Date of publication: 2017-08-22 16:26
Few people know this better than Debra Pickman, who allegedly experienced a haunting firsthand. In the final moments of an interview about her experience, she expressed as well as anyone ever has the ignorance and insignificance we mere mortals feel in the face of a ghostly encounter:
The haunting of Wuthering Heights by this unnatural pair and the haunting of the pair by the Heights itself generates the tension of the book:
Each of the plundered-nest images in Wuthering Heights , then, relates to a sad loss of childish innocence and harmless joy: Hindley and Nelly's little nest of treasures in the guidepost appears to be despoiled by the foul-mouthed, expletive-spewing Hareton, and Cathy II and Linton's discovery of a cupboard full of treasures that had belonged to their parents in childhood ("a heap of old toys: tops, and hoops, and battledores and shuttlecocks") does nothing but spark a disagreement between the cousins over who shall have the best of the spoils. (Brontë, 699)
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When Frances dies after giving birth to a baby boy named Hareton, Hindley descends into the depths of alcoholism, and behaves even more cruelly and abusively toward Heathcliff. Eventually, Catherine&rsquo s desire for social advancement prompts her to become engaged to Edgar Linton, despite her overpowering love for Heathcliff. Heathcliff runs away from Wuthering Heights, staying away for three years, and returning shortly after Catherine and Edgar&rsquo s marriage.
Emily Brontë knew this. Two of the few facts we know about this very private individual are that she adored ghost stories and that her father shared with her the ghost stories he had learned from his father, a great storyteller from a culture that to this day cultivates storytelling as an art form.
However, in the second generation, we begin to see the names blend as various roles from the first generation have become crystallized: Cathy's daughter does in fact end up with this blended name, but in reverse: Catherine Linton Heathcliff Earnshaw. And witness poor Linton Heathcliff, who is forced to carry his unlucky family tree around with him as a mode of address. With such a rigid expression of hatred and misfortune forming his name, he has no room to develop any life of his own. It is hardly surprising that the pitiful creature expires the minute his puppet master of a father is done with him.
The reader who has read more than a book or two by Dickens instantly knows two things: first, that the author is terribly fond of this character, who will be good and true and will fully repay the author's high opinion and second, that poor Tom Pinch will either suffer through a patient and inspiring death or else sacrifice his greatest happiness for his friends he certainly will not get the girl. This inside information gives the reader a certain amount of confidence to tackle the next fifty chapters of Martin Chuzzlewit.
One of the most disturbing bits of information related during Cathy's delirium has to do with another nest Heathcliff has plundered, or at least destroyed, and she relates it while she herself is "plundering a nest" plucking the feathers out of her pillow:
For those who wish to learn more about the background of The House of Dead Maids , I have written a number of web pages dealing with my research into the Brontë family and Wuthering Heights. You may reach all of those pages by clicking on this link.
Ordinarily, a name helps to establish a character's individuality. But in Wuthering Heights , the names possess the characters, and not the other way around. For one thing, as many critics have observed, ".there don't seem to be enough names to go around.." (Lucasta Miller, p. 767) Hareton must share his name with the legendary founder of Wuthering Heights, whose name is inscribed over the door. And Cathy must share her name with her own daughter, who is doomed to live again the experience of a woman caught against her will between rival lovers the role that so distressed her mother.
It is worth noting that an unusual source may have inspired Emily Brontë in her creation of Wuthering Heights. Scholars suspect that Patrick Brontë passed down to his children the stories he had learned from his grandfather, a storyteller of considerable local renown whose first language was probably Irish. ( Irish , 98) Among those stories would likely have been the legends of the Táin Bó, the stories of Queen Maeve and the hero Cuchullain:
Wuthering Heights does not belong to any obvious prose genre, nor did it begin an important literary lineage. None of its imitations can approach its sincerity and poetic power. However, it has still been an important influence on English literature. With the passing of time, an immense amount of interest has grown up about the Brontë sisters, Charlotte, Emily, and Anne, and they have achieved the status of the centers of a literary cult.
In the company of such steady narrators, we find ourselves ready to believe anything, not so much because we think Lockwood or Nelly Dean too good to tell a lie, but because both of them appear to lack the imagination. In fact, our narrators don't seem to have the wit to understand just how extraordinary their tale is. And that is where we begin to part company with them.