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WALTER E. ANDERSON The Lyrical Form of Wuthering Heights ... heaven did not seem to be my home; and 1 broke my heart with weeping to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they filing me out, into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where 1woke sobbing for joy. In Wuthering Heights death - or rather, life in death - is the supreme value. By understanding this we can understand that Bronte's central aim is to express the reality of Heathcliff's and Catherine's life and love continuing on the moors, as they attain immortal union with the living earth itself. Properly considered, this fact allows us to explain such unresolved critical questions about the book as the function of the second-generation characters and of Heathcliff's hatred ofboth them and life in this world . Bronte achieves in Wuth erillg Heights a singular power which most of her critics have felt. The crucial issue remains one of integrating all the novel's parts and meanings by a hypothesis adequate to its form and effect as a whole. The fundamental paradox of death against life cannot be resolved by synthetizing such concepts as storm and calm, or the house of the valley and the house of the moors, or the dvilized family and the wild family inhabiting them. Nor fi nally are we to suppose, I shall argue, that the tempest of passion emerging in the course of the story is quelled or the issues resolved by the Hareton-Cathy relationship in a harmonious combination of Earnshaw energy and Linton calm. Bronte works within the conventional constraints of ordinary themes and a quasi-realistic plot structure, but her accomplishment lies in transcending them. She creates a radically new form , through which she endues Catherine's and Heathcliff's existences after death with living force. She shifts the planes of reality to such a degree that ordinary life gradually comes to seem less vital than death. The book induces in us not simply a belief, but the vivid sense that Catherine and Heathcliff's union is fulfilled after death upon the literally living earth. Heathcliff's conviction, when he reopens Catherine's grave, that she is not there, 'not under me, but on the earth,' parallels the reader's final impression that these lovers do not rest quietly in the grave but walk together as spirits on the Heights. UTQ. VOLUME XLVII , NUMBER 2 , WINTER 1977/8 0042.0247178/0200-0112 $01.50/0 © University of Toronto Press W!lthering Heights 11} Catherine and Heathcliff's love is from the beginning a donnee. The formal sufficiency of the story is determined, therefore, not by a representation of the gradual emergence of their love, but by the need to define its transcendent nature and express its peculiar power. In W!lthering Heights we have, in place of a logical structure and a realistic plot, a symbolic action progressing towards 'lyric' revelation 1 and shaped according to a probability and necessity with other-worldly implications. Change and fluctuation in this action are subsumed finally under the realization of a timeless, static world, as constant as Catherine and Heathcliff's love and as enduring as the moors. Bronte invites us to release her principal subject from ordinary limits and values and to focus on a transcendental vision . The book belongs to Catherine and Heathcliff, but they do not belong to this world. They draw away from all earthly hopes, yielding completely to another expectation . By concentrating on their love for each other, by causing them to deny a lasting affection with any other person, Bronte sufficiently expresses a love and a life which even death cannot sunder or alter. As she lies dying, Catherine says to Heathcliff: 'Will you forget me - will you be happy, when I am in the earth? Will you say twenty years hence, "That's the grave of Catherine Earnshaw. I loved herlong ago, and was wretched to lose her; but it is past. I've loved many others since - my children are dearer to me than she was, and, at death, I shall not rejoice that I am going to her...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1712-5278
Print ISSN
0042-0247
Pages
pp. 112-134
Launched on MUSE
2014-07-02
Open Access
No
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