Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte
Wuthering Heights and Selected Poetry

When 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 Emily was a very independent, but withdrawn woman.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 herself.

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 himself.

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 housekeeper.

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 Wuthering Heights.

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.

Heathcliff and 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 way.

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 Catherine.

Catherine’s death 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 down.
‘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 teeth.

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 wildly -

‘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. Forgive me!

‘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 Catherine.

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.

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 Hareton.

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 order.

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 month ago.

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, 1926.
Chase, Richard. The Brontes: A Centennial Observance. Kenyon College, 1947.
Sunsite Education. Emily Bronte. http://sunsite.unc.edu/cheryb/woman/Emily-Bronte.html


Melissa C. Tallman PhD
 Student in Anthropology Graduate Center of the City University of New York/ New York Consortium of Evolution Primatology
 email: mtallman@nyc.rr.com

Books by Emily Bronte

Wuthering Heights ~ Hardcover / Published 1994

Wuthering Heights (Courage Literary Classics) ~ Hardcover / Published 1991

Wuthering Heights (Penguin Classics) ~ Pauline Nestor, Editor / Paperback / Published 1996

Wuthering Heights ~ Paperback / Published 1994

Wuthering Heights ~ Paperback / Published 1991

Wuthering Heights With Selected Poems (The Everyman Library) ~

Hugh Osborne, Editor / Paperback / Published 1993

Bronte : Poems (Everyman's Library Pocket Poets) ~

Hardcover / Published 1996

The Complete Poems (Penguin Classics) ~

Janet Gezari, Editor / Paperback / Published 1993

Emily Bronte : Selected Poems (Bloomsbury Classic Poetry Series) ~

Hardcover / Published 1995

Audio Cassettes


Wuthering Heights ~

Audio Cassette / Published 1992

Wuthering Heights ~

Audio Cassette / Published 1993

Wuthering Heights

Audio Cassette / Published 1997


The Bronte Collection : Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte, Jane Eyre,
 Charlotte Bronte, Anne Bronte, the Tenant of Wildfell Hall

Audio Cassette / Published 1997







Up Victorian Women Writers Emily Bronte E Books


Wuthering Heights

About The Author
Her Poetry
Plot Summary
Character Analysis
Excerpt Analysis
Books by Emily Bronte
Electronic Version of Wuthering Heights