The term ‘gothic’ originates from the Goths. The Goths were a barbaric tribe of German invaders of the third century. The word ‘Gothic’ symbolises cruelty, darkness and pure evil. Many of the first novels had very strong gothic themes. ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho’ by Anne Radcliffe is one example, which was written in the eighteenth century.
The Gothic Genre doesn’t just apply to novels; it also applies to architecture, culture, print and clothes.In the nineteenth century gothic genre divided into two sub-divisions, horror and detective fiction for example. Wilkie Collins ‘The Moonstone’ and ‘Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s The Hound of the Bastervilles’ a Sherlock Holmes Story are both examples of detective fiction. An example of horror fiction is Bram Stoker’s Frankenstein! The gothic genre is still popular in todays modern world, for example Stephen King’s novels.
The gothic genre is also popular in the cinema. The gothic criteria includes: isolation, brooding, eerie atmosphere, extreme weather, the supernatural, secrets, tragic past, medieval links, vulnerable central characters and an evil villain.AtmosphereAlthough the novel is a love story, the passion described is intense, violent and very destructive. The gothic genre provides the ideal atmosphere for these emotions.
The atmosphere of the novel starts having its effects on the reader as soon as we read the title ‘Wuthering Heights’. The word Wuthering stands for stormy, violent, windy weather; this is very significant since the weather creates a very gothic atmosphere and is linked into the main events of the novel. It also symbolises the conflicting emotional state of the main characters.The word ‘Heights’ shows that The house is situated high up on the moors, but it also symbolises the height of passion that is entangled into the novel, which is a major theme.
The other house on the Yorkshire moors is four miles away and it is called Thrushcross Grange, this place sounds civilised and a lot softer than Wuthering Heights. The contrast between the two houses immediately creates tension.When Mr Lockwood the outsider first visits Wuthering Heights he gets a very negative impression of the place because it seems very hostile and uncomfortable, he is a gentleman and expects to be greeted as such. When he first enters the house the first things he observes are the gargoyles, which have an eerie gothic appearance about them, (put quote here) They give the place an even stronger gothic theme which is developed by references to narrow windows, locked doors, long desolate winding passages and a generally inhospitable atmosphere.
When he is attacked by Heathcliff’s vicious dogs it creates a sense of brooding malice because of the violence of the initial attack and by Heathcliff’s uncaring attitude towards it (put quote here).Lockwood and the reader are shocked by Heathcliff’s response, he is amused and contemptuous of Lockwood. The inhabitants of Wuthering Heights do not seem to be the least bit happy when Lockwood arrives at the house and generally shun him. This shows us that maybe not many people visit Wuthering Heights and that Heathcliff does not entertain very often.
He quietly realises that the manners of polite society count for nothing here (put quote here)Under Heathcliff’s and Hindley’s control Wuthering Heights becomes a place of violence, degradation and strong passions. Although once a fine house it becomes neglected, even corrupted as a place of imprisonment. The gruesome house finally loses its eerie and vengeful atmosphere towards the end of the novel when Hareton and Cathy plant flowers around the house. This is an attempt to civilise Wuthering Heights and shows a more optimistic future (put quote here).
The landscape that surrounds Wuthering Heights is very harsh e.g. ‘few stunted and gaunt thorns’ this reference to the word ‘gaunt’ creates a sense of hostility and builds up the gothic climax. The landscape is also bare, barren, wild and open, this is the typical Yorkshire moors.
However it isn’t negative, at times it is a place of escape for Catherine and Heathcliff, somewhere where they can celebrate their freedom.The weather plays a very important part in creating a dark atmosphere for example the snow that imprisons Mr Lockwood in Wuthering Heights and forces him to stay the night. Another example is a storm when Heathcliff runs away, this reflects the emotional storm and hurt that is brewing deep inside him (put quote here). The same device is used to emphasise Cathrine’s anguish when she is in despair (put quote here).
Both Heathcliff and Catherine use the weather to deliberately hasten their deaths. They do this deliberately so that they don’t have to put up with the pain of living another day without what they crave most, namely each other. Heathcliff stays out in the rain and deliberately starves himself to death. Catherine hastens her death by opening her window when she is badly ill (put quote here).
SupernaturalWhen Heathcliff first appears in the novel he has a mysterious background that is never explained to the reader or the other inhabitants of Wuthering Heights. The language that is used to describe him is supernatural for example he is called ‘demon, ghoul, vampire, and an imp of Satan’. At this stage he has done little to earn such language and response from the other inhabitants of Wuthering Heights, but it is a small, suspicious community and Heathcliff is definitely different. He cannot speak in English, his appearance is very dark and his behaviour appears wild.
