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Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights – Themes of Reading and Books

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Wuthering Heights – Themes of Reading and Books

An author’s particular style and technique, is usually greatly attributed to their personality and individual preference.  In the case of Emily Bronte, she was an extremely withdrawn and private person; and it is because of this, why she turned to books as a form of expression.  In her notorious Wuthering Heights, she uses books as an important way to illustrate a number of key issues; most notably character, and the theme of love.  Although subtle in her method, Bronte passion is what she employs as a tool in the construction of the epic tale.


In the novel Wuthering Heights, the first time we are given reference to books is during chapter 3, prior to Lockwood’s nightmare. Here we find the delirious houseguest in the confines of a mysterious room, and we are told that “Catherine’s library was select, and its state of dissipation proved it to have been well used.”(p.24).  Instantly, this simple piece of information proved useful in giving the reader a glimpse of Catherine’s character.  From this statement, we are able to conclude that Catherine was in fact a woman of knowledge; but we are still left to wonder exactly what type of knowledge she had.  The fascinating attribute about books is that we all have different preferences.  Furthermore is the fact that reading is usually seen as escapism of some sort; thus, it brings a sense of individualism into a world of persuasion, as well as peace of mind in an atmosphere of chaos. We will go further into this as we progress.


 Books are often used to shield us against the genuine problems of the human race. This is a main method of avoidance, although we must realize that there weren’t many other alternatives for entertainment. Books have the most powerful effects on its’ audience because it’s the only form of media whose outcomes rely solely on that of the reader; we also must consider that literature has been present for thousands of centuries. Books, therefore, are not only able to inform us, but let us portray the outcomes to our liking.


When Lockwood’s nightmare scene is at it’s climax, he is able to get rid of the terrifying figure when “(he) snatched (his hand) through the hole, (and) hurriedly piled the books up in a pyramid against it.” [p. 30]. Once again, this reference of books was simple, however, we can view this as Bronte telling the reader the true power of books, and how they have to ability to give us a sense of comfort .   Moreover, the section where an ailing Catherine says, “What in the name of all that feels, has he to do with books, when I am dying?” we are shown how Edgar retreats to his books whenever times got tough, as well as the voice of Catherine’s ego.


Books once belonged only at Thrushcross Grange.  For the older Cathy and Heathcliff they were objects of repression because as children, they threw religious books into the fire in an act of rebellion.  As for Edgar, reading was a way to escape from problems by shutting himself up with his books when Cathy fell into a fit.  Suddenly books have become a means through which love can flow. 


Books take on an important role in the development of the relationship between Hareton and Catherine. In the latter stages of the novel, Heathcliff had destroyed Catherine’s books, which was why she could not respond back to Nelly. Hareton had all the other books in the house because he had been trying to read. However, Catherine mocked him for his clumsy attempts at self-education: "Those books, both prose and verse, were consecrated to me by other associations, and I hate to hear them debased and profaned in his mouth!" Poor Hareton fetched the books and threw them into her lap, saying he didn't want to think about them any longer. She persisted in her mockery, reading aloud in "the drawling tone of a beginner," following which he slapped her and threw the books into the fire. Hareton's illiteracy is the most evident result of Heathcliff's treatment of him, intended to reduce him to a level of ignorance and uselessness. Hareton never rebels against Heathcliff, but his contact with Catherine, makes him extremely aware of this weakness. We can look at the true value of book-learning in the novel, and notice that Linton, who can read, is obviously inferior to his more energetic cousin Hareton. This might lead one to think that Brontë is supporting natural energy over imposed improvement. However, for Catherine and Hareton to become close it is absolutely necessary for Hareton to wish to educate himself, and in the last chapter their love is symbolized in the united reading of a book. Similarly, Heathcliff's youthful degradation really takes place when he ceases to follow Catherine's lessons. It appears that book-learning is not enough to make a person good, but that the lack of it is enough to make someone ridiculous. It is, in short, an essential quality.


Lockwood went to Wuthering Heights to see Heathcliff and tell him he didn't want to stay at the Grange any longer. He noticed that Hareton was "as handsome a rustic as need be seen." He gave Catherine a note from Ellen; she thought it was from him at first and when he made it clear that it wasn't, Hareton snatched it away, saying that Heathcliff should look at it first (he wasn't home yet). Catherine tried to hide her tears, but Hareton noticed and let the letter drop beside her seat.


’the wearisomest self-righteous pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake the promises to himself and fling the curses on his neighbours’ (p45)


‘ He’s tolerably well, I think, though his studies occupy him rather more than they ought; he is continually among his books, since he has no other society’ (p. 120)


‘if I came near her suddenly while reading, she would start and bend over the book, evidently desirous to hide it, and I detected edges of loose paper sticking out beyond the leaves’ p(216)

‘she consented, rather unwillingly, I fancied, and imagining my sort of books did not suit her’ (p234)



Body Paragraphs:

a) Cathy and Heathcliff used them as a statement of their suppression

b) Edgar used them as a way to escape problems

c) Medium through which love can flow; Cathy and Hareton

d) She is successful

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