Compare how the natural world is used symbolically by Hardy and Bronte in The Return of the Native and Wuthering Heights
The natural world is central to both ‘The Return of the Native’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’ - Compare how the natural world is used symbolically by Hardy and Bronte in The Return of the Native and Wuthering Heights introduction. The natural world encompasses that which is not manmade and is part of the natural environment. It also concerns natural occurrences like the weather and natural disasters. Other examples of the natural world are the animal kingdom, landscapes, seasons, vegetation, and even the nature of man. Life is a natural process; therefore emotions and human conduct are part of the nature of man. Both novelists use natural imagery to emphasise the nature of man through their characters and their ways.
Also the natural world is used symbolically e. g. the Heath symbolises human nature. Other natural images might be used as symbolic warnings e. g. the pool at Shadwell Weir. The novelists use natural imagery in a similar way, even though ‘Wuthering Heights’ was published in 1847 and ‘The Return of the Native’ was published thirty-one years later in 1878. Even though Bronte uses more animal imagery and Hardy uses more natural description, it still provides a wide variety of comparisons to be made between the two novels.
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Both novels are realistic and both novelists use the concept of the theory that nature controls the fate and destiny of mankind. Therefore this assignment will compare the power of the natural world in ‘The Return of the Native’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’. Thomas Hardy primarily uses the Heath to symbolise human nature. “The sombre stretch of rounds and hollows” is symbolic of the dark and brooding side of human nature with its many emotional ups and downs. Being “mysterious in its swarthy monotony” is synonymous with the stillness and mystery that is part of human nature.
Also the way that the Heath and its inhabitants keep to the traditions that comes “from jumbled Druidical Rites and Saxon Ceremonies” symbolises the way in which human nature naturally clings to its traditions and its heritage. This can also be seen through the return of native, Clym. He returns to his traditional values and becomes part of the Heath like “a brown spot in the midst of an expanse of olive-green gorse”. Similarly Emily Bronte uses the natural setting of the two houses as well as its households to symbolise the two sides of human nature.
The dark and undesired side of human nature is emphasised by the setting of Wuthering Heights, which stands between “a range of gaunt thorns”. It has an “atmospheric tumult” and is being “exposed in stormy weather”. This symbolises the darkness and turmoil that is part of human nature. The lack of a fire in the fireplace in Chapter 1 indicates the coldness and lifelessness of human nature. In contrast Thrushcross Grange is symbolic of the good side of human nature. It is a “splendid place” full of richness. The “flowerpot” under the windowsill is a presentation of growth and progress.
The fire in the hearth is a symbol of life and warmth. All these are elements of the good side of human nature. Both Hardy and Bronte use natural imagery to describe their characters. Their choice of imagery reflects the personality and characteristics of their characters. In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff is described as a “Cuckoo”, a bird that lays its eggs in the nests of other birds. Just like a Cuckoo, Heathcliff takes over Hindley’s inheritance and also becomes Mr. Earnshaw’s favourite. This causes that Hindley sees him as a “usurper of his parent’s affections, and his privileges”.
Therefore he mistreats Heathcliff, which leads to Heathcliff seeking revenge and ruining Hindleys’ life. Hareton Earnshaw is described as an “unfledged Dunnock”. A Dunnock is usually a foster parent to a Cuckoo’s fledgling. This symbolises the undeniable bond between Heathcliff and Hareton, even though this is a bond between usurper and rightful heir. Also the only person that really grieves after Heathcliff dies is Hareton, because there was a certain bond between them. Catherine Earnshaw is described as a “wild hatless little savage” this symbolises her wild and violent nature.
Savage, according to Webster’s Dictionary, means ‘A human being in his native state of rudeness. ‘ This reference to savage, symbolises that she is one with nature, and therefore just like Heathcliff. Edgar Linton is described by Catherine as a “sucking leveret”. A leveret is a baby hare, therefore small, feeble and harmless. This is symbolic of Edgar’s weak and cowardly nature, but also symbolises, as Charlotte Bronte said in her preface to the 1850 edition, “an example of constancy and tenderness. ” Hardy uses more mythological and historical images in ‘The Return of the Native’ e. g.
