As they grew up, the three sisters and one brother
went their separate ways. Charlotte was very anxious to get into the
outside world. Emily was much more reclusive. She made three
sojourns into the outside world. One was at the Clergy Daughter’s
school where she stayed for seven months, one was to school in Roe
Head where she left after three months because she was homesick, and
one was to teach at Law Hill, a school near Halifax. She left there
after two years and returned home to be a housekeeper.
All of these failed sojourns showed that Emily had
a strong attachment to home, but this was not a sign of weak
character. Emily was a very independent, but withdrawn woman. She
had no friends and very few people knew her at all. Two of
Charlotte’s friends served as Emily’s acquaintances. They were
Ellen Nussey and Amy Taylor. Ellen was Charlotte’s nurse and it is
believed by some critics that Ellen Dean in Emily’s book Wuthering
Heights was based on Ellen Nussy, Charlotte’s nurse.
Because of her lack of contact with the outside
world, people know very little about her. What they do know is a
striking picture. Emily enjoyed whistling like a man and even
practiced pistol shooting with her father, an unheard of pastime for
a woman in that era. She dressed oddly for that time and was
nicknamed “the Mayor”.
The love of nature that Emily had is very apparent
in her writing. She enjoyed walking on the moors and loved animals
of all kinds. She drew pleasure from watching the seasons change. A
neighbor of the Bronte’s claimed that after Emily returned one
night from a walk, her face was lit “with the divine light of
happiness”. She appreciated courage and showed immense courage
Emily also was a very loyal and caring person.
When an old family servant, Tabby, broke her leg, Emily left home to
care for her until she healed. And when Emily’s terrible Aunt
Elizabeth died, she brought Tabby to her own home to live with her
until the end of her days. Branwell Bronte was another example of
Emily’s extreme loyalty. Although Branwell died very early as a
result of excessive drinking, Emily never stopped caring about him.
It is widely believed that Emily waited up for him every night and
carried him up to his room when he was too drunk to get there
In all, Emily Bronte was an enigmatic person,
whose death came entirely too early. Her sister, Charlotte, when
writing about her final hours said:
“Never in all her life had she lingered over any
task that lay before her, and she did not linger now. She sank
rapidly. She made haste to leave us. Yet, while physically she
perished, mentally she grew stronger than we had yet known her. Day
by day, when I saw with what a front she met suffering, I looked on
her with anguished wonder and love..Stronger than a man, simpler
than a child, her nature stood alone. The awful point was, that
while full of ruth for others, on herself she had no
pity...”(Editor’s Preface of Wuthering Heights and Poems, li)
Emily died in 1848 when she was thirty years old.
Wuthering Heights is the only book Emily
Bronte ever wrote. It is a very powerful story about love and hate
and sorrow and death. It spans thirty years and is all narrated by,
first Mr. Lockwood, and more importantly, Ellen Dean, the faithful
At the beginning of the book, Mr. Lockwood had
just arrived at Thrushcross Grange as a tenant. He went to see Mr.
Heathcliff, the man he was renting the house from. When he arrives
at Wuthering Heights, he meets a young lady the he assumes to be
Heathcliff’s wife. However, Heathcliff tells him that she is not
his wife, but his daughter-in-law. When he then meets a young man,
he naturally assumes it to be Heathcliff’s son, but again
Heathcliff tells him that he is wrong. Heathcliff makes it very
clear that Mr. Lockwood is not welcome. However, Mr. Lockwood vows
to visit Wuthering Heights a second time. The next day he does visit
Wuthering Heights again and is snowed in over there. He spent the
night in a room with three diaries in it - one labeled Catherine
Earnshaw, one, Catherine Heathcliff and the last, Catherine Linton.
That night he dreams he hears Catherine’s spirit at the window,
and after hearing that, Heathcliff throws open the window and
implores her to come in. Mr. Lockwood leaves early the next morning
and catches cold. He is bedridden for the next few weeks and asks
Ellen Dean to tell him what she knows about the people residing at
Wuthering Heights. She agrees.
The story really begans with Mr. Earnshaw and his
son, Hindley and daughter, Catherine. Mr. Earnshaw left town on
business and brought back with him an orphan they named Heathcliff.
Heathcliff soon turned out to be Mr. Earnshaw’s favorite and he
and Catherine became great friends. Hindley despised him for that.
