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Modern Language Association

Wuthering Heights and the Limits of Vision

Author(s): David Sonstroem
Source: PMLA, Vol. 86, No. 1 (Jan., 1971), pp. 51-62
Published by: Modern Language Association
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/461001
Accessed: 22/02/2010 03:36

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WutheringHeightsand the Limits of Vision

UTHERING HEIGHTS tends to be read introduction is the best communal example: Mrs.
W for its purple passions1-read as though Earnshaw "was ready to fling it out of doors";
those passions and the rationale behind Catherine and Hindley "entirely refused to have
them were being endorsed by Emily Bronte.2But it in bed with them, or even in their room"; and
such a reading does not do the novel full justice. Nelly "put it on the landing of the stairs, hoping
It does not treat an important element in the actual it might be gone on the morrow" (p. 39).
page-by-page experience of reading, namely, the All the characters demonstrate such denial.
uneasiness or confusion of the reader: his vacil- Nelly Dean's characteristic "Hush" and "Wisht"
lating allegiances, his sense of being afloat on a show how basic denial is to her outlook.4 Her
troubled conceptual and ethical sea. Much of the utterances are filled with such expressions as
reader's confusion is due to the pervasive and ob- "nothing," "nonsense," "worthless trash," and
vious shortsightedness of all the characters, in- "I won't hear it!" And Edgar is another denier.
cluding Heathcliff and Catherine. The somewhat Like Nelly, he calls Heathcliff "worthless"(p. 102).
Lawrencian outlook that the two leading figures He tries unsuccessfullyto ban him from the Grange
harbor at the base of their natures but only partly and then from the mind of his wife. Later he tries
understand simply does not take the whole world unsuccessfully to withhold all knowledge of
of WutheringHeights into comprehensive account. Wuthering Heights from his daughter. He tries,
In fact their shortsightedness is very similar in moreover, to wish away not only Heathcliff but
kind to that of everyone else. I wish to argue that his own sister: "Trouble me no more about her"
WutheringHeights presents the spectacle of several (p. 113); "I have nothing to forgive her, Ellen. ...
limited and inadequate points of view-genteel, My communication with Heathcliff's family shall
Christian, pragmatic, animistic-at indecisive war be as sparing as his with mine. It shall not exist!"
with one another. Far from wholeheartedly en- (p. 123).
dorsing an order, Emily Bronti depicts conceptual Less important characters also engage in disre-
wuthering. She addresses herself less to vision than gard, giving the reader the sense that "It shall not
to blindness: to man's refusal to overlook his exist!" is the sentiment of all. Old Mr. Earnshaw
prejudices, and his inability to discern what lies remarks, "Hindley was naught, and would never
beyond his limitations. thrive as where he wandered" (p. 42). When
The general failure to understand one another Hindley sets out upon a reckless, dissipated life
is frequently and simply revealed by means of after his wife's death, "The curate dropped calling,
what might be called the "nowt"-device of per- and nobody decent came near us" (p. 61). Hindley
ceptual censorship. Joseph is ever calling everyone himself tries to keep Hareton out of his sight, as
else a "nowt,"3 a nothing, denying everyone a he had the young Heathcliff. Isabella "would that
place (except in hell) in his scheme of things: "Bud [Heathcliff] could be blotted out of creation, and
yah're a nowt, ... like yer mother afore ye!" out of my memory" (p. 143). When Cathy Linton
(p. 22); "marred, wearisome nowt" (p. 122); pleads for help for her dying husband, Zillah feels
"gooid fur nowt, slattenly witch" (p. 78); "nasty, that "it was no concern of mine" (p. 232). On a
ill nowt" (p. 251). Joseph's "nowt" is only the happier note, the course of Cathy Linton's second
most humorous and inconsequential outcropping romance depends upon her overcoming her ten-
of disregard, for others are just as adept as he at dency to disregard Hareton: "I never missed such
wishing away. The many lockings-out are a general a concern as you" (p. 235). "What a blank dreary
expression of the cognitive deletion, and the Earn- mind he must have!" (p. 245). And Hareton must
shaw family's reaction to Heathcliff upon his first recognize his own extra-animal feelings of love as
52 WutheringHeights and the Limitsof Vision
something other than "naught, naught" (p. 239). dwelling ... where none of his mundane methods
Taken individually, such passages often indicate of perception will apply."5 Brick goes on to re-
nothing more than antipathy or disagreement. But mark that "Lockwood's inability to make out the
the fact that the same mode for expressingdisagree- inside of Wuthering Heights is matched by his
ment is employed so frequently by so many char- puzzled scrutiny of its exterior, where the land-
acters suggests a further significance-suggests, in marks and dangerous pitfalls have been concealed
fact, a partial explanation for the many antipathies. by snow." This image of a man floundering in a
How one feels is related to how one sees. The world of obliterated landmarks has its application
pervasiveness of the "nowt"-device reveals that well beyond Lockwood.
the principal disagreements in the novel are not For example, Cathy Linton also receives a con-
what might be termed honest ones, which come ceptual shock at Wuthering Heights (pp. 159-60).
about after a full examination and appreciation of Her newfound friend Hareton does not fit her
another's position. They are revealed to be rather familiar categories of master's son or master's
the result of a general impulse to ignore someone servant.6And she refuses to accept the boor as her
or something disagreeable by averting one's eyes. "cousin," that term being reserved for the "gentle-
In this way WutheringHeights presents the con- man's son," Linton. She is further upset by Hare-
cept of limited vision as a part of its complex of ton's calling her a "damned... saucy witch"
concerns. instead of "Miss" or "angel." Her adventuremight
But the "nowt"-device is just one motif or struc- be said to be semantic as well as social, and her
tural principle by which the shortsightedness of little, shelteredworld more injuredby it than were
the characters is established. The limitations of her pampered dogs. And Isabella, too, has trouble
vision are not all so negative, so culpable, for often adjusting her world to the Heights-trouble indi-
a character is unable to understand and appre- cated through her inability to comprehend the
ciate, even when he earnestly desires to do so. The organization of rooms:
broadest indications of perceptual shortcomings "Haveyou no placeyou call a parlour?"
are the many betrayed expectations. Wuthering "Parlour!"[Joseph]echoed, sneeringly,"parlour!
