28 March 2014
Novel Symbolism Paper
Abnormal Symbolism of the Ghost in Wuthering Heights
The ghost of Catherine Earnshaw is a very important aspect of Wuthering Heights because she represents the lack of closure between her and Heathcliff. From Catherine’s inability to tell Heathcliff that she loved him to Heathcliff’s hopefulness in the afterlife so Catherine will still exist, the lack of closure is evident in the novel. Ghosts in literature usually symbolize evil or demonic presences, while the ghost of Catherine is used to represent romance rather than evil. According to Ellen “Nelly” Dean, the main narrator of the story, some of the villagers claim to see Heathcliff and Catherine’s ghosts out on the moors years after their deaths (Brontë 417).
I originally planned to focus on the moors as my main symbol. Finding the correct books in the library was much easier than I thought it would be. As I went further into the research, though, it became clear that finding all of the required information on the moors in all of the required sources would be very difficult. The dictionary of symbols and the two holy books that I planned to use proved to be completely useless—the holy books were written in places that do not have moors at all and were written in times when transcontinental travel was extremely uncommon, so the authors would never have known of the moors existence. After coming across these problems, I realized that I had to change my symbol to something more universal. Ghosts were perfect since I knew they had been mentioned throughout the years, especially in the holy books.
Ghosts traditionally symbolize bad omens and anything to do with evil. They are connected with demons and devils, as well as the supernatural. The ghost is used in some cases as a warning for coming bad events. In Hamlet, Shakespeare uses the ghost of Hamlet’s father to warn Hamlet of his uncle’s betrayal (1.5.41-91). The ghost in Wuthering Heights, though, was used for a less malevolent reason. The ghost of Catherine was never evil; instead, she was trying to make her way back to Heathcliff so she could be reunited with him. The ghost makes her first appearance to Mr. Lockwood by trying to come into the window. Until Heathcliff’s death, when the lovers are finally reunited, the ghost is used to symbolize the lack of closure between the two would-be lovers.
Looking up the word “ghost” in the Merriam-Webster Thesaurus revealed that ghosts were closely associated with evil and darkness. The only synonym listed was “apparition”, while two similar words to “ghost” were “devil” and “demon.” The words devil and demon never carry good connotations; logically, this meant that ghosts had malevolent intentions. In most literature throughout history, such as Shakespeare’s Macbeth and Hamlet, ghosts fell into the stereotypical role of being evil, or at the very least, untrustworthy. This led to the characters being wary of them. Interestingly enough, the...