How is Love Connected to Vengeance in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights Wuthering Heights’ is one of the most well-liked and highly regarded novels in British literature. Although the book shocked the Victorian society with the portrayal of the passionate, obsessive love of Heathcliff and Catherine, ‘Wuthering Heights’ remains one of the most popular novels of the 20th century.
Heathcliff and Catherine’s fervent and passionate love for one another is the key theme of the novel considering that it is the strongest and more permanent emotion portrayed in ‘Wuthering Heights’ as well as the source of the major conflicts that constitute the novel’s plot.
It’s not clear if Bronte’s intension is to encourage the condemnation of the two lovers as blameworthy or their idealization as romantic heroes whose love surpasses social norms and conventional morality. However, it is certain that the boundaries between love and revenge in the novel are quite blurred. Heathcliff, an orphan brought to live at Wuthering Heights, falls in love with Catherine, Mr.
Earnshaw’s daughter. Upon the death of Mr. Earnshaw, his son Hindley mistreats Heathcliff heavily treating him like a servant. At the same time, Catherine, driven by her aspiration for social prominence, marries Edgar Linton, leaving Heathcliff miserable and humiliated.
Full of feelings of disgrace and rejection, Heathcliff vows to spend the rest of his life seeking for revenge on all the people who betrayed them, namely Hindley, Catherine and Catherine’s children. As the novel progresses, Heathcliff transforms from an orphan, romantic lover to a powerful, rich and even cruel man, who uses all of his power to acquire both Wuthering Heights and Edgar Linton’s estate, Thrushcross Grange.
Heathcliff and Catherine’s love is well-established in their childhood and is characterized by the refusal to change. Her choice to marry Edgar Linton reveals Catherine’s wish for a more refined life. However, she never adapts to her role as a wife. In a way, she remains stuck to her childhood. As she confines to Nelly, the narrator of the story, who grew up next to Hindley and Catherine Earnshaw and is profoundly involved in the story she recounts, Catherine longs to returns to the security of her childhood. On the other hand, Heathcliff is portrayed as possessing an almost herculean ability to sustain the same approach and to foster the same grudges over many years.
His obsession is capable of transforming him into a cruel character that can take revenge on Catherine, the woman he loves since childhood and proclaims as his soul. Heathcliff is actually a Gothic hero, who seeks for vengeance and his desire is so strong that can overpower the norms of civilized society. He even imprisons Catherine’s daughter, young Catherine and she forces her into marriage with his son, Linton. Moreover, Heathcliff and Catherine’s love is based on their common perception that they are indistinguishable. Catherine notoriously asserts ‘I am Heathcliff’, while Heathcliff, upon her death, moans that he cannot live without his soul. All this asexual, passionate love, denies change, and secret rendezvous and as such t cannot fit in the relentless passage of time. Ultimately, ‘Wuthering Heights’ intertwines love and vengeance as a process of change against the romantic passion of its main characters. The Narrative Techniques in Wuthering Heights
Although Wuthering Heights was Emily Bronte’s only novel, it is notable for the narrative technique she employed and the level of craftsmanship involved in it. Although there are only two obvious narrators, Lockwood and Nelly Dean, a variety of other narratives are interspersed throughout the novel. The reasons for this are that the whole action of Wuthering Heights is presented in the form of eyewitness narrations by people who have played some part in the narration they describe. Unlike other novels where parallel narratives exist i.e. same event, within the same time frame being narrated from different perspectives, Wuthering Heights has a multi-layered narration, each individual narrative opening out from its parent to reveal a new stratum (level) of the story. This intricate technique helps to maintain a continues narrative despite of the difficulties posed by the huge time-shifts involved in the novel. Lockwood as Narrator:
Lockwood is the outsider, coming into a world in which he finds bewildering and hostile, he’s a city gentleman who has stumbled on a primitive uncivilized world which he doesn’t understand, but which fascinates him. He arrives at the end of November 1801 as a tenant of Thrushcross Grange. After his initial meetings with his landlord, Mr. Heathcliff, he is laid up for two months during which time his fascination with Wuthering Heights leads to the beginning of Nelly’s narrative. By January 1802, he is sufficiently recovered to return to the Heights where he informs Heathcliff of his intention to return to London for 6 months. He returns briefly in September 1802, when he hears the conclusion of Nelly’s narrative and the final events of the novel take place. In the novel Lockwood presents the situation as he sees it, the reader is thus brought closer to the action, seeing it through the eyes of the narrator himself.
The presence of Lockwood in the book allows the author the author to begin the story near the end and work backwards and forwards in time with little difficulty. The opening chapters of the book are narrated by Lockwood and provide the reader with their introduction to this early 19th century world. The format of Lockwood’s narrative is that of a personal diary, which allows the development for the reader of an easy intimacy with an impartial character whose style – self-conscious, a little affected and facetious is nicely calculated to engage sympathy, while allowing ground for the reader to be amused at the narrators expense. With all his limitations, Lockwood is intelligent and perceptive and his precise detailed descriptions are used by his creator to create subtle changes in situation and character, an example of this is that when Lockwood first visited Wuthering Heights, he commented on the chained gate, while at the end of the novel when he returns to find Heathcliff dead, he noticed “Both doors and lattices were open”.