Heights is a book of best-laid plans gone awry: Nay, we've noa parlours."
Mr. Earnshaw's hopes at introducing Heathcliff
to his family; Catherine Earnshaw's hopes for her And again:
marriage with Edgar; Edgar's expectations that "Why,man!"I exclaimed,facinghim angrily,"this
he can shield his daughter from the outside world, is not a place to sleep in. I wish to see my bed-room."
"Bed-rume!"he repeated, in a tone of mockery.
and, later, that he can bring her happiness by en-
"Yah's see all t' bed-rumesthearis." (pp. 120-21)
couraging a marriage between her and Linton;
Nelly's silly wish that Lockwood will marry Cathy She wanders helplessly through the house, her
Linton; Heathcliff's "violent exertions" for re- conventional expectations failing utterly to guide
venge that come to an "absurd termination." The her. (With her plight here, compare Heathcliff
novel is full of "absurdterminations." at the Grange: "He did not hit the right room
Allan R. Brick has pointed out how Lockwood's directly,"p. 132.)
preconceptions, based on his genteel, bookish In a larger sense, Christianity serves as a motif
background and conventionally romantic cast, are employed to expose the conceptual inadequacies
serially betrayed when he tries to use them to of a whole community. The parson will not come
make sense of the actual state of affairs at Wuther- till morning, and the curate, not at all; Gimmer-
ing Heights. Lockwood discovers an "amiable ton Chapel is in a more advanced decay than the
hostess" who does not respond to small talk, a peat-embalmed bodies beneath it; God prevents
nest of cats that is really a heap of dead rabbits: no atrocities, punishes no sinners. Fanatic Joseph,
"Intrepidly, Lockwood rattles off one misinter- whose greatest function seems to be personifying
pretation after another about the identity of the the total irrelevance and unimportance of fire-
people in Wuthering Heights and their (he pre- breathing evangelicalism to the workings of the
sumes) normal relations with each other.... world of WutheringHeights, is loudly impotent.
Finally he comes to a dim awareness, if not an When Nelly Dean sermonizes to Heathcliff, just
admission, that he has stepped into a land and a before his death, upon his unchristian life, his
David Sonstroem 53
unfamiliarity with the Bible, and his need for her Heathcliff phase does she call this time "bitter
"some minister of any denomination" (pp. 262- misery" (p. 87). But as soon as Heathcliff returns,
63), we feel that, despite her bland ecumenicity, she it is Edgar who disappears before her eyes, or who
is being impertinent, in all senses of the word. As unaccountably and annoyingly will not disappear.
an operative force, Christianity is at best invisible Earlier she had seen herself joined to Heathcliff
to mortal eye, and as theory, transformed into while "every Linton on the face of the earth might
ranting or canting by its professors. It serves in melt into nothing" (p. 73). In her delirious fit, "the
the novel as the most conspicuous example of a whole last seven years of my life"-the years since
schema that fails to do justice to things as they are. meeting Edgar-"grew a blank! I did not recall
Although the pagan Heathcliff and his Catherine that they had been at all" (p. 107). And Edgar,
gain a certain sympathy from the reader because standing before her, "was invisible to her ab-
of the incomprehension and exclusion directed stracted gaze" (p. 109). Divided against herself,
against them by the other characters, they are as Catherine characteristically denies or disregards
blind to aspects of the actual as are the others. For one aspect of herself.8 In spite of her desires for
example, they employ the "nowt"-device like harmony, she is no more reconciled with herself
everyone else. To Heathcliff, Edgar is "the cipher than Heathcliff is united with Edgar. If her clinging
at the Grange" (pp. 169-70). He discounts Edgar's to Heathcliffjust before her death indicates a reso-
very real love for Catherine ("he couldn't love as lute decision, there is not much triumph in it, be-
much in eighty years as I could in a day"); and cause it involves an exclusive choice rather than
her love for Edgar ("He is scarcely a degree dearer the comprehensive union that she sought through-
to her than her dog, or her horse," p. 126).7 His out life.
own son is a "pitiful, shuffling, worthless thing" Furthermore, the Heathcliff that she chooses is
(p. 191). "His life is not worth a farthing" (pp. not even Heathcliff as he is: "Oh, you see, Nelly!
