While on the vigorous journey through a novel, a reader can be faced with many questions, put forth intentionally by the author, as well as ones they might conjure up for themselves. Roland Barthes says “Literature is the question minus the answer.” For the most part this is true, however when one is reading for leisure or the author does not portray as well as they could this statement is invalid. Two novels that have been broken down recently are Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights and Jane Austen’s Northanger Abbey. Neither book has a common central question, but they both have their pros and cons.
Wuthering Heights is a book containing an intricate plot, and a labyrinth of relationships and emotions. The characterization in this book is extravagant, this is done primarily to draw attention to Bronte’s central question, “how good is humanity?” Most of Bronte’s focus goes into her characters, her most distinct character is Heathcliff, followed by the older Catherine then to Nelly.
As we look back at the text, there were many moments of pain when Heathcliff is described. As a child he was abandoned by his biological family, then Earnshaw died and left him, then the rest of the family treated him poorly and he grew up a villain dragging Catherine with him. He is depicted as manipulative, cruel and heartless, and the classic outsider in Gothic novels. Most can agree that he was put through vast hardships and unfair circumstances and undoubtedly, his personality was altered negatively by this. Could he have changed to a good person? Did he want to? Maybe, but the death of his saviour and the hindrances of his new family all prevented him from becoming anything better. Yet we are all faced with hard circumstances and bitter hatred, but do we take them to our grave? Are we all the same as Heathcliff, seeking revenge and love? Do we spread our epidemic of malice on to the next generation? Again, maybe, however, the reader does see Heathcliff as the underbelly of the human race, the epitome of humanity.
This underbelly is predominately seen in Heathcliff’s relationship with Isabella. We remember that when Isabella is first introduced to us, Heathcliff makes fun of her and her brother for fighting over something so insignificant as a dog, to the reader, the two Linton children are as normal as the era permitted. Yet Heathcliff destroys her, she ensures this to us by saying “’I gave [Heathcliff] my heart, and he took and pinched it to death and flung it back at me. People feel with their hearts, Ellen, and since he has destroyed mine I have not the power to feel for him’ and here Isabella began to cry, but immediately dashing the water from her lashes recommenced….” (170). Not only does Isabella say that she is broken by these turn of events, but the fact that she does not let herself cry is another indication of severe emotional distress. The worse part of this is whole ordeal is that Heathcliff enjoys it. He says much later on in the book that...