Changes in character are also hinted at by Lockwood’s eye for detail, he has noticed changes in both Cathy and Hareton – Cathy once described by Lockwood as “the little witch”, now has “a voice as sweet as a silver bell”. Hareton described in the opening chapters as a boor and a clown and has by the end of the novel become “a young man respectably dressed” with “handsome features”, therefore Lockwood, by fulfilling the role as the detached outsider and observer, brings a dimension to the novel which is quite different from the perception provided by Nelly. Lockwood’s Style as Narrator:
Lockwood uses an educated literacy language marked by detailed factual description and perceptive observation and comment, both on situation and character. An example of this is his description of Hareton “Meanwhile, the young man had slung onto his person a decidedly shabby upper garment, and, erecting himself before the blaze, looked down on me from the corner of his eyes, for all the world as if there was some mortal feud unavenged still between us. I began to doubt whether he was a servant or not… his bearing was free, almost haughty and he showed none of a domestic’s assiduity in attending to the lady of the house.” Lockwood’s sentences are often complex consisting of a number of clauses or long phrases, frequently separated by dashes or semi-colons, examples, “he probably swayed by the presidential considerations of the folly of offending a good tenant – released a little in the laconic style of chipping of his pronouns and auxiliary and introducing what he supposed would be a subject of interest to me.”
A noticeable aspect of Lockwood’s style is his use of words of Latin origin, e.g. prudential, laconic, auxiliary. By the end of Chapter 3, Lockwood’s style has become more complex in that his sentence structure is complicated, large numbers of adjectival and adverbial clause, a liberal use of the semi-colon and comma, to give the impression of a narrator whose command of language is sophisticated. “My human fixture and her satellites, rushed to welcome me; explaining tumultuously, they had completely given me up; everybody conjectured (guessed) that I perished last night; and they were wondering how they must set about the search for my remains. Nelly Dean as Narrator:
Nelly Dean’s narrative, though copious and detailed, has an extraordinary, sometimes breathless energy as if she were describing events that she had witnessed an hour ago, every moment of which is vividly present to her. Nelly’s narrative is an art of stark immediacy – of making the past live for us in the present. As much of Nelly’s narrative is unfolded in the words of the actual characters, we the readers, feel that the narrative is moulded by the pressure of events, not that the shape and interpretation of events is being fashioned by the narrator. The sense of actuality is conveyed by a series of concrete details that fall artlessly into place. Nelly’s sureness in relating her narrative seems to arise out of an astonishing clear memory, the impression of rapid excitement is achieved by concentrating our attention on movement and gesture, action and reaction, intermixed with vehement dialogue which convinces by its emphatic speech rhythms and plain language.
The dialogue has no trace of a conscious stylist, it is noticeable for the brief rapidity of the sentence, an example of this is Nelly’s recollection of the time leading up to Catherine’s death, when Catherine emplored her to open the window of her room – “Oh, if I were but in my own bed in the old house!” she went on bitterly, wringing her hands, “And that wind sounding in the first by the lattice. “Do let me feel it! – it comes straight down the moor – do let me have one breath!” Nelly’s value as a narrator is clear from this example, she brings us very close to the action and is in one way deeply engaged in it. The intimate affairs of the Grange and the Heights have taken up her whole life, however, her position as a professional housekeeper means that her interests in events is largely practical. She provides the inner frame of the narrative and we see this world of the successive generations of Earnshaw’s and Linton’s through her eye’s, although much of the dialogue, in the interests of objectivity, is that of the characters themselves. As a narrator reporting the past from the present, she has the benefit of hindsight and can therefore depart from the straight chronological narrative to hint at the future.
A major contrast between Nelly and Lockwood is that she, to an extent, is a character within her own narrative, which causes her several problems. At times she is involved in the action, she is now describing and therefore she treads a difficult path between romantic indulgence and moral rectitude, she both encourages and discourages relationships. Her attitude to theme sways between approval and disapproval, depending on her mood. This is primarily evident in the role she plays in the love triangle between Heathcliff, Catherine and Edgar; at times taking Edgar’s side while yet arranging the last meeting between Heathcliff and Catherine by leaving the window open for him. She adopted a similar position between the relationship between Cathy and Linton, at time colluding with Cathy and at other times judging and betraying her for writing against her father’s wishes.
There is an ambivalence in Nelly’s attitude and this combined with her meddling nature renders her moral stance inconsistent and even hypocritical. Despite these shortcomings, she is vigorous, lively narrator with a formidable memory whose energy and unflagging interests allow the reader an insight into the lives of characters. As a narrator, Nelly’s style differs substantially from that of Lockwood, much of her narrative consists of verbatim dialogue and as such is the language of the characters in Wuthering Heights. When she herself is speaking as a narrator, her language is lively, colloquial and imaginative, this has the effect of bringing characters to life and providing the reader with many vivid and precise images, an example of this is her reference to Heathcliff’s life “It’s a cuckoo’s, sir – I know all about it, except where he was born, and who were his parents, and how he got his money at first.
And that Hareton, has been cast out like a unfledged dunnock.” In this example the tagging on of the phrase “at first” suggests that Nelly knows how he got his money later and therefore arouses our interest in Heathcliff. Nelly is limited because of her conventional, religious and moral sentiments, which often prevent her from a greater understanding of the emotions or motives of the characters. This is important in Bronte’s technique as it allows the reader to believe that they have a better understanding of the characters and the developments, than either of her narrators. The inclusion of so much dialogue and the tertiary narratives of the central characters provide a direct communication between the reader and character allowing for greater immediacy and for an individual response on behalf of the reader. In this respect both Nelly and Lockwood are merely facilitators providing a mechanism through which the reader can enter a world of Wuthering Heights and react in an individual fashion to the events which transpire.