231-32). "Let me never hear a word more about he would not relent a moment, to keep me out of
him!" (p. 232). Of Cathy Linton-a "worthless the grave! That is how I am loved! Well, never
bitch" (p. 34)-he declares, "I earnestly wish she mind! That is not my Heathcliff. I shall love mine
were invisible." And he remarks, of Hareton and yet; and take him with me-he's in my soul"
her, "if I could do it without seeming insane, I'd (p. 134). Her Heathcliff is purged of ugly traits,
never see him again! ... I can give them no atten- such as cruelty, relentlessness, and contrariety,
tion any more" (p. 255). His exclusive proclivities that are indelibly a part of the actual Heathcliff's
also show themselves in his destruction of books: nature, as well as her own.9
As a child, with Catherine, he destroys Joseph's Heathcliff and Catherine are also like the other
oppressive tomes; as an adult, he destroys Cathy characters in that their shortsightedness does not
Linton's little library. always take the form of cognitive exclusion. For
Like Heathcliff, Catherine Earnshaw is exclu- example, in the scene in which Lockwood mis-
sive, but in an entirely involuntary and more construes everything in sight, Heathcliff also has
painful way. When she declares her bond with his genuine conceptual difficulties. There is some
Heathcliff we believe her: "If all else perished, malicious joy in Heathcliff's forbidding Lockwood
and he remained, I should still continue to be; and to spend the night in the sitting room, but there is
if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the also ignorance of the ways of civilized men, like
Universe would turn to a mighty stranger" (p. 74). Lockwood, against whom one need not be con-
But she does not explore the possibility that stantly on guard. During Lockwood's earlier visit,
Heathcliff and "all else," including Edgar, might Heathcliff means to insult in saying that the dogs
exist simultaneously. Characteristically, in spite "won't meddle with persons who touch nothing"
of her best intentions, she disregards one or the (p. 16); but the remark also shows his ignorance
other. It is very like her, at the Christmas party of such subtler effrontery as Lockwood actually
with the Linton children, to forget Heathcliff and has practiced against the dogs, as well as his in-
his banishment for a time, only to remember and comprehension of men so well-to-do and satisfied
seek him out, now forgetting her guests. After her that unguardedgoods offer no temptation to them.
marriage, as long as Heathcliff stays away, Cath- Heathcliff's view of things, along with Catherine's,
erine can get along tolerably pleasantly; only in is also shown to be inadequate in the scene (pp. 99-
54 Wuthering Heights and the Limits of Vision
100) in which they vie with each other in choosing Catherine's apparition. His repeated failure to
the meanest animal--"lamb," "sucking leveret"- take a child's "other" parent or guardian into
to suggest the cowardly, quivering nature of Lin- account indicates systematically his inability to
ton. But Nelly implies that Edgar's trembling is cope with the present, to take all into account.
due to strong emotions in a weak frame rather
than to cowardice. And Edgar gives the lie to the In these ways Emily Bronte insists upon the
epithets by rising up and striking Heathcliff "a relativity and shortcomings of all her characters'
blow that would have levelled a slighter man." perceptions, including those of Heathcliff and
He momentarily defeats Heathcliff on the latter's Catherine. For all the windows and books in the
own, animal terms, overturning Heathcliff's and novel, no one sees very far or learns very much.
Catherine's expectations of him, and probably our Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights are
own as well.10 appropriately out of sight of one another." Igno-
Heathcliff's greatest confusions are revealed in rance does not lead to untroubled, self-sufficient
his attempts to deal with painful events by repeat- bliss, however. The "nowt"-device is not so suc-
ing or reliving them on more acceptable terms. cessful nor ignorance so complete that anyone in
The present always proves intractable to him, the book can finally close his doors and windows
showing itself more complicated than his compre- to the world and its other inhabitants. But no one
hension of it. Time will not oblige him by doubling can accommodate them either. The characters'
back on itself. He runs away for three years to gain opinions and concepts, which follow from their
the polish needed to make Catherine choose him limited vision, run abrasively afoul of each other.
over Edgar, but when he returns, everything else There is, however, no conceptual development as a
has changed as well as himself. Although he knows result of the conflicts, no sharpening of the better
even before his return that Catherine has married, argument upon the dull stone of the worse. In-
he does not seem able to change tactics or to ad- stead, the crossing of concepts dramatizes a general
just to the new circumstances. After Catherine's perceptual and epistemological incompetence. No
death, he attempts to relive the past (adjusted to one is enlightened, and the reader is not drawn to
his desires) vicariously, through his son. According endorse anyone's views.
to his schema, Linton, his son, is to be Heathcliff- Lockwood's dream of the "Pious Discourse" of
become-Edgar; Hareton, Hindley's son, is to be the Reverend Jabes Branderham,with its multiple
Hindley-become-Heathcliff; Cathy Linton, Cath- recriminations,typifies the largerconceptual strug-
erine Earnshaw's daughter, is to be the new Cath- gles in the novel. Branderham's four-hundred-
erine Earnshaw. But Heathcliff's alter ego Linton ninety categories of sin parody the other charac-
proves to have too much of his mother in him- ters' attempts at ordering events. His tedious,
too much "Linton"-to make identification pos- arbitrary organization gives way abruptly upon
sible. Hareton proves to be too attractive-too the "First of the Seventy-First," as order explodes
reminiscent of Heathcliff's own old self-to make into the violent confusion of mutual accusation.
vicarious animosity possible. And Cathy Linton, (All charges in the novel are met by charges in
like her mother, is too attached to Edgar and his return.) The question that Branderham poses,
values for Heathcliff's satisfaction. Even before namely, the nature of the unforgivable sin, is
Linton dies, then, Heathcliff's hope of replaying finally beyond man's powers to answer satisfac-
his life on his own terms has collapsed. Once torily.12 Neither he nor Lockwood has reason to
again, as when his return to Catherine proves be so emphatically certain of his own conclusions.
fruitless, he is offered only the substitute satis- Yet each grips a limited truth: Lockwood has been
faction of revenge rather than fulfillment. To this frivolous and inattentive; Branderham has been
end, he holds in his power a child of each of his outrageously wearisome. According to his own
enemies on whom to gain his revenge. But the dim lights, each is justified; so each lays on with his
children prove to be replicas-rather faded ones- own measuring stick upon the other's shoulders.
