Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights
Often in literature, the fictional written word mimics or mirrors the non-fictional actions of the time. These reflections may be social, historical, biographical, or a combination of these. Through setting, characters, and story line, an author can recreate in linear form on paper some of the abstract concepts and ideas from the world s/he is living in. In the case of Emily Bronte, her novel Wuthering Heights very closely mirrors her own life and the lives of her family members. Bronte's own life emerges on the pages of this novel through the setting, characters, and story line of Wuthering Heights.
This novel is set in the open moors of England, where Bronte grew up. Nelly Dean, the narrator, describes the setting when she and young Cathy go for a walk, ""Climb to that hillock, pass that bank, and by the time you reach the other side, I shall have raised the birds." But there were so many hillocks and banks to climb and pass, that, at length, I began to be weary...she dived into a hollow; and before I came in sight of her again, she was two miles nearer Wuthering Heights than her own home" (WH 163). Nelly Dean is a young middle-aged woman who is accustomed to physical labor, and her description of the moors help the reader realize the vastness of the scenery.
The open wildness of the moors seemed to call to Bronte whenever she was away from them. J-- H--, British Literature student at Central Oregon Community College, claims that Bronte left the moors in 1835 but could only stay away for three months. According to Hawes's Seminar A response, Bronte, "missed the wildness of the moors and could not stay away from them." This coincides with Bronte's sister, Charlotte, who claimed, "My sister Emily loved the moors. Flowers brighter than the rose bloomed in the blackest of the heath for her; out of a sullen hollow in a livid hillside her mind could make an Eden. She found in the bleak solitude many and dear delights; and not the least and best loved was-liberty" (WH 268). Bronte lost herself in the hollows of the moors, and young Cathy disappeared from Nelly Dean in the same manner. The character, young Cathy, seemed to love the moors as Bronte did.
Many of the characters in Wuthering Heights have things in common with Bronte and her family members. Chemical addiction, need for solitude and the loss of loved ones are common ground the characters in the novel share with the characters in Bronte's own family.
Bronte's brother, Branwell, had a, "pathetic addiction to alcohol and opium" according to Hawes'. In the novel, when Hindley comes back to the Heights for his sister's funeral, Nelly Dean recalls, "...Mr. Earnshaw should have been at the funeral. He kept himself sober for the purpose-tolerably sober; not going to bed mad at six o'clock and getting up drunk at twelve. Consequently, he rose, in suicidal low spirits, as fit for the church as for a dance; and...