Eustacia is described in the same league as “Artemis, Athena, or Hera”, yet he still uses some natural imagery to describe the personalities of his characters. Wildeve is called a “chameleon”; this is symbolic of his indecisive nature. He cannot decide whom he wants to marry. Eustacia’s movements are described by “the ebb and flow of the sea”. Not only is this symbolic of the grace of her movements, but also of her own indecisiveness. She cannot make up her mind, whether she wants Clym or Wildeve. She is also described as a horse, “a beauty, with a white face and a mane as black as night”.
This is descriptive of her beauty and is symbolic of her wildness and pride. This wildness can be seen in her reckless decision to run away from her husband and her fate in the middle of the storm. Clym is described as being part of the Heath, “he might be said to be its product”, and “he appeared as a mere parasite of the heath”. This is symbolic of how Clym is one with the heath; he is “permeated” with the heath. The metaphor of “the green caterpillar” emphasises Clym’s dependence of the heath. He feeds of the Heath in the same way that a caterpillar lives of the tree its on.
Because his sight is restricted he is depended on the Heath for his livelihood. The Heath calms his feelings and fills him with joy. That’s why he sings “Le point du jour A nos bosquets rend toute leur parure;” while he happily works. Different birds describe Thomasin; “all similes and allegories concerning her began and ended with birds. ” Her movement is like a “swallow”, graceful and agile. The imagery of the birds is symbolic of her gentleness and innocence. And this shines through when she protects her baby girl from the rain. Birds are usually used to symbolise fragility and innocent beauty.
Venn is described using bird imagery, but he is described by “a bird of prey”. This symbolises that Venn is watchful and keen. He will destroy or hinder any enemy. This can be seen in Venn’s “old track of manoeuvring on Thomasin’s behalf” by hindering Wildeve in his nightly visits to Eustacia. As seen above Hardy and Bronte both use bird imagery to describe their characters. And to show the way there personalities work together in the novels. In both novels there are several relationships. Some are friends while others are lovers. Hardy and Bronte use natural images and occurrences to symbolise the nature of the relationships.
In “Wuthering Heights” there are several unnatural relationships. Even though Catherine confesses that “I am Heathcliff “, and she knows that “whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” she tills chooses to marry Linton. Linton’s soul “is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or fire from frost”. Lightning is stronger than a moonbeam and overshadows it; this is symbolic of the relationship between Cathy and Linton. Her dominating personality completely overshadows him. He has no control over her, for she is controlled by nature.
Also frost has no resistance against fire, it is melted and destroyed before the power of fire. The relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff, which never comes to its fulfilment in life, is part of nature. They both are “savage and hardy” and have a love for each other and the Moors that surpass any love between Catherine and Edgar. Their love “resembles the eternal rocks beneath – a source of little visible delight, but necessary. ” The image of the “eternal rocks” symbolises that there is a solid foundation to their love as well as a natural rawness. Their love is passionate and raw.
Yet Catherine makes the choice that she regrets all her life. She chooses wealth, position and love that is like “the foliage of the woods” and denies her natural desires. Although Catherine makes the wrong choice, fate and nature will always have its way. In death Catherine and Heathcliff are reunited at last. They are brought together by this natural process and are only separated by loose earth, because Heathcliff has “struck one side of the [Catherine’s] coffin loose” and covered it with earth. So that when they buried him next to Catherine, they would take out the side of his coffin as well, and nothing will separate them in death.