of his boyhood self and of Catherine. In the general The result is a melee of limited, self-righteous
neutralization of impulses, Heathcliff loses interest partisans, as "every man's hand was against his
in his immediate surroundings and welcomes neighbour" (p. 29). Our sympathies are largely
David Sonstroem 55
with Lockwood here-his description of his dis- derstand fully the past of their families. Nor can
tress touches our tactile sense-but we do not they judge rightly or agree on an interpretation of
really settle who (if anybody) is right. their own experiences. After a fracas brought on
Ordinarily the conceptual clashes are merely mutually by Linton's infantile crankiness, Hare-
glancing, verbal ones. Catherine Earnshaw frets ton's crude, short-temperedefforts to please Cathy,
at what she calls Nelly's "apathy," but Nelly takes and Cathy's snobbery, she is "confounded" to
pride in that emotional cast, calling it "stolidity" hear Linton "utter the falsehood that I had oc-
(p. 101). Neither word is really just: Nelly does casioned the uproar, and Hareton was not to
have feelings, but she is too spineless and spiteful blame!" (p. 202).
to be described as stolid. Later, when Nelly refuses Even the very compatible narrators occasion-
to open a window, "because I won't give you your ally manage to dancel each others' platitudes:
death of cold," Catherine contradicts her: "You Lockwood feels that the Gimmerton natives "do
won't give me a chance of life, you mean" (pp. live more in earnest, more in themselves, and less
107-08). In fact both agree on the projected result: in surface change, and frivolous external things."
Catherine would perish. Their real difference is Nelly replies, "Oh! here we are the same as any-
over values: Nelly would preserve life at all costs, where else, when you get to know us" (p. 58). The
whereas Catherine would sacrifice a long life of contrary opinions, neither entirely satisfactory,
confinement for a brief psychic contact with "what neutralize each other.
had been my world." Our sympathies for the suf- A more sustained example of crossed concepts
fering Catherine and the limitations of Nelly's too involves explaining the nature of Heathcliff. He
comfortable remark should not obscure the valid bursts into the world of Wuthering Heights as a
view in that remark. Again, Catherine, going to marvel, a nova, sui generis, unsettling the other
make her peace with Edgar, remarks, "I'm an characters, who try futilely thereafter to fit him
angel!" But Nelly sees only "self-complacent con- into their preexistent categories.13Isabella writes
viction" (p. 87) in her gesture. One is flushed with Nelly, "Is Mr. Heathcliff a man? If so, is he mad?
self-congratulationat the prospect of domestic mar- And if not, is he a devil?" (p. 115). Later she calls
tyrdom; the other is thick-skinned and peevish. him a "monster," but Nelly answers, "Hush,
The reader is also aware that "angel" takes on the hush! He's a human being. Be more charitable;
special aroma of the Linton family throughout the there are worse men than he is yet!" (p. 143). But
events of the book. Both of their verdicts need Isabella retorts, "He's not a human being," and
qualification. Nelly herself has a few later doubts:
Catherine Earnshaw and Nelly are not the only
"Is he a ghoul, or a vampire?"I mused.... And
two who put different constructions upon the then I set myself to reflecthow I had tended him in
same events. The second Catherine and Linton
infancy;... and followed him almost through his
engage in a naive quarrel of half-truths and over- whole course; and what absurd nonsense it was to
simplifications, which reflect the biases of their yield to that sense of horror.
respective fathers: "But wheredid he come from,the little darkthing,
Linton deniedthat people ever hated their wives; but harbouredby a good man to his bane?" (p. 260)
Cathyaffirmedthey did, and in her wisdom,instanced
his own father'saversionto her aunt.... "Papatold Is Heathcliff really only a foreigner: a "gipsy"
me; and papa does not tell falsehoods!". . . (p. 41), "a little Lascar, or an American or Spanish
"My papa scorns yours!" cried Linton. "He calls castaway" (p. 49)? Is he a "prince in disguise"
him a sneakingfool!" (p. 54)? Is he rather low-class: a "vulgar young
"Yoursis a wickedman, ... He mustbe wicked,to ruffian"(p. 62), a "servant"(pp. 51 and 84)? Is he
havemadeAuntIsabellaleavehimas shedid!" a beast of prey in human form: "a fierce, pitiless,
wolfish man" (p. 90)? Or is he an infernal, super-
"Well,I'll tell you something!"said Linton. "Your natural creature: a "devil" (p. 225), "goblin"
mother hated your father, now then .... And she
(pp. 142, 259), "ghoul," or "vampire"? Is Nelly
loved mine!" (p. 192)
right in attributing his aberrations to a touch of
We feel their incompetence, their inability to un- madness: "He might have had a monomania on
56 WutheringHeights and the Limitsof Vision
the subject of his departed idol; but on every other scale of values here depends on a social hierarchy,
point his wits were as sound as mine" (p. 256)? Or birth and refinement determining worth; Heath-
is she closer to the truth in saying, "I did not feel cliff's depends on the hierarchy of the wilds,
as if I were in the company of a creature of my might determiningworth. Both standards are used
own species" (p. 134)? None of these doors to by various characters: occasionally someone other
understandingis ever really closed; but none opens than Heathcliff or Catherine Earnshaw will apply
wide enough to let the whole Heathcliff through.14 the latter standard (the second Catherine com-
The concept of heaven provides further grounds mands Linton, "Rise, and don't degrade yourself
for inconclusive disagreement. Except for Cather- into an abject reptile," p. 212); but everyone, in-
ine Earnshaw's sadly inappropriate notion of cluding even Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff,
heaven as the Grange, as marriage to Edgar (p. 72) adopts the former standard. In fact much of
-a heaven incompatible with her basic nature- Catherine's and Heathcliff's confusion and dis-
each person's heaven is composed of those qual- tress comes about because they do adopt it, more
ities that are most appealing to him; so there are or less unawaresand against their natures.