When Mr. Earnshaw died, Hindley returned from school married and
took over as the master and treated Heathcliff awfully. His quick
mind was dulled and he and Catherine became very rebellious. One
day, they were over at Thrushcross Grange and saw Edgar and Isabella
Linton. They saw Heathcliff and Catherine and thought they are
burglars. Edgar sicced his dog on them and Catherine was injured.
She stayed at the Grange for a few weeks and returned to Wuthering
Heights a sophisticated lady with a furious temper and attitude.
Hindley’s wife, Frances gave birth to a child named Hareton and
then died shortly after. Catherine and Edgar continued
correspondence and when he asked Catherine to marry him, she
accepted even though she still loved Heathcliff. She told Ellen that
she couldn’t marry Heathcliff because he was a ruffian. Heathcliff
overheard, left, and was gone for three years.
When Heathcliff returned, he was an educated
gentleman with money. He stayed with Hindley and became the
mortgagee to Wuthering Heights. Catherine and Heathcliff picked up
their friendship and Isabella developed a crush on Heathcliff. Edgar
developed a deep hatred of Heathcliff. Catherine became upset
because she felt that she couldn’t be friends with Heathcliff and
be married to Edgar. She also admitted that she would always love
Heathcliff. Heathcliff eloped with Isabella after having a fight
with Catherine. Edgar was furious and disowned Isabella. Catherine
was furious at Edgar for driving Heathcliff away and at Heathcliff
for marrying Isabella. She fasted for three days and was taken sick
with a brain fever. Heathcliff went to see her and they had a very
passionate meeting. Catherine died that night after giving birth to
a little girl named Cathy. Isabella left Heathcliff and had a son
she named Linton. Hindley died leaving Heathcliff as the master of
Ellen Dean skipped ahead twelve years in her
narrative. Isabella died and Linton was coming to live with Edgar
and Cathy. On an expedition to Penistone Crags, Cathy had her first
encounter with Hareton and Heathcliff. She was distressed to learn
that Hareton was her cousin because he had been brought up as a
brute by Heathcliff. Hareton was without education or knowledge. He
couldn’t even read or write. Cathy said something about Linton
coming home and Heathcliff heard about it. Heathcliff sent for
Linton immediately. Cathy didn’t see Linton for another three
years after that. When she did see him, they started a
correspondence. Soon after, Heathcliff forced them to marry. Edgar
died subsequently. Linton died soon after that. Hareton and Cathy
fought a lot, but soon they decided to become friends. She started
to teach him how to read. Heathcliff began to look forward to dying.
Heathcliff dies and Cathy and Hareton are married.
Catherine are two very intriguing characters and are both pivotal
players in the plot. In some ways they are two of a kind. Heathcliff
ends up being a very cruel, hard man, but he didn’t begin that
Being Mr. Earnshaw’s favorite instilled in
Heathcliff a sense of self-worth. He felt that he deserved the best
and was willing to do what it took to get him to that point. For
example, Mr. Earnshaw brought home two horses: one for Hindley and
one for Heathcliff. He let Heathcliff have first pick, and of
course, he picked the bigger, handsomer one and Hindley was left
with the other. However, when Heathcliff’s horse went lame, he
told Hindley to switch with him. When Hindley refused, Heathcliff
tried to beat him up, but Hindley pushed him away. Heathcliff fell,
and it left an ugly bruise. Heathcliff then used the bruise to
blackmail Hindley, by saying that if Hindley didn’t give him the
horse, he would tell Mr. Earnshaw that Hindley was beating on him.
But, eventually Mr. Earnshaw died and Hindley took over the
residence. Hindley treated Heathcliff no better than a servant, and
slowly his sense of self-worth was eroded. He became bitter and
hateful. Heathcliff didn’t want to learn anymore. He didn’t want
to do anything but be rebellious and cause pain to Hindley, which he
succeeded in doing with the help of Catherine.
Catherine also despised her brother, mostly for
what he was doing to Heathcliff. She had an extreme loyalty to
Heathcliff, which later would blossom into love. Catherine was not
brought up as normal girls of that time were. She liked to be out
exercising and playing on the moors. She found stitchery and
embroidery dull and tedious. She was also very intelligent and loved
to learn. Catherine had a very vibrant character, but she was also
very rude and disobedient.
