Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights
Bentley, Phyllis. "Emily's Works". The
Bronte Sisters. Published for The British Council and the National
Book League by Longmans, Green & Co.
Emily Bronte's Wuthering
Heights (that fierce, wild, strange novel whose quality is unique in English
literature), was actually little regarded at the time of its publication,
but had now become one of the noblest productions of English literature.
The story of Wuthering
Heights is in essence simple. However, the clear outlines of this
story are often confused in readers’minds by the method Emily employs to
tell it, namely in a series of first-person narrations which do not go
straight forward in time. She begins the book towards the end of
the story, when Heathcliff apparently triumphant. He owns both Wuthering
Heights and Thrushcross Grange, and the descendants of Lintons and Earnshaws
are completely in his power. His tenant at Thrushcross Grange, Mr.
Loskwood, coming to the Heights to call on his landlord, is first perplexed
and then made madly curious by the strange behavior and mysterious relationships
of the people he finds living there. The reader, too, is made intensely
curious and longs to hear the explanation of it all, which presently Lockwood,
before he leaves the neighbourhood in disgust with the climate, hears from
the Earnshaws’old nurse, Nellie Dean. Within her narrative come other
first-person narratives, of young Cathy and of Isabella. Then later
Lockwood comes back again, sees a completely changed situation at the Heights
and again hears the explanation from Nellie Dean. This method, complex
and one would judge not easy to sustain renders high dividends in excitement
though written in the last century, belongs to the eighteen century ---
the century of horse transport, rough tracks, remote houses, character
unsoftened by urban contacts --- which lingered in Emily's day in the Haworth
uplands. But in essence Emily's tale is timeless: a tale of elemental,
universal passions, love scorned turning into a fury of revenge and hate.
novel gains its special quality partly from the terrible intensity with
which its characters feel these mighty passions. Cathy and Hindley
Earnshaw have proud, fierce wilful natures; Heathcliff is almost demoniac
in his terrible force of will. All three express their feelings with
such awful intensity, such uninhibited force, such untamed violence that
one can hardly read of them without a strong shudder of excitement.
manner of writing is austere and unadorned, but yet mighty. She scorns
elaboration, rejects the glittering adjective, the far-fetched image, the
eye-catching flourish; she states her meaning, one feels, as plainly as
she can, without any concession to the desire for brilliance.
Another most potent
element in the novel is its local colouring, which occurs in character,
speech, and scene. The setting, the scenery of the book is magnificently
Yorkshire. Of the wild and sombre moors which surge round the Heights,
Emily gives glorious pictures, in all seasons, in all weathers. The
landscape painting in this novel is superb, unrivalled in English fiction.
It is this untamed moorland and its untamed
characters who admit no restraint on their fierce passions, which give
Wuthering Heights its incomparable air of dark, wild, stormy freedom.
But this novel has another, and most noble,
element that give her work its special quality: Emily's comprehension of
the problems of good and evil, the weakness of Edgar, the silliness of
his sister, the cruelty of Heathcliff, the brutality of Hindley, the egoism
of Catherine, as well as the force and pathos of their griefs and their
loves. But, she does not blame faulty mortals for acting in accordance
with the nature fate has given them. Neither does she exonerate or
excuse them; she simply portrays them --- with relentless truth, but also
with the compassion induced by limitless understanding. It is as
when above the wild and sombre moorland, through the dark storm-driven
clouds, appear the serene blue dusk and evening star which belong to the
cosmic heavens. The resulting landscape has an incomparable majesty
In Wuthering Heights,
Emily Bronte makes us contemplate, without evasion, some of the most powerful
primal motives, engaged, against a wild, free, stormy background, in ferocious
conflict. And with this lofty grandeur which she invests this tragic
spectacle excite, strengthen and embolden our spirit to be itself more
freely and courageously.