as many heavens implied in the novel as there are Catherine assumes the Lintons' scale of values
points of view. Linton's heaven is a sleepy "ec- in rejecting the possibility of marrying Heathcliff:
stasy of peace"; the second Cathy's is "the whole "If the wicked man in there had not brought
world awake and wild with joy" (p. 199). Nelly Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of
Dean's "heterodox" heaven (pp. 137-38) is, like [marryingEdgar]. It would degrade me to marry
herself, "untroubled," "shadowless," dull, and Heathcliff now" (p. 72). "If I marry Linton, I can
uniformly pleasant, with amorphously liberal en- aid Heathcliff to rise" (p. 73). For her, the re-
trance requirements. Lockwood, conceiving of ceived upper-class/lower-class scale of values is
Gimmerton and its environs as "a perfect misan- extended to include heaven/hell: "I've no more
thropist's heaven" (p. 13), speaks more truly than business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be
he means, and flees as soon after his enlightenment in heaven."Goodness is equated with social graces;
as he can. Heathcliff-who redefines Catherine's salvation, with a genteel existence-with marriage
heaven as her hell (p. 129)-holds his heaven to to Edgar. These too simple terms are the only ones
be simply union with Catherine, and his hell, that she knows. She senses their inadequacy, but,
separation from her (pp. 126, 259, 263). Ideally, in her innocence, she is unable to correct them or
the setting for their union would be the moor, on to supply alternative terms of value that do justice
"a dark evening threatening thunder" (p. 265). to Heathcliff and her feelings for him. She does
Even Joseph has his "sort of elysium," consisting suggest a reversal of values in likening her love for
of "a roaring fire"-Joseph could not stand to be the elevated Edgar to transitory "foliage," and
too far from the flames of hell- "a quart of ale her attachment to the "low" Heathcliff to "the
on the table near him, bristling with large pieces eternal rocks beneath" (p. 74). But she is unable
of toasted oat cake, and his black, short pipe in to translate imageryinto principles, and, therefore,
his mouth" (p. 190). And, I may add, a suffering in part out of her strong desire to do right, she
sinner-here, Linton-loudly complaining in the marries Edgar.
next room. The several heavens of Wuthering Unlike Catherine, Heathcliff never questions
Heights are merely the characters' antagonistic the worth of his deepest attachment, finding her
points of view raised to a higher power and pro- always "so immeasurablysuperior"to the Lintons
jected into eternity. (p. 50). But like her, he never articulates or really
Finally, through the notion of degradation, understands the code of strength, vitality, and
attention is called to inconclusive conceptual war- deep feeling basic to his nature. Nor is he true to
fare not only among various characters but, more it, being drawn, like her, to the code of the Lin-
important, within CatherineEarnshaw and Heath- tons. "Nelly, make me decent, I'm going to be
cliff themselves. "Lowness" depends on one's good" (p. 53). In an ill-conceived and futile effort
scale of reference,of course. Edgar refersto Heath- to please Catherine, he adopts the values that she
cliff's "baseness," calling him a "low ruffian," has adopted. When he overhears her confession
and Heathcliff, in retort, calls Edgar a "lamb," that it would degrade her to marry him, he runs
"not worth knocking down" (pp. 98-99). Edgar's away, determined to out-Linton Edgar, and re-
David Sonstroem 57
turns, having "raise[d] his mind from the savage ings in his images-gold, tin-but then proceeds,
ignorance into which it was sunk" (p. 81). His nevertheless, to act according to his adopted, ar-
face now "looked intelligent, and retained no ticulated standards. Only when this second, vicar-
marks of former degradation" (p. 84). The terms ious attempt to top the ladder of gentility fails
are Nelly's, but Heathcliff himself would accept does he revert to his Catherine and the animal
them. Nevertheless, Catherine, despite her excite- code that they both have betrayed. And even then
ment at his reappearance, never mentions his he can neither explain his aberrant behavior nor
transformation, and she has already married articulate his fundamental values. In a larger sense
Edgar. Edgar, seeing him still as "the plough-boy," than Lockwood, Heathcliff, for all his strength,
is still an obstacle. Heathcliff's new, genteel self stumbles ineptly through a world of pitfalls and
has changed nothing. He therefore adopts less concealed landmarks.
civilized, more brutal modes of approaching Whether it take place among characters or with-
Catherine. But he continues to wear his cloak of in a single character, an interaction of concepts
gentility loosely, employing it in the service of results in inconclusive acrimony or inept groping.
revenge upon Hindley and Edgar, the perpetrator Conceptual conflict is not presented as a means to
and beneficiary of his original "degradation." As vision, but rather as a device to expose short-
Arnold Kettle has observed, Heathcliff manages sightedness and indicate its consequences.
"to turn on them [stripped of their romantic veils]
their own standards, to beat them at their own With all the characters myopic, and all their
game. The weapons he uses against the Earnshaws exchanges unilluminating, the reader looks else-
and Lintons are their own weapons of money and where for authorial guidance. If the novelist does
arrangedmarriages.""5 not present her own outlook directly, through her
It is important to realize, however, that Heath- characters or their exchanges, the reader looks
cliff adopts their standards, not out of a keen sense behind them for tokens of her controlling con-
of irony or poetic justice, but simply because he ception. He looks for signs of the author's working
does not discern any others. Heathcliff's goals are upon the reader's attitudes and point of view-for
still the attainment of high station-wealth and signs of the author's bringing the reader's views
property-with the consequent "degradation" of into line with her own.
