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"Wuthering Heights" Character Classification

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Introduction

"Wuthering Heights" Character Classification From the outset, Bronte contemplates the view that the characters within "Wuthering Heights" are beyond classification. In Bronte's intricate prologue to the novel, Lockwood tries to decipher the relationships and personalities to no avail, 'Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living.' As a symbol of civilisation and normality in the novel, Lockwood immediately attempts to judge the characters, to put them into an order, to organise them. His failings to do so set out one of the most significant messages that "Wuthering Heights" purports. The phrase used by Nelly in her introduction to the story directs this significance simply: 'You'll judge as well as I can, all these things; at least you'll think you will, and that's the same.' Lockwood's own admission, 'I bestow my own attributes over-liberally on him' is used in the same regard. Bronte is asking the reader not to judge. Similarly, through Isabella's false perception and [1]'bookish expectation' of Heathcliff as a 'a hero of romance ...expecting unlimited indulgence', the reader is warned by Bronte not to judge. As Melvin Watson pointedly remarks, [2]'few have tried to make an unprejudiced attempt to understand what Emily Bronte strove for.' ...read more.

Middle

During the novel, the reader is frequently led to categorise characters in many ways. Yet, throughout the novel there are numerous shifts. The characters, their opinions and situations often change. [3]'Far from stagnating, time (within Wuthering Heights) is fluid.' Constant alterations in the plot, the characters and their outlook on life make judgement impossible. However, there are many implications of character divides in the novel. The stated differences between knowledge and the possession of books in contrast to ignorance, the emphasis on class divides, the obvious difference between characters who are passionate, and those who are more calm and reserved and the implications of background and upbringing all come into consideration. The symbolism of books representing knowledge is used frequently throughout the novel. The possession of books is associated with privilege but also with power. This becomes more apparent with the younger Catherine's use of books, in the second part of the novel. Heathcliff and the elder Catherine seem to despise reading in childhood, "I took my dingy volume by the scroop, and hurled it into the dog- kennel, vowing I hated a good book. Heathcliff kicked his to the same place." ...read more.

Conclusion

Catherine, although exhibiting an obvious connection with nature and an elemental passion, also demonstrates calm and sympathetic qualities in her relationship with Linton. These differences suggest the significance put upon the influence of upbringing in the novel. The most obvious example of this is seen in Heathcliff. The elemental environment of Wuthering Heights and his treatment as an outsider connotes his attributes of elemental passion and his [5]'hardened', 'toughened' 'embittered' and 'disillusioned' characteristics. As Melvin Watson states, Heathcliff is [6]'neither an Iago for whom evil is a divinity nor a Macbeth who consciously chooses evil... rather a Hamlet without Hamlet's fatal resolution ...evil thrust upon him if he is to survive among harsh surroundings' The phrase used by Heathcliff to describe the differences between Linton and Hareton epitomises the unrealisable task of grouping the people in "Wuthering Heights". If the reader is to accept the novel's underlying theme of characters being shaped in response to their environment, it becomes an impossible task to clearly define each person. "But there's this difference: one is gold put to the use of paving-stones, and the other is tin polished to ape a service of silver." The characters, therefore, defy convention. Their defining characteristics are shaped not only by their enduring affections but by the way they have been treated. ...read more.

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