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1.The presentation of Heathcliff’s masculinity in Wuthering Heights does not conform to conventional ideals of masculinity in the Victorian era. Think about Edgar Linton who is an upper-middle class gentleman, polite, sophisticated, and civilized. Although Edgar appears to be an example of the ideal Victorian man, Brontë seems to suggest that Heathcliff’s rougher masculinity is more preferential. Why do you think Brontë (through Nelly as narrator) seems to idealize Heathcliff’s masculinity over Edgar’s who is clearly a model of the Victorian gentleman?

2. Nelly’s role as narrator in Wuthering Heights is problematic. Although Lockwood (and, therefore, we as his readers) must rely on her accounts of events, we soon learn to treat her narration with skepticism. Knowing that Nelly’s views of events and people tend to be biased,  how does this impact her characterization of Heathcliff? At many times she seems to be painting him as a villain, but at other moments she seems to present him in more sympathetic terms. As an intelligent, discerning reader, how are you able to separate Nelly’s interpretation of Heathcliff from your own? How do you know she is unreliable?

3. The famous ending of Wuthering Heights has perplexed readers for centuries. There is great ambiguity around Heathcliff’s death and the way Nelly presents what she found. Some see the ending as a romantic, ethereal conclusion that redresses all the bad and unfortunate things that happen throughout the novel. Others see it as deeply-haunting and amoral, especially in reference to the way Heathcliff dies. Do you think the ending vindicates Heathcliff and offers a satisfying conclusion? Or do you see it presenting more problems and mysteries?

4. Wildcard: If you’re going to propose your own topic, please do you before Wednesday, January 30th by 5pm.

Depiction of Edgar Linton's Masculinity

Wuthering Heights is one of the highly celebrated novels of the nineteenth century that was composed by Emily Brontë. The novel was published in the year 1847 under the name of Ellis Bell, the pseudonym adopted by Emily Brontë. The novel is often described to be a gothic fiction novel that followed a moorland setting. The novel majorly revolves around the unrequited love that existed between an orphan Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw, the daughter of his wealthy benefactor (Homans). The raw and rustic masculinity as demonstrated by Heathcliff is promoted by the author in comparison to the meek depiction of masculinity by Edgar. The following paper attempts a discussion on the depiction of the rough nature of masculinity ascribed to Heathcliff as compared to the gentlemanly nature that is ascribed to Edgar Linton.

The author of the gothic fiction novel, Emily Brontë puts forth a defiance in the presentation of the gender roles that have been assigned to the characters in the novel. The audience of the then society is reported to have been shocked by the depiction of the changes in the depiction of the male and the female characters of the novel. The novelist had portrayed Edgar Linton, a wealthy human being and the husband of Catherine Earnshaw to be a doting and an extremely caring husband (Lodge). The character was described to have been afraid of earning the ire of his wife. Edgar, according to the narrator, Nelly is a perfect representative of the idealized Victorian man who is known to be a perfect gentleman. Nelly describes him to be one of the boring characters within the story. Edgar is known to be one of the most caring male characters present within the story. The character is described as a rich gentleman who is totally in love with his wife, Catherine Earnshaw. The character is described to have penchant for the masochism since as described by the narrator of the novel, Nelly, he falls irresistibly for his wife after her display of a huge number of tantrums as well as hitting him. The situation was described by Nelly in a demeaning metaphor stating that "he [Edgar] possessed the power to depart as much as a cat possesses the power to leave a mouse half killed, or a bird half eaten" (Bronte). The character is never observed to demonstrate the roughness in the depiction of the masculinity like that depicted by the orphan Heathcliff. The character of Edgar is observed to be treading on a knife-edge while dealing with Catherine, his wife (Fanning). The narrator Nelly, in course of her narration states that Edgar had been known for the demonstration of "a deep-rooted fear of ruffling her [Catherine's] humour" (Bronte). The progress of the novel reveals a change in the character of Edgar as well. Edgar is resented by his own wife due to his overtly gentlemanly nature as compared to the fierce and overwhelming nature of the passion as demonstrated by Heathcliff (Tytler). The latter half of the novel depicts a change in the character of Edgar. The character demonstrates a more sympathetic as well as aggravated compassionate nature during his weak moments (Chitwood). The character is also observed to be gullible in nature.