his enemies. As we have seen, he tries to relive his Emily Bronte does not explicitly condemn or
life in the following generation, with his son mar- approve of her characters, nor does she imply
rying the Catherine, and Hindley's son becoming judgment through the introduction of a machinery
the "low" Heathcliff. His continued but confused of rewards and punishments responsive to a moral
reliance on the standards of gentility is revealed order. But the reader is clearly expected to render
in his remarking to Nelly of Hareton, "I've got verdicts; indeed he is induced to do so. Emily
him faster than his ... father secured me, and Bronte calls attention to judging by having Nelly
lower; for he takes a pride in his brutishness.'I've Dean remark to Lockwood, "you'll judge as well
taught him to scorn everything extra-animal as as I can, all these things; at least you'll think you
silly and weak. Don't you think Hindley would be will, and that's the same" (p. 152). The remark-
proud of his son ... almost as proud as I am of almost taunting, directed really at the readerby the
mine. But there's this difference; one is gold put author herself-causes us to question our own
to the use of paving stones, and the other is tin judgments of what she has presented, as well as
polished to ape a service of silver. Mine has nothing those of Nelly and Lockwood. Inept moral judg-
valuable about it" (p. 178). Hareton is "lower" ments are a pervasive motif of this "amoral" book,
only according to the code of the Lintons, which and the readeris challenged or teased to do better.'6
Heathcliff only superficiallyembraces. All else in The vaguely annoying sensation of having trouble
the passage tells the other way. "Pride" in brutish- making up one's mind is a large part of the experi-
ness and "scorn" for everything extra-animal im- ence of reading WutheringHeights.
ply another scale of values: the hierarchy of the As we have seen, the codes of judgment of all
wilds, which is basic to Heathcliff's nature, but the characters cancel each other: Joseph's stern
which he does not fully appreciate or follow. Like evangelicalism, Nelly's pragmatic preservation of
Catherine, Heathcliff reveals his fundamental feel- the norm, Edgar's code of gentility, Heathcliff's
58 WutheringHeights and the Limitsof Vision
law of the jungle, Linton's pure egocentrism. One strong feeling all too easily: He undergoes an
character sees healthful tranquillity endangeredby "access of emotion," which causes him to tremble
destructive violence; another sees fulfilling, ex- before Heathcliff (p. 99); and he breaks into tears
pressive passion endangered by stifling repression. when his wife speaks well of his rival. The latter
The shut windows protect, but they also incarcer- characterizationscertainly complicate Lord David
ate; open, they free, but they also destroy. The Cecil's division of the characters into "storms"
coward is offset by the bully; the boor by the snob; and "calms";17for Edgar and other "calms" have
obstinacy by spinelessness; extremism by moder- their stormy moments as well as Heathcliff. The
ation at all costs. After closing the book, the difference between them is rather one of mode of
reader can rest with the apprehension of an ethical expression-and repression-or perhaps one of
deadlock, or he can choose sides according to the basic nature, than of clear polarity.
bias of his own nature. But in the actual process Lockwood's violence toward Jabes Branderham
of reading the book, he is drawn beyond mere is another example of Emily Bronte's making it
apprehension of the confused, indecisive conflicts difficult for the reader to rely on his initial impres-
to the point of actual participation in them. Wuth- sions of a character. Lockwood has just been pre-
ering Heights consistently encourages the reader sented as a helpless, rather effete foil to the animal,
to take sides, and then, by introducing behavior or truly misanthropic Heathcliff, yet his behavior in
descriptions against the grain of his expectations, the dream is exactly that of the young Heathcliff
to change sides. and Catherine, who also protest explosively, after
Sometimes the betrayed judgments are simple having squirmed through a three-hour sermon by
matters of surprising characterization. Heathcliff, Joseph. In his second dream, Lockwood is savagely
of all people, "retained a great deal of the reserve cruel, like Heathcliff, in gashing the child's wrist
for which his boyhood was remarkable, and that across the broken pane; but then he reverts to
served to repress all startling demonstrations of Edgar Linton's methods, as he piles up a buffer of
feeling" (p. 88). "Always [retire]at nine in winter, books to prevent the entrance of the wild and
and always rise at four" (p. 32) is spoken by Heath- stormy Catherine. Lockwood is alternately happy
cliff, not Nelly. Heathcliff, not Edgar, refers to his warrior and repressive milksop. The alternation
"temperate mode of living, and unperilous occu- tends to dissipate any symbolic charge that the
pations" (p. 256). Heathcliff, not Edgar, "had an reader might see in him.
aversion to yielding so completely to his feelings" Sometimes the unsettling of the reader's ex-
(p. 257). "Hush! Hush this moment!" (p. 109) are pectations is a more profound matter, challenging
the words of Catherine Earnshaw, not Nelly. And not only his simple perceptions of character and
" 'If you don't let me in, I'll kill you! If you don't event, but his evaluations as well. When Nelly
let me in, I'll kill you!' he rather shrieked than begins her account of Heathcliff, we are very
said. 'Devil! devil! I'll kill you, I'll kill you!'" sympathetic toward him, because of such details
(p. 201) is not Heathcliff but the languid Linton. as the other children's rejecting and plaguing him,
Besides demonstrating that "we've allas summut his stoicism in punishment, and his long suffering
uh orther side in us" (p. 201), Emily Bronte is also in sickness. Nelly's coming over to take his side
disrupting the reader's too easy views of the char- only reinforces our first, favorable impression. But
acters and of the novel, if not of the act of con- then Nelly recounts the instance of Heathcliff's
ceptualization itself. forcing Hindley to trade horses with him. The
Edgar's striking Heathcliff a disabling blow is episode (pp. 39-41) supports points that she has
another such example. In fact Edgar's nature is already made-e.g., Hindley's abuse of Heathcliff,
tantalizingly plastic. At times he seems without and Heathcliff's coolness under punishment-but
strong feelings. (According to Nelly, "he wanted Nelly has not prepared us for a provoking inso-
spirit in general," p. 62.) At other times he seems lence on the part of Heathcliff ("You must ex-
to possess strong feelings, but to repress them change horses with me; I don't like mine, and if
strictly, as in his resorting to his library in the you won't I shall tell your father"), in addition to
aftermath of his quarrel with his wife. Catherine a scheming and an outrageous greed (Heathcliff
here calls him "apathetic,"but she is wrong, in part had taken the handsomest colt to begin with).