I think that if Mr. Earnshaw had lived longer,
this whole story would have been different. Heathcliff’s sense of
self-worth would have been more ingrained in him and he would have
never degenerated into a “little savage”. He would have realized
he deserved just as much consideration as the rest of the family.
Also, if Heathcliff hadn’t been treated like a servant, Catherine
would never have rebelled with him. They would have both grown up
very dignified people, and probably led a happy and fulfilling life.
However, it didn’t happen like that.
When Catherine came home from Thrushcross Grange
after her five weeks there, she and Heathcliff were both very
different from the way they had been. Heathcliff had sunk into more
savagery, and with no one to look after him, he rarely washed or
studied. He became a dumb ruffian, entirely unschooled and a total
brute. All of his hatred was focused on Hindley, and he had become
violent and bent on revenge. Catherine however, had become much more
ladylike. She had learned manners and politeness and how to be a
cordial host. However, when the Lintons weren’t around, she was an
ungrateful child. She was very haughty and scornful to the servants.
She was also very arrogant and never practiced politeness for people
who knew her as she was. Catherine had a double identity. The one
Edgar and Isabella Linton saw was kind and polite and sweet and
caring. The Catherine they saw was always ready to please. The
Catherine her family saw was always ready to hurt. If something
didn’t go her way, she wanted to properly punish that person.
However, The Lintons never saw this rougher side to her, except for
one occasion, when Ellen Dean didn’t leave the room as fast and
Catherine wanted her to.
“[Catherine] supposing Edgar could not see her,
snatched the cloth from my hand, and pinched me, with a prolonged
wrench, very spitefully on the arm. I’ve said I did not love her,
and rather relished mortifying her now and then: besides, she hurt
me extremely; so I started up on my knees, and screamed out,
‘Oh miss, that’s a nasty trick! You have no right to nip me,
I’m not going to bear it!’
‘I didn’t touch you, you lying creature’
cried she, her fingers tingling to repeat the act, and her ears red
with rage. She never had the power to conceal her passion, it always
set her whole complexion in a blaze.
‘What’s that then?’ I retorted, showing a
decided purple witness to refute her.
She stamped her foot, wavered a moment, and then
irresistibly impelled by the naughty spirit within her, slapped me
on the cheek a stinging blow that filled both eyes with water. (61)
This passage really shows Catherine’s true personality. She had a
passion that could not be squelched by a little bit of refinement
for the sake of Edgar and Isabella Linton. Catherine did have one
saving trait: she had a true loyalty to old attachments. She never
stopped caring about Heathcliff and what happened to him. She told
Ellen Dean, while making the decision to marry Edgar, that she had a
deep love and an everlasting empathy with Heathcliff that could
never be equaled by Edgar Linton. Heathcliff heard the wrong part of
this conversation, and left for three years so he could better
himself and be worthy of Catherine’s love.
Catherine had married Edgar Linton, and was
behaving fairly well. She was still very imperious and gave orders
to everyone. Edgar and Isabella were very tractable and bent to her
every whim. Edgar was “deeply afraid of ruffling her temper”,
but then Heathcliff returned and much changed. Heathcliff had became
a gentleman, of a sort.
While he was away, he somehow acquired an
extraordinary sum of money and had become a very educated man. But,
he was very cruel. He had a mostly-concealed ferocity about him and
a very quick temper. He showed things little regard and hated mostly
everyone except for Catherine. He loved Catherine with a passion.
Heathcliff hated delicate things. He liked people to be strong; as
strong as he was. He thought that if something was too delicate,
then it deserved to be crushed. I think that’s why he loved
Catherine so much. She’s probably the only woman who was as strong
and possessed a passion as great as his. And when Catherine died, a
part of him died too.
When Catherine took ill with a brain fever,
Heathcliff was heartbroken. And the part of him that died when she
died was the capacity to love. After Catherine was gone, he became
ruthless, calculating and conquering to have revenge on Edgar and
Hindley. He set out to acquire all the property of both families, by
kidnapping and plotting. He became a very dark and evil person, with
no real redeeming qualities, except you never really hate him. Other
critics have said that the character of Heathcliff evokes pity in
readers, but I never really pitied him. I more sympathized with his
character, because he lost his love. It was not good that he took
the path of evil and cruel temperament, but it can be understood
when you understand that he lost his love when Catherine died. After
she was gone, he really had nothing but his revenge to live for, and
so he lived for his revenge. He threw himself into revenge and made
it his life. And when he was finished with his revenge, and had
acquired all of the property, his life was done. Heathcliff gave up
living and welcomed death, so that he could once again be with
was a very emotional point for Heathcliff and the story. It is the
time when Heathcliff loses all love he has in the physical world and
inside himself. In that scene, Heathcliff displays more emotions
than in the rest of the book.
