Social Classes In Wuthering Heights Essay

1016 words - 4 pages

Social Classes in Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights, a gothic novel written by Emily Bronte in the early
nineteenth century, describes the conflict and the passionate bond
between Catherine Earnshaw and her rough but romantic lover,
Heathcliff. In the beginning of the book, Heathcliff, an orphan is
made a part of the Earnshaw family. This adoption is not readily
accepted by the older brother, Hindley, who sees the new child as a
rival to his claim of dominance in the family. However, Catherine, the
sister is quickly attracted to young Heathcliff, so different from
anyone she had ever known. As the two grow older, Heathcliff finds
himself falling in love with Catherine. Mr. Earnshaw soon dies,
leaving Hindley in charge of the Wuthering Heights manor. Hindley
treats Heathcliff abusively as revenge for taking his spot in the
family. Heathcliff accidentally overhears a conversation between
Catherine and Nelly (the maid) where Catherine says that it would
degrade her to marry Heathcliff. After hearing this, Heathcliff
strives to make himself more acceptable to Catherine by moving up in
the social system. Emily Bronte herself grew up in rural English
society where the classes were rigidly segregated. By making the plot
of her novel the impossible (for those times) love between an orphan
and the daughter of a well to do landowner, she is clearly suggesting
that social classes were not meant to be set in stone - that people
could move about them and in doing so they could create a stronger,
more genuine and honest society. She seems to want to show that love
is possible between the social classes, a love that is enduring and
real.

Bronte takes her argument so far as to appear to show Heathcliff's
challenge to the laws that keep the classes apart, those dealing with
acquiring his property (Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange).
Heathcliff is so desperate for acceptance that he is willing to cheat
people to gain the property he craves. By doing so he hopes to show
Catherine that he is worthy of her, a landowner in his own right.
After Catherine accepts Edgar's proposal, she seeks out Nelly and
tells here that "[I]t would degrade [her] to marry Heathcliff now; so
he shall never know how [she] love[s] him; and that, not because he's
handsome, Nelly, but because he's more [herself] than [she] [is].
Whatever [their] souls are made of, his and [hers] are the same, and
Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from
fire." (Page 74, lines 29 - 33). Heathcliff overhears this
conversation between Nelly and Catherine and leaves Wuthering Heights
after hearing Catherine say that it would degrade her to marry him.
Heathcliff tries to make himself more presentable to Catherine by
moving up the social system. However, he does this by cheating and
taking advantage of people. Heathcliff takes advantage of Hindley's
state of alcoholism and takes over Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff also
takes...

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