At this point the reader feals sympathy for him and feels the use of such negative language is wrong.However… When he finally grows up into a man in the later stages of the book he starts seeking revenge on the people who made him suffer. Or if this is not possible he tortures their next of kin.
In his adult life he does many bad things and earns himself the titles ‘demonic, evil, cruel, violent (put quote here for violent which has strong supernatural references)’ He carried out many evil deeds in his manhood and even his language is shockingly violent, he is speaking to young women on both of these occasions, “move or I’ll kick you” and “I hate her pale white skin it makes me feel sick, I’ll just paint her face black and blue every few days so that I don’t have to look at that pitiful face of hers”.Mr Lockwood the ghost when he stays the night at Wuthering Heights. He is put into the haunted room by Zilla the servant. The room used to belong to Catherine.
At first there seems to be nothing wrong with his current arrangement and so he starts busying himself by reading through ‘Cathrine’s Diary’ after reading several pages about how bad life is he notices the word Cathrine imprinted in her diary, but, the name has three different surnames after it “Earnshaw, Heathcliff, Linton.” This technique causes curiosity for the reader. After re-reading these names in his head he finally drifts off into a deep sleep. At first he dreams about going to church on a Sunday morning with Joseph as his guide.
When he awakens he can here a branch tapping noisily on the window, so he decides to put and end to it. He drives his fist through the glass and grabs the branch, he suddenly realises that he has hold of a hand “My fingers closed on the fingers of a little ice-cold hand!” This is where the haunting begins. He is so terrified that he baehaves out of character in a violent way “Terror made me cruel; and, finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled it’s wrists on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bed-clothes” This shows that such a strong overwhelming fear came over him that he did something very evil and cruel. This is a very gothic and eerie act of violence which is also linked to the supernatural.
There are also other examples of the supernatural. Catherine foresaw her own ghost haunting the place where she had grown up, she saw this when she was ill. Heathcliff violently curses Catherine’s ghost he says her soul shall walk the earth until they meet again after his death (put quote here) Haunt Me! Heathcliff then does something beyond belief and digs up Catherine’s grave, this is a very gothic action and totally abnormal. Heathcliff does this so he can see her body, but it’s also to torment Catherine’s ghost.
At the end of this novel a boy sees both Heathcliff and Catherine wandering free on the moors in peace and harmony. Their spirits live on and they have only found happiness in death. The image that Bronte creates here is gothic and shows the power and depth of Heathcliff’s twisted love.IsolationIsolation plays a very important part in this novel both physically and emotionally.
Wuthering Heights itself is very isolated in the Yorkshire moors; it is at least four miles away from the nearest house which is Thrushcross Grange. This shows both the freedom and isolation of the moors. The weather itself has also created a sense of isolation to the characters by preventing them from leaving Wuthering Heights. Mr Lockwood, the outsider who comes into the house, comments on what he sees and experiences, is isolated because he hasn’t been invited and is generally treated very badly (put quote here).
He also mistakes people’s relationships and feels uncomfortable in a basic, rural environment for example…. he sees a pile of dead rabbits on the floor mistakes them for a cushion, he is horrified.Heathcliff who is brought into the family by Mr Earnshaw is emotionally isolated when he first arrives at Wuthering Heights. He is not able to speak English and the other children resent him.
Heathcliff was Mr Earnshaws favourite and when Mr Earnshaw dies Heathcliff becomes even more isolated. Hindley degrades him to a servant and beats him every so often just because his father liked Heathcliff more than he liked Hindley (put quote here). Heathcliff is then isolated from Catherine and his love for her. Later he is also isolated because she marries Edgar Linton and finally dies during child birth.
Later Heathcliff is isolated by his own obsession with revenge. (put quote here) Hareton, Hindley’s son is isolated simply because he hasn’t got a mother to look after him, but he is also isolated because he has been treated exactly how Heathcliff was treated by Hindley (put quote here).Isabella isolates herself by running away with Heathcliff, she marries him and is very badly treated. Edgar feels very sorry for her but he won’t take her back.
