Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Sandra M. Gilbert: Bible of Hell

I found this literary analysis interesting when comparing Shelley and Bronte. Information is provided that delves into their past to bring up the distinct commonality that they are both motherless, orphans. Gilbert brings up an intriguing concept,"motherless orphans like Mary Shelley and Emily Bronte almost see to seek literal answers to that question, so passionately do their novels enact distinctive female literary obsessions" (380). The female roles in Frankenstein in comparison to Wuthering Heights have similarities and differences. Given both author's similar backgrounds, they approach female characters in a different light. I personally think Shelley used women in her novel to represent lack of mother and upbringing. Perhaps she is suggesting or touching upon the fact that Victor or the creature succeed or survive, because the lack of a mother. In Bronte's Wuthering Heights, the female characters are more present in the story. A mother is still lacking, similar to that of Shelley's Frankenstein, but the female roles are incorporated with observations, thoughts, feels and conservations. I think there are more dynamics to the female in her novel, considering she has leading female characters. However, I do agree with Gilbert that Shelley and Bronte both demonstrate the theme of motherless/orphan in both literary works.

A few questions arose when reading about the heaven and hell in Wuthering Heights. I wasn't absolutely certain where Gilbert was going with this. Why was she dissecting the title? "Which of the two words of Wuthering Heights (if either) does Bronte mean to represent the truly 'fallen' world?" (382). Wuthering Heights is one place, why would it matter which word represents the "fallen"? In this criticism the word "Miltonic" keeps being brought up, what is that in reference to? Example: "And that the fall in Wuthering Heights has Miltonic overtones is no doubt culturally inevitable" (382).

Another aspect of Gilbert's work that interested me was the section that stretched from page 388-89. "From the outside, at least, the Lintons' elegant haven appears paradisaical. But once the children have experienced its Urizenic interior, they know that in their terms this heaven is hell" (389). This touches again on the theme of heaven is hell, hell heaven. I never really thought of that theme while reading the book, but now it makes me look more in-depth to how the characters developed and why they did in such a way. For example, Heathcliff left Wuthering Heights, which was hell for him and returned to Thruschcross Grange, a clean slate, a heaven. However, Heathcliff is still the same, but reserved. His outrageous impulses still exist, his Hell still transfers with him to "heaven".

A complete side thought on this heaven hell issue is that it makes me think of Paradise Lost. "make a Heaven of Hell/A Hell of Heaven". After just looking up that quote I was thinking of I answered my own question I had previously. John Milton wrote Paradise Lost and he is a significant point of reference for Gilbert describing her analysis of the heaven hell theme. That is what she means by "Miltonic".

I love the summary Gilbert gives towards the end, "Catherine and Heathcliff nevertheless linger still at the edge of the estate, as witch and goblin, Eve and Satan" (393). I think that brilliantly captures Cathering and Heathcliff's situation in relation to Paradise Lost, the Bible and other literary works that would have been a point of reference for Bronte.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Wuthering Heights: Heathcliff

Last Thursday, groups were assigned different characters to find quotes to identify their changes and developments from Wuthering Heights to Thrushcross Grange. Heathcliff was assigned to my group and I found it extremely interesting to follow his change between the two locations. I personally believe that his change is the most drastic among the characters in this novel.

There is a dialogue with Heathcliff at Wuthering Heights that I think depicts his personality well, " 'Why, how very black and cross you look! and how-how funny and grim!'...'Shake hands, Heathcliff'...'I shall not!'...'You needn't have touched me!'...'I shall be as dirty as I please, and I like to be dirty, and I will be dirty' "(42-3). He exercises a very stubborn behavior, but trying to understand why he acts like that delves a little deeper. Heathcliff is essentially adopted by this family and is automatically an outcast, because he was not inherited into their values, traditions and wealth. Heathcliff was not after their money or wealth by any means, he sought their attention. I think he sought their attention with his dirt and different demeanor just to make it a point that he knew he was different and state that he is going to remain different. I admire Heathcliff as a character, because he is very true to himself and follows his own rules.

