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Compare the Presentation of the Characters of Rochesterin "Jane Eyre" and Heathcliff in "WutheringHeights".

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Introduction

Compare the Presentation of the Characters of Rochester in "Jane Eyre" and Heathcliff in "Wuthering Heights" In the Gothic romances written by the Bront� sisters, there are two fascinating characters with many facets to their personalities. The depiction of Rochester has been done using an autobiographical approach by Charlotte Bront� in "Jane Eyre" and Emily Bront� used dual narration to portray Heathcliff's complexity in "Wuthering Heights". In this essay I am going to investigate the similarities and differences between the characters of Rochester and Heathcliff and how these two Byronic heroes are portrayed by the sisters using language and literary devices. The Byronic hero is a character that has evolved from Lord Byron's writing which influenced the Bront� sisters' work. He appealed to many young girls of that era and his character exhibits moodiness and passion and "emotional and intellectual capacities superior to the average man". The Byronic hero is always the protagonist and he is often a figure of repulsion, as well as fascination due to his rejection of society's moral codes and is deemed to be unrepentant. His superior traits cause him to become arrogant, confident and abnormally sensitive. He is also usually isolated from society, and in these two cases, it is self imposed. "Wuthering Heights" is a classic novel, in which two childhood lovers (Catherine and Heathcliff) leave their love unexplored by deliberately marrying different partners. The heroine dies halfway through the novel, leaving a new generation of characters to be subjected to the cruelty and mindless passion the Byronic hero exhibits, as he carefully lays down his calculated revenge plan. Circumstances may have caused Heathcliff's development into a "savage beast" as he was an orphan found in the streets of Liverpool and subjected to severe degradation by Hindley, humiliation at the hands of Edgar Linton, and betrayal by Catherine. "Jane Eyre" is a skilful manipulation of the first person narrative concerning an orphan who is oppressed by her relations after the death of her parents. ...read more.

Middle

She is not treated as a wife should be, and she is being used as a tool to get his revenge on Edgar. By hurting her, he hurts Edgar. He is extremely cruel and twisted because although he abhors Isabella, "the nuisance of her presence outweighs the gratification to be derived from tormenting her!" he taunts her mercilessly and enjoys her discomfort, "picturing in me a hero of romance... at last, I think she begins to know me...It was a marvellous effort of perspicacity to discover that I did not love her". This is a despicable act of malevolence, and he is extremely malicious to break the heart of his enemy's sister as she is guiltless of any crime. Emily Bronte, in a sense tests us as Heathcliff tests Isabella. No matter what he does to her, she has a "fabulous notion" of his character, just as we do and we continue to read the novel, waiting for Heathcliff to redeem himself. Critic Joyce Carol Oates argues that "Emily Bronte does the same thing to the reader that Heathcliff does to Isabella, testing to see how many times the reader can be shocked by Heathcliff's gratuitous violence and still, masochistically, insist on seeing him as a romantic hero." He has ruined the marriage insofar, that she dreads to be in the same room as him, "I did not relish the notion of deliberately fastening myself in with Heathcliff." And the terror he evokes in her is beyond comprehension. It makes her "think the concentrated essence of all the madness in the world took up its abode in my brain the day I linked my fate with theirs!" Byronic heroes are known for being arrogant, and Heathcliff and Mr Rochester are no different. Heathcliff believes himself to be above Edgar Linton in every respect, including the favour of Catherine's affections, ""You suppose she has nearly forgotten me?" ...read more.

Conclusion

There are gothic and supernatural influences in Jane Eyre too, as he refers to Jane as his "fairy" and he feels "as if I had a string...under my left ribs, tightly and inextricably knotted to a similar string...of your little frame" This has religious overtones due to Eve being created from Adam's left rib. They also share a telepathic connection, because when the time is right, God answers both their prayers, "I heard a voice from somewhere cry - Jane! Jane! Jane! ...And it was the voice of...Edward Fairfax Rochester." This type of love shows that Jane and Rochester are "kindred spirits." In conclusion, the protagonists in both Charlotte and Emily's novels share similarities arising from similar influences on the authors as they are sisters and subjected to the same upbringing and literary influences of Byron, Keats, Shelley and Coleridge. They also have many differences due to their individual thoughts, perceptions and imaginations. Heathcliff and Rochester conform to Thomas Baubington Macaulay's view of a Byronic hero to varying degrees - Heathcliff more than Rochester. They have a dark and mysterious past and share a physical appearance similar to the attractive Lord Byron. They are normally brooding, melancholic and aggressive characters hiding a secret, sinful life. They are capable of a deep and passionate love, using extravagant and romantic language to express it. They invoke the presence of the supernatural through the assertion that their love transcends life into eternity. Byronic heroes fail to give marriage its Christian sanctity. They are capable of cruelty to themselves and others. Rochester possesses conventional traits as well as elements of the Byronic hero, because he is repentant, unattractive, and is redeemed at the end. He becomes less Byronic as the novel unfolds. Heathcliff embodies all that characterises a Byronic hero to a severe degree, as his past is never revealed, he is always brooding about his revenge on Hindley, aggressive even to females, inhumanly devoted to Catherine, and he invokes the presence of her ghost, and is willing to marry for the sake of invoking Catherine's jealousy. Aisha Hussain Page 1 08/05/2007 ...read more.

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