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Outsiders and Outcasts in "Wuthering Heights"

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Introduction

´╗┐Geofrey Banzi Explore the presentation of outsiders and outcasts in the novels. Use ??Orange are not the Only Fruit?? to illuminate your understanding of the core text. ?Wuthering Heights? is a Gothic novel written by Emily Bronte in 1847. The novel revolves around the story of a dark protagonist and outsider Heathcliff. As an outsider his presence is shown to have negative consequences resulting in the demise of various members of the Earnshaw Household, including that of his star crossed love, Catherine Earnshaw. The theme of outsiders and outcasts is seen to pervade the story, highlighting the prejudice and contempt that would have been shown towards members of a lower social class in essence making them social pariahs, as well as showing the deep rooted suspicion and contempt that were shown towards outsiders. The novel has a frame narrative which includes various narrators. The incorporation of so many narrative voices especially those of outsiders like Nelly and Lockwood shows how Bronte has given the outsider a voice in a society that would have them stifled. Similarly, ?Oranges are not the only fruit? is a first-person narrative that gives the outsider Jeanette a voice, expressing the prejudice and discrimination she receives as an outsider because of her evangelical background. ...read more.

Middle

The recurring theme of outsiders being treated with suspicion is also echoed in Chapter Four with the arrival of Heathcliff as a young boy. Although he is likened to a ?lamb? and ?child of God?, much like Jeanette in ?Oranges? the other children still ?would not play with him?, choosing instead to subject the ?dark boy? to an array of insults including ?Gypsy Brat? and ?darkly ragged black haired child?. He is even likened to something that ?came from the devil? which echoes Blake?s ?dark satanic mills? of the 19th century, a reference to the poor working conditions which led to rising tensions and conflicts between the upper and lower classes. This inhospitable welcome is paralleled in ?Oranges? where because of her Evangelical background Jeanette is made an outcast by the children in her school who subject her to physical abuse ?hitting? her and ?screaming with laughter?, the verb ?screaming? emphasising the brute savagery of their abuse. The degree to which Heathcliff is discriminated against as an outsider is further shown in how Nelly Dean refers to the infant with the dehumanising pronoun ?it? to emphasise how much Heathcliff is unwanted in the house (just like Jeanette is unwanted at the school). ...read more.

Conclusion

Heathcliff is later buried alongside her allowing the kindred souls to ?merge? and dissolve into each other to achieve a unity, which transcends the petty struggles of social class and outsiders, ever present in the world of ?Wuthering Heights?. ?Wuthering Heights? is often seen by critics to allude to ideas of The Fall, evident in the character of Isabella Linton who falls from the enviable position of being an insider, to an outsider. In spite of Cathy?s blunt warning that "He's a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man", Isabella still chooses to elope with Heathcliff under the delusion of him being a Byronic Hero. However in her failure to heed Cathie?s warning she finds herself measured against the standards of her legal overseer and turned into a ?fugitive?. As a woman of the 19th century she would have been heavily dependent on her husband and Heathcliff sees this as an opportunity to literally incarcerate her in a marriage she describes as ?worse than solitude.? In Chapter 13 when she decides to return home, the rift between brother and sister is evident as Edgar refuses to take her back claiming, ?She is only [his] sister in name?, precipitating her departure to the south, where she remains an outsider and outcast until her death. Similarly in ?Oranges? Jeanette?s return to the fold is ultimately problematic and unsatisfactory as nothing seems to have changed. Word count: 1602 ...read more.

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