In the 1800s social class meant everything com (1) Paper

Published: 2021-09-10 10:10:09
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“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bront? and “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Bronte are two novels from the Victorian period, both written in 1847. Being woman in Victorian England in the 1800s, social class meant everything. The distance between the rich and the poor, or even just between those in the Church and an innocent child was immense. With a busy clergyman father and a mother who died at an early age the Bronte children created their own fantasy worlds to keep them occupied. Charlotte and their younger brother Patrick created the fantasy world of Angria. Zamorna was the character created to rule it with strength and will. He also easily conquered women. Even though they knew what he was doing was wrong, their attraction to his body was too great. This can be seen in the character of Mr Rochester in her novel “Jane Eyre”. He is a Byronic hero with rugged good looks with mannerisms akin to that of the poet Lord Byron from the same time period. He; like Zamorna; wanted to conquer Jane which would be easy for a man of his high stature to do in that time period with him already employing her as his governor. However, Charlotte shows her idealistic views of society by not letting Emily submit to him on his terms. On the other hand, Emily and one of the other sisters, Anne, felt left out from their elder sibling’s world so they created their own – Gondal. The hero of her country, Amanda, was still put in jail on account of being a female. This clearly expresses how Emily believed in the power that a woman could have yet society of the time would still incarcerate them. This is reflected in the character of Catherine in “Wuthering Heights”. The differences in social class impact on how romance is shown in their novels as high-class citizens could only be with other high-class citizens and usually only interactions between similar classes would be seen in Victorian society. But as people who went to Belgium and experienced a different kind of society, when coupled with their aspirations to be more than the women they were, we can see a diverse range of relationships in the two novels from romantic to tyrannical.
The Bront?’s use social class in a number of different ways to present relationships, which is one of the aspects of both novels that make them some compelling and intriguing to the reader. Dreams and fantasies give humans a means of escape from everyday reality, and the romantic elements in the novels show this evidently. Romance is shown as something more supernatural way in the novels. The Bront?’s have been inspired by gothic writing; and this is evident in their novels with the use of the supernatural. It brings about a sense of detachment from real love, especially in the binding of two opposite social classes across both novels. It instead appears like something of an unhealthy desire than a need in the case of Heathcliff, the ”dark-skinned Gypsy” and Catherine. We can see this upon her death when it says:
“May she wake in torment! … Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living. […] Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!” It is almost comical that here it is the man begging for the woman because in those times, despite a huge gap in social class, usually men would have the power due to the fact that it was a patriarchal society. It was socially dictated that men could have power over women. Because of this Emily, who had her own experiences tied in with gender inequality; wanted to reflect upon this with the reversal of roles here. The exclamative used with “torment” is almost a commanding tone of Heathcliff, yet it almost evokes feelings of pity from the reader. At this point we are aware of his rejection as a result of being a “gypsy” so the pain in his voice as he attempts to pay for his misdeeds is evident. This outcry of pure passion screams a sinister type of love. Heathcliff and Catherine began not just as opposites but almost like two sides of the same coin. Heathcliff the “gypsy”, was taken in by Catherine’s family and the two grew up together akin to how Emily and her siblings would have so the pain from his words can be felt even more by the reader. We see this from where it says “Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad.” The rift between them that grew from when Catherine gets educated; due to belonging to a higher social class; sadly giving up her wilder behaviour and becoming a proper lady is also felt from his almost unearthly desire to have her be with him “always”. The use of always shows the perpetual state that is only possible with the supernatural.
Although Heathcliff later attains a suitable class, he can never truly fit in and so he and Catherine can’t be together, at least not in this life. But Catherine also can’t stop thinking about him, showing her true desire for romance despite barriers brought about by social class, when she says ”Nelly, I am Heathcliff–He’s always, always in my mind–not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself”. The use of always here again shows the persistent thoughts of Heathcliff that plague Catherine’s mind and the use of pleasure here can highlight the intense satisfaction that he gives to her that she is unable to give even to herself. We can see the supernatural in play here as Catherine is almost in agony to be without Heathcliff just as he is in agony to be without her. Emily here has written a novel showing relationships that could never have existed in the time through her optimism, this leads some critics to believe that it is too idealistic which led many Victorian critics to initially dismiss the book. But for a modern audience it can be said that Wuthering Heights is “The work of immature genius” as Melvin R Watson says as we can see the little girl showing the issues with social class of the time yet at the same time not finding a realistic solution to the issue but instead showing this unrealism with the use of gothic themes such as eternality in the next life. However we must remember that the novel is not intended to be solely love story but a complex story as Martin Kettle says that it “is a much more complex, contradictory and unreconciled relationship than could be described as a love story. [..] Only death resolves it.” Evidence of this can be seen with how Heathcliff attempts to hurt Edgar’s pride by marrying his sister Isabella. This is possible as he now has a similar class to Edgar and due to their hate filled past wants to get revenge. His relationship with Isabella is still one of pure emotion but only for revenge. Isabella becomes aware of this and wishes to stop it as seen when she says, “Whatever he may pretend, he wishes to provoke Edgar to desperation: he says he has married me on purpose to obtain power over him; and he shan’t obtain it—I’ll die first!” Once more the gothic theme of death seems to be the only solution to all their problems and is Emily’s way of showing a mutual connection between all people regardless of social class.
