Gothic Elements in Brontë’s “Wuthering Heights”
The aim of this paper is to provide an overview of the most prominent Gothic Elements found in Emily Brontë’s novel Wuthering Heights. Due to the fact that the number of these elements and the significance and timelessness of the novel itself by far surmount the limitations of this assignment I shall focus mainly on two major components of Wuthering Heights that could be explored in the light of being Gothic. Those are the novel’s setting (both exterior and interior) and a particular type of love that occurs between the two main characters, Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw. In order to do so, I must first offer a short explanation of the term Gothic and how it applies to this novel; secondly, I shall glimpse into Emily Brontë’s life (her life and her life-work being so closely entwined). Thirdly, I shall pay my full attention to the setting of the novel and love story that takes place in it because, in my humble opinion, the peculiar combination of these two elements along with its upside-down and unconventional concept of morality gives this novel its life-force and timeless appeal. To put it simply, it eternalizes Wuthering Heights and makes it one of the greatest and most baffling English novels of all times.
The online edition of Encyclopedia Britannica defines Gothic literature as “pseudomedieval fiction”, filled with the atmosphere of mystery, terror and abuse, with its heyday in the 1790s, but with many revivals in following centuries. According to EB this fashion in literature started in England with Horace Walpole’s Castle of Otranto (1765), but “continued to haunt the fictions of such major writers as the Brontë sisters […]”. Having in mind that Wuthering Heights were published in 1847, some eighty years after the first Gothic novel was written, a closer examination of the term Gothic and its relation to Emily Brontë’s novel is of crucial importance. English scholars David Punter and Glennis Byron strived in their book “The Gothic” to outline most important issues, works and debates regarding the field of Gothic literature. Here is their apt summation of the term Gothic stated in the Introduction:
“Clearly it is possible to speak of the Gothic as a historical phenomenon, originating (in its literary sense, but not necessarily in other senses) in the late eighteenth century. Equally, it has seemed to many critics more useful to think of it in terms of a psychological argument, to do with the ways in which otherwise repressed fears are represented in textual form. A more radical claim would be that there are very few actual literary texts which are ‘Gothic’; that the Gothic is more to do with particular moments, tropes, repeated motifs that can be found scattered, or disseminated, through the modern western literary tradition. […] ‘Gothic’ became a highly mobile term, remaining constant only in the way it functioned to establish a set of polarities revolving primarily around the...