Explore the presentation of Heathcliff’s journey in Wuthering Heights, in the light of the Marxist Perspective. In Wuthering Heights, Bronti?? show’s Marxist view’s that ‘it is not the consciousness of men that determines their existence, but their social existence that determines their consciousness’. Bront? first published her text in the form of a novel in 1847.
During this time England was influenced by Marx’s ideas, socialists in England held a conference in London where they formed a new organisation called the Communist League, the aims of the organisation being to overthrow the old bourgeois society based on class antagonisms and to the establish a new society without classes and without private property.
Despite England being influenced by Marx ideas at the time, Bront?
created Wuthering Heights: a mix genre novel with themes such as domestic realism, tragedy and gothic love, which were very much open to critic and discussion at the time.
This shows the extent to how she was much stipulated in her ideas and therefore Wuthering Heights might not have been influenced by the Marxist ideas at the time. When Heathcliff enters in chapter four with no social or domestic status, emphasised by his ‘gibberish that nobody could understand’ suggesting his lack of social skills and ability to communicate; his lingual acquisition depends on his surroundings.
Miles notes how ‘rather than a dual function there is an oscillation resulting in the name never satisfactorily serving him either way’, when he enters his name ‘serves’ him as both his ‘Christian name and surname’ immediately setting him as an outsider and determining his role because he does not embody conventions of society. Victorian Society was organised such that the base of the society determines its superstructure, everything associated with culture: education, law, religion and the arts but because Heathcliff is not an Earnshaw his status means he cannot access this cultural economy and he is ultimately rejected.
His name therefore presents his inability to gain access and the extent of his exclusion, as Miles notes is ‘a constant reminder of the unsatisfactory fit between himself and the codes of a society denying him incorporation’. It is his status and his social existence that therefore does determine his consciousness. Bronti?? creates suggested possibilities that cannot ultimately be realised; when Heathcliff first enters he is referred to as ‘landlord’, yet is not given the opportunity to become an Earnshaw.
Also, as Gilbert and Gubar note: ‘smashing Catherines rival-brother’s fiddle and making a desirable third among the children in the family so as to insulate her from the pressure of her brothers domination’, this shows the possibilities that Heathcliff might have been able to integrate into the Earnshaws and therefore society in turn becoming Catherine’s chance for freedom from strict social structure, but because of the base structure of the Victorian Society he is rejected.
Perhaps the ‘smashing’ quote from Gilbert and Gubar refers to the ‘three thrashings’ Heathcliff had to endure, foreshadowing the idea that the only way he can become part of Victorian Society is in a destructive way. The first reason why possibilities cannot be realised is that Heathcliff is learning his social position: Mr Earnshaw calls him ‘poor, fatherless child’, Heathcliff is constantly made to perceive himself as poor, these social circumstances determine why Heathcliff is placed into the servant quarters and therefore kept separate from social events by Hindley, who is in power after Mr Earnshaw dies.
Heathcliff’s access to the superstructure of Victorian society becomes limited, and even though Heathcliff ‘bore his degradation well’ this heightens his perception of himself as someone in need of charity, making him susceptible to charity or abuse. Perhaps the possibilities might have been realised if Catherine hadn’t accessed Thrushcross Grange: a place ‘carpeted with crimson…
pure white ceiling bordered with gold’, suggesting Thrushcross Grange’s wealth, status and a place that epitomises gentry and reflecting the Victorian connection of wealth and heaven. When Catherine is taken to Trushcross Grange she is introduced to a new social status, where she has ‘combed her beautiful hair’ and ‘pair of enormous slippers’, we see how her ‘consciousness’ has now changed as she has been introduced to Victorian Societies superstructure.
It is only until this integration into the Heights that Catherine realises Heathcliff is not adequate for her. She is enabled access to the Heights because of her name and its association with economic position. Heathcliff is a gypsy and by ‘putting up the shutters’, ‘curtains half closed’ while Heathcliff’s looking through the window panes shows how the barriers symbolise Bronti??
presenting the strict Victorian Society which denies Heathcliff’s access to culture and education. Trushcross Grange becomes somewhat of a Victorian society’s ideal, a materialistic ideal. Catherine’s awareness of her social existence results in her new perception that she cannot marry Heathcliff because: ‘if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars’ Even though he is her authentic love and she hints at Heathcliff and her being inseparable she does not follow through.
She has already chosen to marry Edgar; and so the novel can be read from a Marxist perspective as Catherine’s outlook in marrying Edgar is materialist as she thinks about social reasons and survival, as opposed to the idealistic perspective. Bronti?? shows how Catherine is affected my material circumstances reflected when she says she will be “queen of the neighbourhood” and does not chose Heathcliff, who can be seen as a symbol of her freedom.
However, it can be argued that she never has a choice between the two as the way she is set to think is largely conditioned by the way the economy is organised. Bront? presents through the novel how this economy determines the superstructure and therefore even though Heathcliff stands for Catherine’s freedom it is Victorian society’s mentality that means people remain ignorant of Heathcliff’s potential goodness, who is instead driven away because he does not have the capital (money) or culture (education) to support her.
So, Catherine probably is right in saying they would be beggars. It is their social circumstances that have determined much of their life and results in Heathcliff running off. Bront? creates this gap in the novel where we are unaware of Heathcliff’s situation which effectively creates a sense of mystery around Heathliff and and forms tension until his return, even if it be full of vengeance.