Is Wuthering Heights a gothic novel? Essay
Bronte begins her novel by setting an eerie atmosphere, depicting Wuthering Heights as an isolated, dark and old mansion; mansions and castles are the usual settings of a gothic novel. Wuthering Heights is surrounded by moors and though not mentioned, the reader would infer that any sound would be muffled adding to the impression of loneliness and despair. The book begins in the mist of winter, emphasising the desolateness and unfriendliness of the setting.
The aggressive dogs add to the frightening scene along with Heathcliff’s appearance; a mysterious man of whom the reader is uncertain of his past and origins. Heathcliff’s lack of a surname perplexes the reader and his sudden gain in wealth and elegance after his disappearance remains unexplained in the readers mind. This atmosphere overshadows the gloomy setting of the remainder of the book. Mystery and suspense is a notable feature in gothic novels, Bronte uses this a lot in her book.
During Lockwood’s stay at Wuthering Heights, he encounters a supernatural event, in which he dreams of Catherine scratching the bedside window. Lockwood is at first uncertain, though hysterical, of what exactly happened. Heathcliff’s reaction suggests that Lockwood’s encounter was not a dream. However, the reader is uncertain of this, adding to the mystery of the novel. Disturbing visions and dreams as well as supernatural events are also another aspect of gothic novels in this case Bronte uses the two in one event.
In the novel scenes often take place at night, this is a common metonymy used in various gothic novels; in this case Bronte follows the “doom and gloom” metonymy which often refers to supernatural and mysterious events. This dramatises situations and adds to the dark and eerie atmosphere of Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff’s character. Numerous characters die at Wuthering Heights adding to the possible supernatural gothic emphasis as well as an eerie aspect of Bronte’s gothic style. Bronte often recycles names in order to confuse the reader underlining the enigmatic setting.
Heathcliff disturbs the dead (Catherine) adding to the frightening aspects of a gothic novel. Both Catherine and Heathcliff become hysterical and almost insane before their deaths, this could emphasise the despair and darkness in the novel. Both Hindly and Heathcliff exert extreme authority and behave like tyrants adding to the fear in the novel. The weakness of Linton Heathcliff in contrast to the strength and authority of Heathcliff could also be an emphasis of tyranny in the book, which is common to gothic novels.
The two Catherines as well as Isabella are mistreated throughout the novel. This is one of the major characteristics of a gothic novel, a woman in distress, which appeals to the reader’s sympathy. The concept of a narrator recording the events orally stated and recalled by another narrator is rare but does not stray from the usual gothic genre, as gothic novels are often sentimentally narrated. Bronte uses common gothic techniques in her novel to grab the reader’s attention.