because she is misled by Nelly's slanted account of Hindley is clearly being wronged, and our sym-
his behavior. At still other times he expresses pathies undergo a momentary reversal. But Nelly
David Sonstroem 59
closes by reemphasizing Heathcliff's ability to mother of both children being the genius of com-
withstand pain and praising his indifference to patibility, Nelly. But the marriage between Cathy
pursuing his advantage over Hindley-his refusing and Hareton says little about any symbolic recon-
to carry his bruises before Mr. Earnshaw. Thus ciliation between Edgar and Heathcliff, or any
our original sympathies are largely restored, but surrogate,compensatory marriagebetween Heath-
shaken.18 cliff and the first Catherine. For Hareton is not
Elsewhere we are far from being on Heathcliff's really another Heathcliff, and Cathy Linton is
side when he takes to twisting the arms, characters, neither her father nor her mother. Hareton is
and destinies of helpless women and children. His slovenly and uncovth, but he does not possess
calling his behavior "moral teething" or our rec- Heathcliff's savageryand wild passion. His puppy-
ognizing that he is acting as he does because of his hanging notwithstanding, he does not have the
powerful, thwarted feelings for Catherine does not killer instinct. Cathy Linton is much more per-
really satisfy our sense of justice. G. D. Klingo- ambulatory than her father, more exploratory and
pulos rightly refers to these scenes as "painful," in accepting, more vital. She does not repress and
which "deliberate violence is done to our ideas of deny to the extent that he does. And although,
elementary kindness and fairness, in which brute like her mother, she judges unwisely, marrying the
force asserts itself in the place of love and kind- wrong, too effete man first, her essential nature
ness."19The pain comes not so much from the and her grounds for ultimate compatibility fall
sight of wounds as from outrageous wrongs un- well within the pale of civilization and sociability,
righted. At the time we do not begin to justify or as her mother's do not. Cathy and Hareton are
sympathize with Heathcliff. Yet elsewhere, when reminiscent of the previous generation, but they
he says, for example, "as to repenting of my are not really representative of them. The most
injustices, I've done no injustice, and I repent of that can be said is tautological: They symbolize
nothing" (p. 262), we are so caught up with his the reconciliation of those elements in Heathcliff,
own declarations of suffering-his being killed, Edgar, and Catherine Earnshaw that admit of
over eighteen years, "not by inches, but by frac- reconciliation. They are moderates, adventurous
tions of hair breadths" (p. 230)-that we dismiss only in the direction of the normal, the middle way.
his frightful cruelty to others as incidental and "Con-trary"rings false on their lips.
quite justified under the circumstances. In short, It is equally hard to salvage any new, clear
we are being inconsistent-we are guilty of em- meaning from the other closing event, the death
ploying the "nowt"-device. Our allegiances are of Heathcliff. The disposition of the three graves
being toyed with, as Wuthering Heights plays a retells the story of the three lives: Catherine,
shell game with our sympathies. closer to Heathcliff, but caught between contraries
Nor does the ending of the novel relieve the nevertheless. In twisting Heathcliff's and Edgar's
reader's quandary. The ending is ambiguous (as locks together and placing them in Catherine's
Klingopulos has observed),20with respect to both locket, Nelly Dean had expressed the sugared hope
meaning and event. Obviously Emily Bronte con- that everyone will get along with everyone else, and
cludes in a severely geometric way: completing the die, at least, happily ever after. Her act, like the
perfect circle from Hareton Earnshaw, 1500, to marriage of Cathy Linton and Hareton, teases the
Hareton Earnshaw, 1802; drawing the marriage reader into seeing the three as somehow reconciled
triangle of Linton, Cathy, and Hareton; and work- at last. But Nelly's general obtuseness, as well as
ing out the absolute symmetry of the pedigree, the ambiguous symbolism of her gesture-Heath-
which C. P. Sanger has noted.21Emily Bronte may cliff and Edgar could be locked in battle as well as
be implying something about order emerging from friendship-render her gesture enigmatical, if not
apparent chaos. But her order is not that of com- meaningless.
prehensive reconciliation or resolution. The har- Of course Heathcliff sees triumph over Edgar
mony with which she concludes does not come and union with Catherine in his death. But there
about through a resolution of the warringelements. is no good reason for removing his hopeful re-
These have rather been set aside, or projected marks from the corrosive context of the novel-no
beyond the grave, and new elements substituted. reason for granting his expectations a special
A child raised by Edgar can join in happy mar- credence. He professes "a strong faith in ghosts;
riage with a child raised by Heathcliff, the foster I have a conviction that they can, and do exist,
60 WutheringHeights and the Limitsof Vision
among us!" (p. 229), but the strength of his belief mock them for them. Moreover, the sheer number
in them is no warrant for their existence. His re- of details that treat limited vision (and I have
marks finally show great feeling rather than good omitted many) suggests conscious intention-sug-
vision. And others believe otherwise; as we have gests a program. The details I adduce, then, ought
seen, his notion of heaven is only one among many, not to be dismissed as accidental, but are to be
and he has not distinguished himself elsewhere for reckoned with.
perspicacity. We are given no basis for deciding Second, I cannot accept the notion that Emily
whether his view of the afterlife is any more valid Bronti is perplexing her characters out of mere
than, for example, Edgar's vision of a more restful whimsy, or that she is playing a hoax on her
sleep at Catherine's side. At the close we find two reader. Although I have taken pains to point out
versions of Heathcliff after death, one from a sug- ambiguous aspects of the novel, I would say that
gestible and superstitious shepherd boy, who be- everything about it points clearly to the serious-
lieves that he has seen Heathcliff and Catherine ness of the author's intentions.
together on the moor; the other, from Nelly and Third, I reject with some hesitation the possi-
Lockwood, who reinforce each other's cozy sense bility that Emily Bronte baffles the reader in order
of the familiar by proclaiming the boy's story to effect the best hearing for a preternaturaltruth.
