Hate, love and revenge take place within the Earnshaws’ and Lintons’ story through a dynamic almost solely based on the fundamental importance of class in late 1700’s Yorkshire. Wuthering Heights is Emily Bronte’s story of these families’ struggles with status which were relevant and normal for that time period. The idea of the importance and the struggle of class can be seen throughout the novel. It is brought forth primarily through Heathcliff and others treatment of him. First, through Nelly’s insistence on Heathcliff imagining a better past for himself, Hindley’s treatment of Heathcliff and the effect this has on Catherine’s feeling, Catherine’s and Isabella’s marriages to Edgar and Heathcliff respectively, and Cathy’s marriage to Hareton.
Heathcliff is received with hatred by his new siblings, Hindley and Catherine. The treatment given to him by the Earnshaw children is caused by his adoptive status and his past as a beggar in Liverpool. His past puts him in a class that is beneath Wuthering Heights and the Earnshaws’. Nelly, the housekeeper, gives Heathcliff advice in regards to his class; "Were I in your place, I would frame high notions of my birth; and the thoughts of what I was should give me courage and dignity to support the oppressions of a little farmer!" (Bronte, 82). If Heathcliff were to imagine a better past where he was in a higher class than that of what he is – a lonely beggar who has found a place to stay through Mr. Earnshaw- it would improve his self-esteem and he would be able to act as through he was of a higher status. His class status is thus of the utmost importance in that it decides the way he will be treated in his new home.
As time passes, Catherine begins to warm up to Heathcliff; she...
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... is an allusion to something elemental beyond class. Through Heathcliff and his many experiences it can be seen that nothing can trump the importance of class – not childhood, love, hate, or money. Class has an unconditional importance within the novel and cannot be outshined by any other struggle. All though, there is also Bronte’s use of a relationship of souls, an element of self that goes beyond social class. This element is seen through Catherine and Heathcliff, however, it is trumped and ruined by class. It is also seen through Cathy and Hareton, whom are not ruined by class in the end, but attempt to find a way to fix their classes in order to be happy. Thus, social class is of great importance, but, Emily Bronte suggests that it is not the only thing that is important.
Bronte, Emily, Wuthering Heights. Ed. Beth Newman. Broadview, 2007
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