Epiphany In Literature Essay

2495 words - 10 pages

Traditionally known as a Christian festival, which is held in January 6 to celebrate the manifestation of the divine nature of Christ to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi, epiphany has great importance in works of literature. Of course the meaning over here slightly change as in literature epiphany can be described as a revelatory manifestation of a divine being. This can be further broken down to mean that a spiritual-cum-out-of-body-experience in which something appears to the subject as an insight or a flash of recognition. Thus epiphany in literature can be defined as a revelation or experience of insight. As mentioned earlier, popular literary works consist of this feature in order to lend importance to the character or the event, which is supposedly life changing. For this purpose, the following essay will examine the use of epiphany in literary works such as Wuthering Heights, Anna Karenina, Age of Innocence, “The Dead,” “Prelude,” St Mawr and finally Mrs. Dalloway. Wuthering Heights, by Emily Bronte, is the first work in this regard that will be examined. The novel deals with two generations of the Linton and Earnshaw families, located in Yorkshire and the way their lives owing to the love between Heathcliff (a boy who was brought in from the streets of Liverpool) and Catherine Earnshaw. The world created by Bronte is rather bleak but passionate in nature where this intense passion causes the death of the two main characters. Interestingly enough it is this love in the story that is a source of epiphany for the characters. This is not uncommon in novels of the Romantic genre because often the self-realization and self-discovery comes through this love, which then becomes an epiphany by literary standards. However one must note that for Catherine this process of discovering oneself or understanding oneself better is not a consequence of her own actions (though one can say that because she is in love, she tends to focus on Heathcliff and his actions) but that of Heathcliff. A violent albeit passionate man, Heathcliff will do just about anything for Catherine. On the other hand Catherine is not as passionate as her lover, which can be ascertained from the following passage: “But I begin to fancy that you don’t like me. How strange! I thought, though everyone hated and despised each other, they could not avoid loving me - and they have all turned to enemies in a few hours” (Bronte, p. 108). Heathcliff however truly loves her and will go to extremes just to ensure that no one takes away her love from him. Thus it is Heathcliff’s eventual giving into desperation arising from passion that Catherine realizes who she is and what she wants: “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees - my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath - a source of little visible delight, but necessary” (p. 160). Catherine, though she clearly loves Heathcliff, understands that...

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