Depiction of Heathcliff's Masculinity


On the other hand, Heathcliff, one of the central characters of the novel is an orphan boy who was brought up under the influence of his wealthy benefactor Mr. Earnshaw. The author paints the character of Heathcliff as one of the apt demonstrations of the Byronic heroes. The character is demonstrated to be an outsider antihero who is dark and is majorly observed to maintain loneliness (Jones). The character is observed to be treated with despise right from the commencement of the narration by the narrator of the novel, Nelly. The novelist has described Heathcliff to have a rough side to his depiction of masculinity. The narrator of the novel, Nelly, is known to describe the character of Heathcliff in terms that are used to denote monstrous beings.

“‘Is he a ghoul or a vampire?’ I mused. I had read of such hideous incarnate demons. And then I set myself to reflect how I had tended him in infancy, and watched him grow to youth, and followed him almost through his whole course; and what absurd nonsense it was to yield to that sense of horror. ‘But where did he come from, the little dark thing, harboured by a good man to his bane?’ muttered Superstition.” (Bronte)

The character is seen to take to violence as a means of expression for both the emotions of love as well as those of hate. The author through Nelly ascribes this attitude to be an outcome of the ill-treatment and abuse that he had received during his childhood that was spend in the Earnshaw family (Lock). The pitiless attitude of Heathcliff is exquisitely revealed by Nelly during her narration.

[Heathcliff] seized, and thrust [Isabella] from the room; and returned muttering—"I have no pity! I have no pity! The more the worms writhe, the more I yearn to crush out their entrails! It is a moral teething; and I grind with greater energy in proportion to the increase of pain." (Bronte)

The author majorly describes the masculinity of Heathcliff to be opposing to that depicted by Edgar. Heathcliff is described to be excessively passionate and obsessed about his love for Catherine Earnshaw, the daughter of his wealthy benefactor. The other major streak that is demonstrated by the author through the character of Heathcliff is the strict nature of his loyalty towards Catherine. This is one of the major characteristics that sets him apart from the legally married husband of Catherine, Edgar.

Thus, from the above discussion it might safely be concluded that the character of Heathcliff as depicted by Emily Brontë bears a rustic and raw side to his masculinity. On the other hand, the masculinity that is demonstrated by Edgar Linton is mostly gentlemanly in nature. Edgar is resented by his own wife due to his overtly gentlemanly nature as compared to the fierce and overwhelming nature of the passion as demonstrated by Heathcliff. The author through Nelly is observed thus to promote the rustic and raw masculinity of Heathcliff.

References

Chitwood, Brandon. "Mixed Signals: Narrative Fidelity, Female Speech, and Masculine Spectacle in Adapting the Brontë Novels as Films." A Companion to the Brontës (2016): 513-527.

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. ????? ???????, 2017.

Fanning, Sarah E. "‘A Soul Worth Saving’: Post-Feminist Masculinities in Twenty-First-Century Televised Adaptations of Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights." Adaptation 10.1 (2017): 73-92.

Homans, Margaret. "Emily Brontë." Victorian Women Poets. Routledge, 2017. 27-43.

Jones, D. Michael. The Byronic Hero and the Rhetoric of Masculinity in the 19th Century British Novel. McFarland, 2017.

Lock, Pam. "Hindley’s ‘reckless dissipation’: Making Drunkenness Public in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights." Brontë Studies 44.1 (2019): 68-81.

Lodge, Sara. "Masculinity, Power and Play in the Work of the Brontës." The Victorian Novel and Masculinity. Palgrave Macmillan, London, 2015. 1-30.

Tytler, Graeme. "The Presentation of Edgar Linton in Wuthering Heights." Brontë Studies 42.4 (2017): 312-320.

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