Heaven, Hell and the Duality of Catherine Earnshaw

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Elsbeth Loughrey        

Writing 125

March 8, 2002

Heaven, Hell and the Duality of Catherine Earnshaw

        In her novel Wuthering Heights, author Emily Brontë attempts to express to the reader her views regarding happiness, personal satisfaction, and the attainment of each of these conditions.  Through the use of certain literary techniques, Brontë makes clear her view that one creates and defines his or her own heaven or hell and must accept this identification, rather than conform to society’s or others’ standards of happiness.  She establishes and expresses these opinions through the use of heaven and hell imagery and the manner in which each of these states relates to the main female character in the work, Catherine Earnshaw.  More specifically, each of the main settings is assigned a heavenly or hellish identity according to more conventional criterion, identities that are later reinterpreted by Catherine while engaging in a struggle to find or create her own happiness.

        The first location to which the reader is introduced is Wuthering Heights, home of the Earnshaw family.  The estate a place continuously described using terms that emphasize and establish its hellish and chaotic nature.  The images constructed include obvious allusions to hell and the devil, as well as more subtle descriptions involving fire, heat, darkness, and violent weather.  The narrator, William Lockwood, gives the first descriptions of Wuthering Heights, which include observations of “grotesque carvings” lavished upon the threshold and a huge fireplace that “reflects splendidly both light and heat,” is home to an “immense fire,” and above which are “villanous old guns” (2, 8, 3).  In later portrayals, the Earnshaw estate is further established as a miserable and confining hell for its inhabitants.  Nelly Dean, a servant at the heights, reports “what an infernal house we had…nobody decent came near us” (65).  In concordance with its tumultuous nature, the Heights are also subject to frequent bouts of destructive and brutal weather, as is described in a later scene:

        The storm came rattling over the heights in full fury.  There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building; a huge bough fell across the roof, and knocked down a portion of the east chimney-stack, sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen fire.  We thought a bolt had fallen in the middle of us, and Joseph swung onto his knees, beseeching the Lord to...spare the righteous, though he smote the ungodly.  I felt some sentiment that it must be a judgment on us also. (84)

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These descriptions and occurrences enforce a traditional definition of the horrid and hellish nature of the Heights.

        In contrast to Wuthering Heights, the Linton estate, Thrushcross Grange, is likened to heaven through the use of soft, light imagery.  The initial description establishes this identity, and one of the characters depicts the Grange as:

A splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson-covered chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold, a shower of glass-drops hanging in silver chains from the centre, and shimmering with little soft tapers (46).


Heathcliff, the source of these images, even ...

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