Out on the vast expanse that is the moors of northern England, the Brontë siblings lived a life of isolation, occupying themselves by writing stories and creating imaginary worlds. This environment sparked the ingenuity that produced some of the most influential literary works of the Victorian era. One in particular, the groundbreaking novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë, utterly shocked the traditional nineteenth century reader by openly discussing the more unsavory aspects of England’s class-consciousness. Despite her reclusiveness and ill health, Miss Brontë was able to craft an influential work of fiction that still holds merit today.
Most of Emily’s life was spent in Haworth, ...view middle of the document...
Therefore Emily preferred the company of animals to that of other people, and spent a large portion of her free time roaming the moors with her mastiff, Keeper. (Adams, 2) There is one instance recorded in which Emily was bitten by a—possibly—rabid dog. She calmly went into the kitchen and tended to the wound herself, sterilizing it with a hot iron from the fire. (Thompson, “Emily Jane Bronte”) Her will has also been noted in her strict dealings with her brother Branwell, a known alcoholic and opium abuser.
Emily’s myriad of idiosyncrasies may have caused her to be labeled as strange and socially awkward, but theses eccentricities allowed to her to compose one of the most revolutionary novels of the nineteenth century. In the midst of her unhappy childhood, Emily was able to discern the finer, less pretty aspects of human nature. Thus, she portrayed them in an unabashed candidness that was all too shocking for her time period.
Wuthering Heights was published in 1847 in the heart of England’s Victorian Era, which is considered to have taken place between 1830 and 1900. It is the tale of Heathcliff, a child rescued off the streets of London by a man by the name of Mr. Earnshaw. He is adopted by the family and is raised alongside the two Earnshaw children, soon forming a close relationship with his surrogate sister, Catherine. Heathcliff is eventually reduced to no more than a servant in the house, and runs away upon Catherine’s engagement to another man. The novel continues after Catherine’s death, and describes Heathcliff’s plummet into his cruel and vindictive treatment of both their children. While the novel is unique for its time, it still carries many indicators of nineteenth century writing.
One of the most unmistakable themes in Victorian literature is that of drastic change. The emergence of the Industrial Revolution and new global economy sparked an upheaval in in traditionally accepted ideas about class, and there were adjustments in almost every societal institution. The gap between the rich and poor became larger, with the new economy favoring industry over the previously dominant agricultural system. (Rahn, “Victorian Literature”) Many radical ideas began to surface with the blossoming of a new upper-middle class, causing people to question the stature of nobility.
Wuthering Heights exemplifies these concerns with the interactions between Heathcliff and his “betters.” While most readers consider it a passionate love story, it is more likely that its major theme concerns...