“Heathcliff had knelt on one knee to embrace
her; he attempted to rise, but she seized his hair, and kept him
‘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?’
‘Don’t torture me till I am as mad as
yourself,’ cried he, wrenching his head free and grinding his
The two, to a cool spectator, made a strange and
fearful picture. Well might Catherine deem that heaven would be a
land of exile to her, unless with her mortal body she cast away her
moral character also. Her present countenance had a wild
vindictiveness in its white cheek, and a bloodless lip and
scintillating eye; and she retained in her closed fingers a portion
of the locks she had been grasping. As to her companion, while
raising himself with one hand, he had taken her arm with the other;
and so inadequate was his stock of gentleness to the requirements of
her condition, that on his letting go I saw four distinct
impressions left blue in the colourless skin.
‘Are you possessed with a devil,’ he pursued
savagely, ‘to talk in that manner to me when you are dying? Do you
reflect that all those words will be branded on 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 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?’
‘I shall not be at peace,’ moaned Catherine,
recalled to a sense of physical weakness by the violent, unequal
throbbing of her heart, which beat visibly and audibly under this
excess of agitation. She said nothing further till the paroxysm was
over; then she continued more kindly -
‘I’m not wishing you greater torment than I
have, Heathcliff. I only wish us never to be parted: and should a
word of mine distress you hereafter, think I feel the same distress
underground, and for my own sake, forgive me! Come here and kneel
down again! You never harmed me in your life. Nay, if you nurse
anger, that will be worse to remember than my harsh words! Won’t
you come here again? Do!’
Heathcliff went to the back of her chair, and
leant over, but not so far as to let her see his face, which was
livid with emotion. She bent round to look at him; he would not
permit it: turning abruptly, he walked to the fireplace, where he
stood, silent with his back towards us. Mrs. Linton’s glance
followed him suspiciously: every movement woke a new sentiment in
her. After a pause and a prolonged gaze, she resumed; addressing me
with accents of indignant disappointment -
‘Oh, you see, Ellen, he would not relent a
moment to keep me out of the grave. That is how I’m loved! Well,
never mind. That is not my Heathcliff. I shall love mine yet; and
take him with me: he’s in my soul. And’, added she musingly,
‘the thing that irks me most in this shattered prison, after all.
I’m, tired, tired of being enclosed here. 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. Ellen, you think you
are better and more fortunate than I; in full health and strength:
you are sorry for me - very soon that will be altered. I shall be
sorry for you. I shall be incomparably beyond and above you all. I
wonder he won’t be near me!’ She went on to herself. ‘I
thought he wished it. Heathcliff, dear! you should not be sullen
now. Do come to me, Heathcliff.’
In her eagerness, she rose and supported herself on the arm of the
chair. At that earnest appeal, he turned to her, looking absolutely
desperate. His eyes, wide and wet, at last flashed fiercely on her;
his breast heaved convulsively. An instant they held asunder, and
then how they met I hardly saw, but Catherine made a spring, and he
caught her, and they were locked in an embrace from which I thought
my mistress would never be released alive: in fact, to my eyes she
seemed directly insensible. He flung himself into the nearest seat,
and on my approaching hurriedly to ascertain if she had fainted, he
gnashed at me, and foamed like a mad dog, and gathered her to him
with greedy jealousy. I did not feel as if I were in the company of
a creature of my own species: it appeared that he would not
understand, though I spoke to him; so I stood off, and held my
tongue, in great perplexity.
A movement of Catherine’s relieved me a little presently: she put
up her hand to clasp his neck, and bring her cheek to his as he held
her; while he, in return, covering her with frantic caresses, said
‘You teach me how cruel you’ve been - cruel
and false. Why did you despise me? Why did you betray your own
heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You
have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry; and ring out my
kisses and tears: they’ll blight you - they’ll damn you. You
loved me - then what right had you to leave me? What right - answer
me - for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because of misery and
degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could 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. So much the worse for me, that I am strong. Do I want
to live? What kind of living will it be when you - oh, God! would
you like to live with your soul in the grave?’