In “the Return of the Native” there is the unnatural relationship between Thomasin and Wildeve. Thomasin is part of the heath, “her presence illuminated the heath” and she “couldn’t be happy anywhere else at all”. Wildeve on the other hand is a city gentleman, he wishes to get away from the heath and go to “America”. He is materialistic for “it seems impossible to do well here”[Egdon Heath]. This unnatural relationship results in Wildeve lusting after his true love Eustacia and in the end dying for her. Thomasin and Venn’s relationship is natural, because both are described using bird imagery.
Also their relationship starts blossoming after a meeting “in hollow of the heath”. This could symbolise that their destiny together is interlinked with the heath. Storms and other natural elements are used to emphasise certain events in both novels, especially death. The imagery of a storm or change of weather is very fitting, because not only is a storm a conflicting mass of weather elements, it also purifies the sky and nurtures the earth. Storms have its good and bad effects, just like in the novels. Bronte uses a night that “sounded wild and stormy” to emphasise the death of Mr. Earnshaw.
This storm was also a turning point in the lives of Catherine and Heathcliff, for the death of Mr. Earnshaw brought back the revenge of Hindley. The storm is also a contrast to the calm and comfort “the little souls”(Catherine and Heathcliff) found in each other. The night that Heathcliff runs away, because Catherine sold her love to Edgar, is marked by a storm. “There was a violent wind, as well as thunder” and a deluge that had Catherine “thoroughly drenched”. This storm symbolised a new phase in Catherine’s life. Because her soul mate was gone she could give herself to Edgar Linton. After the storm, “the morning was fresh and cool”.
This is almost as if the evil of Heathcliff’s presence has been washed away by the violent storm, and everything is ready to give Catherine a fresh beginning with Edgar. Also the weather changed dramatically right after Catherine’s death. There was “rain first, and then sleet and snow”. All the beauty of nature came to a standstill, “the primroses and crocuses were hidden” and “the larks were silent”. It is almost as if nature mourned Catherine’s death together with Heathcliff. This symbolises the integral part that Catherine had with nature; nature was part of her and she was part of nature.
The death of Heathcliff is emphasised by “a very wet” evening, it has been pouring down the whole evening. “His face and throat were washed with rain”, therefore he died with nature bathing him in its freshness. Just like the night Heathcliff ran away, this down pour symbolically washed away the resistance of Heathcliff and allowed Hareton and Cathy to grow in their love for each other. Similarly Hardy uses an unusually hot day when the sun makes “a torrid attack” on the heath, to emphasise Mrs. Yeobright’s death. The fact that the plants in Mrs.
Yeobright’s garden “bent downward at eleven; and even stiff cabbages were limp by noon”, could be a warning of the termination of Mrs. Yeobright’s life. Further emphasis on her ultimate fate, could be the fact that she chooses to rest in “Devil’s Bellows”. There is a similarity between her own “storm-broken and exhausted state” and that of the “splintered, looped and distorted trees”. The “perpetual moan” of the trees could be symbolic of the wails and moans that will rack Clym’s body after her death. On the night that Eustacia tries to escape the heath, which has been a “cruel task master” to her, there is a terrible storm.
The “driving rain” and overwhelming darkness emphasises both Eustacia’s and Wildeve’s end. In trying to escape the heath, they were swallowed up by its boundaries. Their Fate was interlinked with the heath and therefore they were swallowed up by “roaring” weir. The “velocity of the current” is symbolic of the strength of nature, and the hold it can have over man. The fact that Venn and Clym, who both have accepted the heath, survives the “froth of the waves” and “the strength of the stream”, might be symbolic of the idea that if humans work with nature it will help them.
The novels written by Hardy and Bronte are filled with natural images, the ideas of the novelists concerning Fate and Destiny is seen through their writing. Hardy’s fascination with mythology and history is seen through his descriptions and Bronte’s interest in the natural world is noted in Wuthering Heights. Both novelists love for nature is perceived. Hardy’s love for Wessex country and Bronte’s passion for the Yorkshire moors is seen through their respective novels, ‘The Return of the Native’ and ‘Wuthering Heights’.