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Analysis of Wuthering Heights
“Wuthering Heights is a strange, inartistic story”(Atlas, WH p. 299). “Wuthering Heights is a strange sort of book” (Douglas, WH p.301). “This is a strange book” (Examiner, WH p.302). “His work [Wuthering Heights] is strangely original” (Britannia, WH p.305). These brief quotes show that early critics of Emily Bronte’s first edition of Wuthering Heights, found the novel baffling in its meaning - they each agreed separately, that no moral existed within the story therefore it was deemed to have no real literary value. The original critical reviews had very little in the way of praise for the unknown author or the novel. The critics begrudgingly acknowledged elements of Wuthering Heights that could be considered strengths – such as, “rugged power” and “unconscious strength” (Atlas, WH p.299), “purposeless power” (Douglas, WH p.301), “evidences of considerable power” (Examiner), “power and originality” (Britannia, WH p.305). Strange and Powerful are two recurring critical interpretations of the novel. The critics did not attempt to provide in depth analysis of the work, simply because they felt that the meaning or moral of the story was either entirely absent or seriously confused.
The authorship of Wuthering Heights was an element of much discussion by critics. They believed the work to be the efforts of an inexperienced and unpracticed writer. The critical reviews, in my opinion, would have expressed even harsher judgments had it been commonly known that the author was in fact a young woman. “In Wuthering Heights, the reader is shocked, disgusted, almost sickened by details of cruelty, inhumanity, and the most diabolical hate and vengeance…”(Douglas, WH p. 302). Had this particular critic been aware of the author’s true identity, his barely concealed dislike for the work would have had no constraint.
Charlotte Bronte assumed the role of intermediary between her late sister and the perplexed and hostile readers of Wuthering Heights (Sale and Dunn, WH p. 267). Charlotte attempted to provide Emily’s readers with a more complete perspective of her sister and her works. She selectively included biographical information and critical commentary into the revised 1850 edition of Wuthering Heights, which gave the reader a fuller appreciation of the works of Emily Bronte. Charlotte championed the efforts of her younger sister and believed that Emily’s inexperience and unpracticed hand were her only shortcomings. Charlotte explains much of Emily’s character to the readers through the disclosure of biographical information.
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Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Norton Critical ed. 3rd ed. Ed. William M. Sale, Jr., and Richard J. Dunn. New York: W. W. Norton, 1990.