‘Let me alone. Let me alone,’ sobbed
Catherine. ‘If I have done wrong, I’m dying for it. It is
enough! You left me too: but I won’t upbraid you! I forgive you.
‘It is hard to forgive, and to look at those
eyes, and feel those wasted hands,’ he answered. ‘Kiss me again;
and don’t let me see your eyes! I forgive what you have done to
me. I love my murderer - but yours! How can I?’” (137- 139)
This excerpt illustrates many things about both
the author’s style and the characters in it.
Toward the beginning of the passage, Catherine pulled Heathcliff in
by the hair, but he broke free. Catherine still had some of his hair
in her hands. In way, I think this is symbolic of the fact that they
could never be parted. They were one mind, one soul and one love and
whether they were mad at each other, or separated, they were always
together. Along these same lines, Catherine said, “You have never
harmed me.” Catherine was probably the only person Heathcliff had
never harmed. He had been proven to be a very loveless character,
quite capable of hurting people, and yet he had never harmed
Midway through, Catherine talked about her prison
and about how she wanted to break free and go to the glorious place.
To me, prison has many meanings in this place. One meaning is
Catherine’s room. She had been ill and cooped up in her room for a
long time. She wanted to be able to walk on the moors again, like
she used to. She wanted to be among people again and stop being an
invalid who relied on others to do things for her. Another meaning,
is the prison of her mortal body. She is close to death, and wanted
to go to heaven. Again, she was tired of being sick and an invalid,
and she just wanted it to be done. Catherine wanted to make a
graceful exit from the physical world to the heavens. She was tired
of living. The last meaning I see, is the prison of loving
Heathcliff and not being able to be with him. She had lived many
years and through them all, she has loved Heathcliff. Her own love
for him has imprisoned her and made her miserable. She just wanted
to break free and be able to love Heathcliff without the extra
baggage of Edgar Linton.
At the very end, Heathcliff said, “I love my
murderer, but yours? How can I?” This quote expresses
Heathcliff’s sorrow perfectly. He refers to Catherine as breaking
his heart and killing him, and he says that he loves her, even if
she has killed a part of his soul. But, he can never forgive her
murderer, which is himself. Throughout the rest of the book, it can
be seen how much he longs for Catherine. He saw her in Catherine’s
daughter and Hareton. He prayed for her to haunt him and he could
sense her with him all the time. And he never forgave himself for
“killing” her, until he dies.
Aside from being an important point in the story,
this passage also demonstrates Emily Bronte’s style wonderfully.
Bronte likes to have her characters make long speeches; there are
very few moments when characters carry on a quick, back and forth
dialogue. Also, she uses elegant and very formal language throughout
the book. I found myself with the book in one hand and a dictionary
in the other. The style is smoothly flowing and although it does get
confusing at times, it is overall, easy to follow. The passages are
descriptive, but not overly so. The book moves along fairly well.
Catherine’s death scene also brings to life all
of the major themes of the book. I see the major themes to be
passion and the hardships of love. Each of these things plays a
major part in the book.
Passion of different kinds is seen throughout the
book. Heathcliff has two passions: the passion for Catherine and his
passion for revenge. His passion for revenge is an all consuming
passion that has to be done. He feels the need to get back at both
Hindley and Edgar, because Heathcliff sees them as having ruined his
life. Hindley treated him as a beggar and that’s why Catherine
didn’t marry Heathcliff in the first place. And Edgar is the one
who actually married Catherine, and Edgar is who was keeping
Catherine and him apart.
Hindley was also consumed with a passion. However,
his was hatred. Hindley hated Heathcliff and was determined to kill
him. Isabella’s passion was her spirit. She was passionate in her
infatuation with Heathcliff, and then her hatred of him for abusing
her. Edgar’s passion was much more subtle. His passion was his
drive. He wanted his marriage to Catherine to work. He was
determined for his daughter Cathy to never meet Heathcliff. Even his
hatred for Heathcliff was subtle. Hareton’s passion was love and
hate: hate for his father, Hindley, and love for Cathy and
Heathcliff and learning. Hareton loved Heathcliff for being a
father-figure and loved Cathy because she was beautiful. He loved
learning because he thought it would get him Cathy. And Cathy’s
passion was love for her father and again, hatred for Heathcliff.
