Symphonic Imagery in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights

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The elder Catherine and Heathcliff shared a fantastic loyalty untempered by any civilization. Their dedication to one another to the exclusion of all other society is alluring, but unworkable in real life. In the end, their unchecked ardor is consumed by its own fire: Catherine wastes away on Thrushcross Grange, and Heathcliff turns his thwarted passion on everyone who reminds him of what he has lost. Heathcliff and the elder Catherine seem to despise reading -- Catherine does say, after all, that she took her "dingy volume by the scroop, and hurled it into the dog-kennel, vowing I hated a good book" [Chapter III, page 26]. The real objects of their resentment, however, are the moral and religious lessons that are forced upon them via books as punishment for being naughty children. To chastise them for going out on the moors, "The curate might set as many chapters as he pleased for Catherine to get by heart, and Joseph might thrash Heathcliff till his arm ached. . ." [VI, 50] Reading and memorizing Scripture passages is placed by Joseph on the same level with a beating: an attempt to tame a wild soul. Catherine and Heathcliff will not be tamed, and so they reject learning, as well. This should not be construed as a condemnation of education, but against the passionless Christian value system of pity and duty and charity that Heathcliff later rails against. The evening that he sleeps at Wuthering Heights, Lockwood is troubled by a dream of Jabes Branderham, author of one of the holy tracts that Catherine was forced to read. [III, 28-9] Branderham manifests himself as a creature both horrible and boring at the same time. When Lockwood finally denounces the preacher, the congregation tears him apart. Sleeping in Catherine's bed, Lockwood is having her nightmares, seeing religion as a terrible force that promises to civilize but actually turns people into zombies obsessed with correcting the sins of others -- and that force converts through reading. When Lockwood awakens, he blocks Catherine's ghost's entrance to her home by piling religious tomes against the window, just as Joseph attempted to stifle her with them in life. She still pushes against these books, intent on her longing to enter. Nellie says of Catherine in adulthood that "she never endeavored to divert herself with reading." [XV, 153] When Edgar brings a book to her in her malaise, Catherine does not touch it, only allows the wind to flutter its leaves.

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