Nelly provided a spectator opinon of Heathcliff as, "His abode at the Heights was an oppression past explaining. I felt that God had forsaken the stray sheep there to its own wicked wanderings, and an evil beast prowed between it and the fold, waiting his time to spring and destroy" (85). He is compared to that of a beast and I think that is an accurate depiction of how Bronte intentionally meant to portray Heathcliff. Wuthering Heights represented a dark, tulmotuous time for Heathcliff. It is when he leaves that he is given the chance to really submit to his will and freedom.

Upon his return to Thrushcross Grange, Heathcliff is mature, attractive and reserved. "behold the transformation of Heathcliff. He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man...his manner was even dignified, quite divested of roughness, though too stern for grace" (75). This 180 definitely changes everyone's opinion of him, but he is still true to himself. He is still the same passionate, impulsive boy that left Wuthering Heights. However, he has learn to control his impulses and he is more polite, sophisticated and reserved, "He retained a great deal of the reserve for which his boyhood was remarkable, and that served to repress all startling demonstrations of feeling" (79). This mysterious transformation definitely catches everyone's eye and the reader is captivated by Heathcliff.

Through Heathcliff's drastic change, his character is allowed to develop and his place in everyone elses lives changes, because he no longer represents what he used to. It is almost as if he gets to begin with a clean slate, however the same pre-dispositions still remain as a caution. His character has so many depths and dynamics that it makes him a tangible, memorable piece of literary work.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Wuthering Heights: Love

The section of the reading that I found particularly captivating was in Chapter 9 when Catherine finally expresses how she feels for Linton and Heathcliff (63-67). In the time building up to this point, I was unsure and vexed as to how she really felt. Linton and Heathcliff represent different characters of society. For example, Linton is the wealthy, handsome prince charming that is ideal to marry in a social status eye. Whereas, Heathcliff is run-down, not as wealthy, however he is captivating to Catherine. There is talk throughout the reading where Cathering and Heathcliff seprarately describe the others as two bodies sharing one soul.

I am really interested in Catherine's reaction and response to the two different loves that she is presented. The connection between Linton and Catherine vs. Catherine and Heathcliff is extremely different. Bronte provides a thorough description and analysis of how and why they are different. For me it really started to pick-up on page 63, when Bronte writes, "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he's handsome. Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning or frost from fire" (63).

Where I want to begin with that quote, which will be off par from the rest of my analysis is I am confused as to why Catherine describes marrying Heathcliff as degrading? Is it because of how Linton treated him? That marrying Linton would provide a future advantage for Heathcliff to gain wealth? That was ultimately the phrase that Heathcliff overheard and left the estate. I am confused as to what Catherine specifically meant by those words, because she describes her love and connection with Heathcliff as a very intense, spiritual connection. Catherine actively acknowledges the distance in connection between her and lipton, however, she still decides to marry him instead. Her head and heart are in two different places. I am sure Heathcliff's leaving the property gave her an extra push to continue with Linton. I find it an incredibly unfortunate, gothic instance in this novel that Heathcliff leaves under false pretenses and the rest of the novel unfolds as it does.

To continue comparing Catherine's feelings for Heathcliff vs. Linton, Bronte continues with, "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 enternal rocks beneath - a source of little visible delight, but necessary" (64). Catherine's love for Linto is like the seasons, they come and go. Her love is not solid or consistent with Linton, it is changing and adapting. The reference to how winter changes the trees could also represent how their love is cold and barren. Her reference for the love she has for Heathcliff is much more in-depth and solid. She compares it to a rock, an eternal rock. She describes her love for Heathcliff as transcendent, deep, immovable, and everlasting.

While reading the variations of her feelings between these two men, you are left pondering the same questions as Catherine. What matters more? Status or love? Her choice is somewhat made for her when Heathcliff leaves, but the truth is prolonged for sometime, because of the previously mentioned unraveling of events. Catherine's marriage to Linton is purely characterized as materialistic, "if Heathcliff and I married, we should be beggars? whereas, if I marry Linton, I can aid Heathcliff to rise, and place him out of my brother's power" (64). Catherine's feelings for Linton are not pure and her decision to marry him still revolves around her feelings for Heathcliff. She would rather help Heathcliff improve financially and move up the social ladder then have them be together as beggars. Her mind seems to be very much focused on social views.

With that in mind, what does that say bout the dynamics in the rest of the novel? What is Bronte saying about money and social status vs. love? What background information outlines Bronte's purpose for writing this novel?