That Cathy’s hatred for Heathcliff was her passion is ironic,
because Catherine (her mother)’s passion was her love for
Heathcliff and her tremendous spirit.
Also, everyone had a hardship of love. Heathcliff
loved Catherine and Catherine loved him, but they couldn’t be
together because he was nothing but a beggar. Edgar loved Catherine
and married her, but never really got love in return from her.
Hindley loved his wife Frances, but she died at a young age.
Isabella loved Heathcliff, and they were married, but she discovered
that her husband was not the caring man she thought he was. Cathy
loved Linton, but then discovered he was nothing but a sickly,
spoiled brat. Linton loved Cathy but felt he was too weak to do
anything about it. And Hareton loved Cathy, but at the beginning, he
was too uneducated to be worthy of her. Everyone in the book loved
someone, and was hurt by that love.
These two themes also
occur in many of Emily Bronte’s poems, especially the hardships of
love. In an untitled poem, she wrote:
If grief for grief can touch thee,
If answering woe for woe,
If any ruth can melt thee,
Come to me now!
I cannot be more lonely,
More drear I cannot be!
My worn heart throbs so wildly
‘Twill break for thee.
And when the world despises-
When heaven repels my prayer,
Will not mine angel comfort?
Mine idol hear?
Yes by the tears I’ve poured,
My all my hours of pain,
O I shall surely win thee
Beloved, again! (Wuthering Heights and Poems, 325)
In this poem, the narrator is mourning the loss of
a loved one. From the ending phrase, “I shall surely win
thee/Beloved again!”, I think she was trying to convey that her
love is alive and has left her, but that she will win him back.
Again, it is the theme of “love hurts”.
Another reccurring theme in her poems is death. In
a poem entitled merely “A.G.A”, she wrote:
Sleep brings no joy to me,
Remembrance never dies;
My soul is given to misery
And lives in sighs.
Sleep brings no rest to me;
The shadows of the dead
My waking eyes may never see
Surround my bed.
Sleep brings no hope to me;
In sounder sleep they come.
And with their doleful imagery
Deepen the gloom
Sleep brings no strength to me,
No power renewed to brave:
I only sail a wilder sea,
A darker wave.
Sleep brings no friend to me
To soothe and aid to bear;
They all gaze, oh, how scornfully,
And I despair.
Sleep brings no wish to knit
My harassed heart beneath:
My only wish is to forget
In the sleep of death. (Wuthering Heights and Poems, 298)
This poem is all about life and how she had tired
of it. She wanted to leave this life and go on to death. She was
ready and wanted to move on.
Actually, all of her poems are like this. I had to
start out reading them in a very good mood, because once I was done,
I was about two notches lower than I was before I started. All of
the poems were very depressing to me. The only happy poems she wrote
were about the moors, which she loved. About the moors, she wrote,
“Awaken on all my dear moorlands/The wind in its glory and
pride!/O call me from valleys and highland/To walk by the hill
river’s side!”(Wuthering Heights and Poems, 305) These happier
poems are the vast minority. Aside from the moors, everything else
was death and lost love.
If you took out the depressment factor, I enjoyed
her poems. They were all crafted very well and I loved the rhyming
patterns. When she rhymes, she is careful that is doesn’t sound
too cutesy, but it gets the point across eloquently. I found myself
sympathizing with the narrators in many of the poems. In a lot of
ways, she seems to be reaching out through her poems, trying to give
other people a part of her life before she had no more life.
These poems make me see that she was probably very
tired of her life. Emily was always the strong one in the family,
and I think she began to tire of the role. I think that Emily began
to want someone to take care of her, but she saw that the only way
she could ever rest was through death. Emily had a hard childhood,
and her only happiness there was her romps on the moors. So from
that, you can tell why her happy thoughts rested on her memories of
the moors. Also, Emily had to deal with the loss of many of her
loved ones, so that could be another reason why most of her poems
were about death. An idea in writing is to write what you know, and
Emily Bronte knew death.