In desperation she writes to Nelly, a servant, to express her unhappiness (put quote here) Cathy then is later isolated when Heathcliff kidnaps her. He physically imprisons her at Wuthering Heights. She is then forced to marry the dying Linton so she can go and see her dying father Edgar, and so that Heathcliff can have possession of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. (nelly comments on the horror of seeing her imprisoned and isolated from those who love her (put quote here))Secrets/Tragic Past/DeathSecrecy is a gothic technique for creating tension and it leads to hostility and very violent beginnings, it also causes hurt and despair to many vulnerable characters e. g. when Catherine discusses her love for both Edgar and Heathcliff with Nelly, Heathcliff over hears the conversation. He then hears about the marriage proposal by Edgar and when she says that she has accepted his offer Heathcliff is so emotionally distressed that he runs off in a storm (put quote here). Catherine knows that she had lost him so she ran out into the cold shouting his name, but Nelly goes out with her and quickly brings her in from the cold stormy weather.
Heathcliff disappears for three long years and we never find out where he goes for sure.This is very secretive and mysterious and ads to the supernatural reputation. When he returns he has lots of money and he is almost gentlemen-like .This metamorphosis against suggests the supernatural rather than the rational explanation.
Hareton’s inheritance of Wuthering Heights is kept a secret from him, he believes that he is no better than a servant, and that he does not deserve an education. The haunting of the room where Catherine and Heathcliff spent a lot of their time was kept a secret, so when Cathrine’s ghost haunts Mr Lockwood, everyone is shocked apart from Heathcliff because he knew that her spirit would not rest until he himself died.There is a tragic past behind the novel which sets off the desire for revenge from Heathcliff. Emily Bronte was used to death and this was very important.
This theme was very well used in the novel. To develop plot and to create a dark, unhappy atmosphere – (give detailed example)(put quote here)Character StudiesHeathcliff is a very vulnerable central character until he runs off. Up until he ran away he was treated very badly by Hindley, but when Mr Earnshaw dies Heathcliffs education is taken away from him and so is his right to be come a gentleman. For example ‘He bore his degradation pretty well at first’ He is beaten and is treated like a servant.
Just before Heathcliff runs away he hears a conversation between Nelly and Catherine. He hears Catherine say she is going to marry Edgar Linton. With this he ran off not hearing the second half of the conversation where cathrine says the things she likes about Heathcliff. Heathcliff returns three years later as a rich, selfish gentleman with authority and confidence that he had lacked before he went away.
He slowly pushes Catherine out of Edgar’s life and he doesn’t feel sorry for him. Once he had wrecked Edgar’s life he set out to wreck Hindley’s.He wants the house and uses Hindley’s drunkenness and gambling problems to get it. He enjoys torementing Hindley and there are several dark passages describing the darkness of their relationship (put quote here).
He uses Hareton to reject his father Hindley. When Hindley dies Heathcliff corrupts Hareton. At Hindleys funeral he says ‘Now my bonnie lad your mine’ to Hareton meaning that now Hareton was Heathcliffs propertie so he could subject him to whatever Hindley had put him throught. This is ironic because Hindley says roughly the same thing to Heathcliff when Mr Earbshaw dies.
Heathcliff shows no compassion or pity when he comes back ‘He’s a pitiless, fierce, wolfish man…’The way in which he treats Isabella is appalling; he only marries Isabella for her money, to get back at Edgar for stealing cathrine from him and so that he can become the owner of Thrushcross Grange.
He unnecessarily hangs Isabella’s dog in a tree which provides the reader with an ominous example of their relationship. He treats Isabella like filth, as if she is something that is stuck on the bottom of his shoe. He shows a complete lack of compassion towards her (put quote here).After he has wrecked Edgar’s life he set’s about gaining possession to Thrushcross Grange.
He kidnaps Cathy so that she can marry Linton, this of course is completely illegal and unacceptable, however nothing is done about it (put quote here). He curses Catherine’s spirit and digs up her grave, this is very gothic. Towards the end when Hareton stands up to him his desire for revenge disappears. Finally, he achieves happiness after death when finally he is reunited with the wandering ghost of Cathrine.
The love story told is very dark and the love and passion within it is destructive in such a way that it cannot be told. The revenge that Heathcliff desires is so very powerful that he cannot rest until he has wrecked everyone’s life’s, his need for revenge is as powerful maybe even more powerful than his love for Catherine. This revenge is because of love and the way he has been both emotionally, physically and mentally isolated. Emily Bronte creates menace and evil and behaviour that are far from what we would expect. The story is like a gruesome nightmare, it doesn’t seem realistic throughout the novel. The emotion is supported by a gothic element.