We can also see this ‘supernatural love’ within Jane Eyre and her relationship with Mr Rochester as a reflection of Charlotte’s own experiences of illusive love for her teacher from Brussels, Constantin Heger. However, despite the main couple of the novel being Jane and Mr Rochester, we can see it more in the relationship between Mr Rochester and his now deceased former wife Bertha. There is no real love here and we can see how cold he is when it says “He was proud, sardonic, harsh to inferiority of every description” as Mr Rochester merely married her when bribed with money. Rochester can be seen as cold and calculated which some critics such as William Tickner agree with saying that “the character of Rochester is the character of a mechanical monster” and this is shown by Rochester himself when he says “I am little better than a devil at this moment […] I have been married, and the woman to whom I was married lives!” We can see the pressure placed upon him by social class that mean that even a woman beneath him; Jane; would leave to honour the rules of society to the point that he even calls himself a “devil”. In Victorian times a “devil” was hugely terrifying and for such a superstitious society readers could see just how horrible the crime of bigamy was. His high status cannot save him. Despite this, truly like a devil it seems like he is almost revelling in his deed as he calmly proclaims “Gentlemen, my plan is broken up”. Bertha is not only a literal obstacle to Jane’s happiness, but she is also a symbolic one. As Jane’s “other” self, she must be destroyed before Jane can be happy. Her death represents Jane’s release of the emotions which she has kept hidden inside for so long. The woman he initially married is “mad; and she came of a mad family” but he had only “found out after I had wed the daughter, for they were silent on family secrets before.”. The connotations of secrets create a more sinister atmosphere that further explores the madness as long standing. Jane herself is plain looking while Bertha is akin to her opposite in being not inhumane of them all, simply “it”. In a supernatural sense plain looking would be associated more with purity whilst; with dark skinned people being thought to be devils; Bertha would be her evil other self as she is described as „a woman tall and large, with thick and dark hair hanging long down her back„. Charlotte is also linking social class to this as Jane form a lower social class is deemed ‘purer’ and although Bertha is from a higher one the ‘darkness’ within causes a descent. In the end both women’s relationship with Heathcliff ends in ruin in one way or another, but the ‘purer’ Jane prevails as she “married him”. However, I believe despite her madness she does do some evil, mostly due to following only physically dark but also in reference to her mind with many descriptions such as “clothed hyena”, a “figure”, “some strange wild animal”, a “goblin”, a “vampire”, a “demon”, or the most her parents as she “like a dutiful child, copied her parent.” Samantha Ellis agrees saying how “Charlotte Bront? does give her a classic villainess’s evil laugh”. Jane hears it echoing around Thornfield Hall in the dead of night, “demoniac” and “strange”. On the other hand, Ellis’ also says that she is “an avenging fury. And she knows she can’t rely on anyone else”. Her relationships with the other male characters are that she is still treated as the “it”. Whilst men would still be superior to females in Victorian society; the “it” is even more degrading. Across both novels no characters regardless of class or gender are treated as badly as Bertha. She as a result commit acts of violence like setting fire to Mr Rochester’s bed as “She sucked the blood: she said she’d drain my heart,” She’s certainly villainised however it is due to the negative relationships formed around her due to her inferiority to them. Her brother visits, and though he does stop her husband marrying someone else, he barely raises an objection to her imprisonment. She is just as much a victim here as Jane and Charlotte has done this to show although they may be opposites, they share similarities for their treatment due to being of low class and female. This is backed up by the critic Sandra Gilbart who said that “Bertha breaks all the conventions women were supposed to conform to” It also shows how in such an oppressive society, not all rules are bad such as ones against bigamy. Charlotte has done this to show how for love or the lack of it people are willing to go against society whether it is right or wrong. The supernatural elements are ways of expressing her thoughts to grip readers. Emily uses the supernatural in order to show the inseparable nature of her characters meanwhile Charlotte uses it t show the longing they have instead. But both use it in order to show a greater sense of strong emotion brought about by characters. Terry Eagleton agrees as he says how it highlights the tension between “passionate rebellion and cautious conformity”.
Although both Bront? sisters use social class to justify being in a relationships, they also use it to further make engaging texts by having them prevent the existence


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