Emily Bronte’s poems are classics and so is her
book. Wuthering Heights, though rejected by critics at first as
“coarse and disagreeable”, in later times has been embraced as a
classic work of literature. Different critics have different reasons
for making this a classic; I have but one. Wuthering Heights is a
classic because it’s good. It has gorgeous, flowing style and a
precise chronology, as characters overlap and interweave over thirty
years. Not many authors could write a book that spans thirty years
and only takes three hundred and seventy pages. It is interesting
and a wonderful gothic love story. But unlike most love stories, it
doesn’t treat love as a cute thing, all butterflies and daffodils.
Wuthering Heights portrays love as it is; a powerful emotion that
sometimes does more harm than good. It portrays life more as it is,
and for a woman in Victorian times to write such a masterpiece is a
riddle in itself.
I was very honestly
surprised to discover that I actually enjoyed this book. When I
first picked it up and started reading it, I thought I was going to
hate it. I opened the book, and within the first few paragraphs,
Bronte changes tenses three times. I consider myself more of an
editor than a writer; people don’t give their papers to me to edit
unless they want it ripped to shreds. I cannot ignore mistakes. They
drive me crazy and I figured that if the entire book was like the
first chapter, I was going to have a very long three hundred pages.
The entire book ended up not being like the first
chapter (Thank God) and I found myself being more and more drawn
into the story. The main problem I had was that it was necessary to
read large portions of the book at one time because of the type of
language. Emily Bronte used old fashioned words and tricky language.
Once I started reading, and got into the rhythm of things, the book
flowed quickly and smoothly, but the first ten minutes after a
couple of days of not reading were not a lot of fun. And I never
quite got into the rhythm of the way Joseph, the old servant talked.
“It’s noan Nelly!” answed Joseph. “Aw
sudn’t shift fur Nelly -- Nasty, ill nowt as shoo is, Thank God!
shoo cannot stale t’ sowl uh nob’dy! Shoo wer niver soa
handsome, bud whet a body mud look at her ‘baht winking. It’s
yon flaysome, graceless quean, ut’s witched ahr lad, wi’ her
bold een, un’ her forrard ways - till -Nay! It fair bursts my
heart! He’s forgotten all E done for him, un made him, un’ goan
un’ riven up a whole row ut t’ grandest currant trees, I’ t’
garden!” And here he lamented outright, unmanned by a sense of his
bitter injuries.. (349)
I had to read these sort of passages out loud half
the time to get a sense of what he was saying. And even then, they
didn’t make a whole lot of sense. I’m not sure if Emily Bronte
meant them to make sense, or if I just didn’t understand or if
it’s a combination of both. But whichever the case, Joseph’s
passages were the hardest to read.
As I grew closer to the story and began to care
about the characters more, I started to ignore the passages I
didn’t understand, and concentrate more on the plot. I grew to
love Catherine (the first). I thought she was great. I loved her
personality and her attitude. Unlike most women of those times, she
was not a pliable pale little creature who would cry at the smallest
insult. If someone insulted her, she would insult them back. And if
that failed, she would slap them. Catherine had personality, as did
Heathcliff was supposed to be the villain in the
story, the man that the reader is supposed to pity and despise
because of all the trouble he caused. I liked the character of
Heathcliff, also. He had a vivid character that was easy to imagine.
He came to life within the pages. It was like I could see him
thinking of new ways to get even. And the best thing about
Heathcliff is that he never went looking for opportunities to get
revenge; opportunities came knocking at his door. Heathcliff never
tried to make Isabella loved him; she did it all on her own.
Heathcliff just took advantage of the opportunity. Heathcliff
didn’t force Hindley to become a drunken gambler, but he did and
Heathcliff seized the day. Heathcliff also had attitude. And I loved
Heathcliff with Catherine. I had no such love for little Cathy and
I hated Cathy. She was a very pale person, all
happy -go-lucky and spoiled. She liked to go skipping on the moors,
or talking to the animals. Whenever she came on, it was like all the
birds were chirping and the flowers were blooming and bees were
buzzing, like in a cartoon. Whenever Cathy was mean, it wasn’t the
biting mean like her mother. It was the more subtle, “I’m not
speaking to you” kind of mean. She was a very pale replica of her
mother. All of Catherine’s attitude was there; it was just muted
down. Cathy was an altogether more pliable person. I thought that
Cathy needed to get a clue and a backbone, not necessarily in that
Hareton was another pale copy of his father
figure. Heathcliff was cruel and ruthless, but shared a very
passionate love with Catherine. He loved Catherine with all of his
heart. Heathcliff’s soul was Catherine. Hareton tried to be cruel,
but whenever he lashed out at anything, it wasn’t full force.
