Published on February 12, 2008
Narrative Patterns in Wuthering Heights: Narrative Patterns in Wuthering Heights AH, YES, THE FLASHBACK: AH, YES, THE FLASHBACK Everyone who has seen very many movies understands the technique of the flashback. When an author uses the flashback, he usually begins in the present (Mr. Lockwood has rented a house, Thrushcross Grange, and is mightily intrigued by his rough and gruff landlord and neighbor, Mr. Heathcliff (first and last name the same) The present . . . : The present . . . When Mr. Lockwood visits the house known as Wuthering Heights– both of his visits are unwelcome– he is trapped there by a snowstorm and strange things begin to happen as he gets ready to go to bed A tap, tapping at the window, a little voice that cries Do let me come in, and an icy little hand that grabs Mr. Lockwood’s as he tries to shut the sash of the window set the stage for an intriguing story. Mr Lockwood unnerved: Mr Lockwood unnerved Well, of course, Mr. Lockwood is unnerved– he thinks that he has had a horrible dream UNTIL Mr. Heathcliff rushes in, throws open the window, and howls for Cathy to haunt him. What’s a man to think?: What’s a man to think? Naturally, Mr. Lockwood wants to know the whole story behind the ghost, the unidentified girl who lives with Heathcliff, and whatever other mysteries surround the harsh environment of Wuthering Heights, but how is he to find out what happened twenty years ago– Heathcliff certainly isn’t going to gossip But Nelly Dean will gossip: But Nelly Dean will gossip In the house that Mr. Lockwood rented for the year there is a housekeeper, Nelly Dean. When Mr. Lockwood comes down with the flu ( he really should have stayed in during the storm) Nelly Dean promises to stay by his sick bed and tell him the WHOLE story about all of the strange goings on at Wuthering Heights BECAUSE NELLY THE NARRATOR: NELLY THE NARRATOR Nelly lived at Wuthering Heights and worked for Catherine’s family (and later for Catherine) all of her life, and she was around to witness AND to participate in all of the events. SO as Mr. Lockwood recuperates, Nelly Dean entertains Lockwood by telling him the tragic and violent story of the love between Heathcliff and Catherine THE PAST: THE PAST Now, through Nellie, the reader is taken back (flashback, get it) twenty years to the time when Mr Earnshaw brought home a waif from London and named him Heathcliff. The reader will now, with the help of Nelly’s narration, progress through the past and will eventually (toward the end of the book) permanently return to the present. But there is a “catch”: But there is a “catch” Remember reading the Great Gatsby, Huck Finn, Heart of Darkness, or The Sun Also Rises? Sometimes the narrator of a story may not be reliable or truthful. . . . Veracity of the Narrator: Veracity of the Narrator Veracity of the narrator is a literary term which indicates that the reader must judge whether or not a character who narrates a story is truthful, is untruthful because he is deliberately lying, or is untruthful because his perception is skewed by his own experiences and personality FOR EXAMPLE: FOR EXAMPLE Mr. Lockwood indicates to us (the readers) that Heathcliff is crude, crass, rough, and illiterate HOWEVER We soon see that Mr. Lockwood is a “city slicker” who is just a little (no, a lot) too effeminate SO MR LOCKWOOD: MR LOCKWOOD Of course he sees Heathcliff as a BRUTE However, Nelly Dean’s story seems to confirm Mr. Lockwood’s perception EXCEPT Dastardly NELLY?: Dastardly NELLY? Remember that Nelly says that she ALWAYS-- from the very first day of his arrival-- hated Heathcliff In fact when he was a young child stricken with a severe case of measles, and she was his nurse, she secretly took the child out on the cold stairs hoping that the chill would kill him. DEMON CHILD: DEMON CHILD And when the freezing air didn’t kill the young child, she pronounced him a demon child. ( I just ask you, who’s the demon here?) But what about Joseph, the bad tempered gardener, who CONSTANTLY tells us that Heathcliff and Catherine are products of the devil? Joseph: Joseph Well, if you haven’t figured this out, I’m beginning to get worried about you. Joseph believes that EVERYONE (except for him) is doomed to down under ULTIMATELY YOU: YOU The reader must draw his own conclusions about the story and especially about the people who relate the events. Be suspicious. See if you can make a case for Nelly Dean as a principal villain Some other things to think about: Some other things to think about What factors will motivate whom you marry? Will you marry for love, security, social strata or passion? What about Catherine? Which of her decisions were wrong? Heathcliff: Heathcliff What about Heathcliff’s total disregard of all the conventions of society? Is he a free spirit that lives a genuine, authentic life without regard to “what other people think”? OR Is he a horribly destructive force that threatens the fabric of society? Revenge: Revenge Does Heathcliff ever want revenge? Whom does Heathcliff have a grudge against? Whom does he punish? Does revenge satisfy him? Nature vs. Nurture: Nature vs. Nurture An age-old question– why do we become who we are? Is it because of our nature—we were born to be what we become OR Is it because of the environment in which we are brought up? What makes Heathcliff SOOOO bitter? LOVE STORY: LOVE STORY Why are Heathcliff and Catherine the ARCHETYPES (look it up if you don’t know) of masculinity and femininity ? Why is their story so enduring? Why do girls ALWAYS choose the “bad boys” who NEVER treat them well Why do girls NEVER appreciate the suitors who are REALLY in love with them? Unconditional: Unconditional Is this story so appealing because Heathcliff’s love is unchanging and unconditional? R for Violence: R for Violence How many scenes of violence can you identify? (Admit it, you got so used to all of the scenes of violence that you began not to notice them) Find out about Jungian Archetypes: Find out about Jungian Archetypes How did Emily Bronte– in the 19th century– create such a torturous love story? And what about those Brontes?: And what about those Brontes? How did two sisters become two of the most famous world authors? What about all of the other talented writers in this family Read The Dark Quartet– a docudrama of the four Brontes– but don’t read it on a dark and stormy night Read Jane Eyre the other famous 19th century novel Slide26: Read Heathcliff : The Return to Wuthering Heights by Lin-Haire Sargeant This is a 1992 publication which blends the stories of Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre using Charlotte Bronte as one of the characters. (A sequel, as it were) Don’t read this book until you have read the two originals
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