Wuthering Heights and The Bell Jar are both novels that were influenced by the authors at two very different times in history, they both contain similarities in the way the themes stereotypes and lack of control affect the main characters. Bronte’s novel is influenced by her upbringing while Plath’s novel is about the media and events at the time of her growing up. It is also more about the events she had witnessed herself making her novel a lot more personal. Lack of control develops in Wuthering Heights due to isolation from others. Lack of control is shown throughout both novels in a vast number of ways depending on the character. Through the female character of Catherine it is shown through emotion like Hindley but also because of the pressure of stereotypes to be a typical Victorian lady.
Hindley’s inability to control his emotions means he does not meet the strong male stereotype whereas at the beginning of the novel, Catherine’s ability to take control means she challenges the weak female stereotype. Catherine as a child, we see her in a different light to how we do towards the end of the novel. As a child Catherine is very demanding and challenges the stereotype of a typical Victorian lady. “she liked exceedingly to act the little mistress; using her hands freely commanding her companions” explains that she was a spoilt young child who her father seem to favour over Hindley who during the novel breaks down after the death of his wife which suggests his loss of control was through emotion, he abandons his son Hareton then turned to alcohol for comfort which backfires on him and his life begins to spiral out of control as he is manipulated and degraded by Heathcliff as an act of revenge who scams Hindley into loosing Wuthering Heights leaving him with all the control.
Catherine is described as acting like a ‘mistress’ meaning she is comfortable in a position with power therefore challenging the weak female stereotype, because of her status as a wealthy female she is able to manipulate and control others around her for example Nelly who always does as she says. Her having control as a child may indicate her precocious nature unlike Esther in the Bell Jar who as a child was brought up around a society in which women were very unequal to men which may have triggered her lack of confidence and negative attitude further on in the book. Both characters as youngsters fit the ‘weak female stereotype’ however as Catherine grew older she also outgrew this stereotype as she became rebellious like Heathcliff however Esther is influenced by her childhood and carries out this stereotype throughout letting it affect her emotions and decisions in life. “I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose…the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet” her vision of this ‘fig tree’ represents her lack of control to make choices in her life because she doesn’t have the confidence to pursue her career choices or to move forward in life this conveys that her upbringing around the negative attitude towards women being there to ‘serve their husbands’.
The figs represent the opportunities for Esther and she feels they are slowly going away. Bronte may have believed that women were capable to take control just like men because she made her character Catherine a lot more defiant and turbulent compared to Isabella which may indicate that Bronte was trying to show that women could take control just like men. Catherine returns from the Linton’s at Thrushcross Grange changed women, The Lintons changed her from a rebellious young child into an elegant lady and she seems superior to Heathcliffe. “Why, how very black and cross you look! And how funny and grim!’ suggests a complete contrast in Catherine’s character after her return from the Linton’s, she is losing her individuality and trying to fit in with the others around her. Catherine at this point has a mighty amount of control she has a lot of people looking up for her and could potentially do anything she wanted.
She comes across as independent, confident women but in reality the pressure of the stereotype is controlling her behaviour and affecting her relationships. This is similar to Esther in The Bell Jar, Esther follows Doreen’s lead trying to fit in “After Doreen left, I wondered why I couldn’t go the whole way doing what I should any more. This made me sad and tired. Then I wondered why I couldn’t go the whole way doing what I shouldn’t, the way Doreen did, and this made me even sadder and more tired.” This quote shows how Esther is just like Catherine, she cannot think for herself and is influenced by others around her. ‘ the way Doreen did’ suggests Esther is influenced by Doreen’s behaviour of being independent and care free although she wants to be like this she can’t bring herself to take charge which leads to her breaking down.
Catherine decides to marry Edgar for many reasons she knew she couldn’t degrade her status that she already had by marrying Heathcliffe although she loved him ,“I’ve no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn’t have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am.
Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” shows that Catherine’s reasons to marry Edgar are not because she loves him but that he can give her the material possessions that Heathcliffe cannot although she does love Heathcliffe and acknowledges that he is her soul mate Hindley’s treatment of Heathcliffe has degraded him and to the point that he is not a suitable match by society’s standards; Edgar is not only suitable but will also elevate Catherine’s status. It is clear that Catherine is superior to Edgar in their relationship, she dominates him and he comes across as the weaker character.
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