Hareton had a gentle heart, and he loved Cathy, but it was an
immature, infatuation sort of love. Hareton loved Cathy from afar
and tried to do things that would please her. It was a nice, soft
happy relationship. They hated each other at first, but grew into
friends, and then fiancees. There was no passion, no fireworks. It
was all very pale and I didn’t like it. I preferred Heathcliff and
Catherine’s warring sort of love, to the innocent puppy love of
Hareton and Cathy.
My favorite part of the book was at the end, right
after Heathcliff was buried:
The six men departed when they had let [the
coffin] down into the grave; we stayed to see it covered. Hareton,
with a streaming face, dug green sods, and laid them over the brown
mould himself; at present it is as smooth and verdant as its
companion mounds-and I hope its tenant sleeps as soundly. But
country folks, if you asked them, would swear on the Bible that he
walks. There are those who speak to having met him near the church,
and on the moor and even within this house. Idle tales you’ll say,
and so say I. Yet that old man by the kitchen fire affirms he has
seen two of ‘em looking out of his chamber window, on every rainy
night since his death - and an odd thing happened to me about a
I was going to the Grange one evening-a dark
evening threatening thunder-and, just at the turn of the Heights, I
encountered a little boy with a sheep and two lambs before him; he
was crying terribly, and I supposed the lambs were skittish, and
would not be guided.
“What is the matter, my little man?” I asked.
“They’s Heathcliff, and a woman, yonder, under t’ Nab,” he
blubbered, “un’ Aw darnut pass ‘em/”
I saw nothing; but neither the sheep nor he would
go on; so I bid him take the road lower down. (368)
I love this ending. It’s so perfect because
Heathcliff and Catherine are finally together! Forever. And the fact
that they are haunting people is just perfect. I could never see
Heathcliff or Catherine just laying down and dying. It doesn’t
jive with their characters. They needed to keep on exacting their
revenge, being together, loving each other forever. I think the
ending is what made me love the book so much. It’s just so perfect
in every way. I could never have written a better ending. It has a
little bit of mystery, and a little bit of doubt. It’s the type of
ending that sends shivers up the spine, it’s so eerie. The ending
provides closure for the reader, and a sense of peace because you
know that everything is fine. The two pale copies, Cathy and Hareton,
are free to live their pale lives, doing their own thing, and they
will both eventually fade quietly away. But Heathcliff and
Catherine, the vibrant characters with personality remain even after
they passed on.
Emily Bronte was a very gifted author, who produced an excellent
book even I enjoyed. She was an intriguing person with an intriguing
mind and it is too bad that she died before she could write another
work as good, or better than Wuthering Heights. Wuthering Heights is
a book I would never have just picked off a shelf and I’m glad I
had the opportunity to read it and explore it’s contents, just as
I’m glad I’ve had a chance to look a bit more closely at the
life of a brilliant gothic author, Emily Bronte.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York, 1988.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights and Poems. London, 1993.
Sanger, C.P. The Structure of Wuthering Heights. Hogarth Press Ltd,
Chase, Richard. The Brontes: A Centennial Observance. Kenyon
Sunsite Education. Emily Bronte. http://sunsite.unc.edu/cheryb/woman/Emily-Bronte.html
C. Tallman PhD
Student in Anthropology Graduate Center of the City University
of New York/ New York Consortium of Evolution Primatology
Books by Emily Bronte
~ Hardcover / Published 1994
Heights (Courage Literary Classics) ~ Hardcover / Published
Heights (Penguin Classics) ~ Pauline Nestor, Editor /
Paperback / Published 1996
~ Paperback / Published 1994
~ Paperback / Published 1991
Heights With Selected Poems (The Everyman Library)
Hugh Osborne, Editor / Paperback / Published
: Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets) ~
Hardcover / Published 1996
Complete Poems (Penguin Classics) ~
Janet Gezari, Editor / Paperback / Published
Bronte : Selected Poems (Bloomsbury Classic Poetry Series)
Hardcover / Published 1995
Audio Cassette / Published 1992
Audio Cassette / Published 1993
Audio Cassette / Published 1997
Bronte Collection : Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, Jane
Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte, the Tenant of Wildfell
Audio Cassette / Published 1997