"nonsense" and by wondering "how any one It is certainly understandable that, with such an
could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the end in mind, an author would distance the reader
sleepers in that quiet earth" (p. 266). Thus from her wonders, would wrap them in a haze and
Wuthering Heights concludes in characteristic provide such alternative, common-sense explana-
fashion, with two accounts, both suspect, blunting tions as would keep him from feeling trapped,
each other, and with Emily Bronte supplying the thus making him more generous or adventurous
puzzled reader with no privileged vantage point in his suppositions. Although my presentation of
to relieve his uncertainty. WutheringHeights is largely compatible with this
interpretation, I finally reject it because I feel that
Instead of gradually aligning the reader's out- Emily Bronte renders her reader less rather than
look with some controlling point of view of her more ready to speculate. Instead of providing him
own, Emily Bronte systematically brings it into a back door, so to speak, she presents him with a
line with the various limited perspectives of her veritable labyrinth of alternatives. And rather
characters. We are granted no visions, only vari- than leaving him alone in their midst to choose
ations upon the experience of shortsightedness. and be tempted, she shuttles him about among
Although it is not unusual for a reader, in the them, checking in turn his every incipient formula-
course of a novel, to be led to change his mind tion and sympathy. The reader has sporadically
about a character or event, he is accustomed to been made to see too much truth in the way that
make his revisions upward-to find his percep- Nelly, Lockwood, Edgar, Cathy Linton, or even
tions coming closer to the full truth as it is pre- Joseph sees things to be able to accept wholly the
sented by the author. Wuthering Heights is re- dying Heathcliff's expectations. And he has finally
markable in that the tokens of authorial guidance seen too much blindness and confusion in all,
serve throughout to keep the reader down, to including himself, to trust the grand views of any-
make him grope and stumble. one.
Because Emily Bronte frustrates any alliance My best guess is that Emily Bronte does not
with her reader, it is finally impossible to know her pretend to an overarching vision, and that that is
mind with respect to Wuthering Heights. I can her point. The stumbling shortsightedness that
only speculate upon her intentions concerning the she presents in her characters and induces in her
motif of limited vision. First, I do believe the effects reader is in fact her own experience of the world
I have set forth to be the products of deliberation. and the burden of her message. She does not ex-
Although one resists ascribing to anyone's first pect the reader to embrace any world view, not
novel the subtle laminations of a Henry James, even the attractively Romantic, elemental, animis-
the remark, "you'll judge as well as I can, all these tic one implicit in the relationship between Heath-
things; at least you'll think you will, and that's cliff and Catherine. She expects the reader rather
the same," shows Emily Bronte to be aware enough to experience with them the sense of it as looming
of Lockwood's-and the reader's-perplexities to intangibly and uncertainly just beyond their ken,
David Sonstroem 61
even as it is naggingly gainsaid, crossed by in- in any point of view. That she would choose to
eradicable foreground considerations. In a word, employ the Romantic vision as her primary ex-
she presents wuthering as basic to almost all human ample of a concept felt to be receding beyond
experience.22 human viability places her almost too neatly as a
This readingemphasizes Heathcliff'sand Cather- transitional figure between the literary periods.
ine's similarity to all other characters. The force One thing at least is clear: Whatever her in-
and length of Heathcliff's and Catherine's tentions, Emily Bronte did not merely throw her
struggles, and their divided selves, which reflect being vicariously into the lives of Heathcliff and
the novel's outer divisions, mark them as superior Catherine. That she did read herself into their
to the others, but they are not essentially different fictive adventures goes without saying. But an
nor is their predicament unique. What we admire equally strohg impulse was her drawing back in
most about them is not any special vision with acid judgment: upon her Romantic characters,
which they have been blessed or any special as well as the more conventional characters who
"mystical vocation"23that they have been granted, cross their existence. By implicating the reader as
but rather their greater suffering in the grip of well, she dramatized the truth and range of her
the human condition, and, ineffectual though it strictures. Her Romantic impulse was severely
may be, their greater resistance to it. checked, if not actually destroyed, by the critical,
Emily Bronti is finally depicting a Victorian judicial impulse. It has been said of her that she
rather than a Romantic state of mind, one akin to "never casts a sidelong glance; she is innocent of
Arnold's irony."24Clearly the remark is incorrect, insofar
Hitherand thitherspins as irony is used in the sense given currency by
The wind-bornemirroringsoul, T. S. Eliot, namely, a strong awareness of alterna-
A thousandglimpseswins, tive possibilities and points of view. A sidelong
And neversees a whole glance questions every view in WutheringHeights.25
Empedocleson Etna,11.6-9 She has also been called a visionary. It is true
that she often gives her reader a sense of vital
One akin also to George Eliot's sense of the futility forces operating just beyond the horizons of
of human ordering implicit in her celebrated humanity. But, far from pretending to see beyond
image of a pier-glass, "multitudinously scratched the sight of other men, she stresses the faults and
in all directions," which yet presents a unique limited scope of all human sight. Her final vision-
pattern of concentric circles of scratches to each epistemological, fragmented, negative-is a very
candle held up to it (Middlemarch, Ch. xxvii). earthly one, very close to home.
Like many of her fellow Victorians, Emily
Bronte would seem to have been impressed by Universityof Connecticut
multiplicity of outlook and the relativity inherent Storrs

2 C. Day Lewis, Notable Images of Virtue (Toronto,
See, e.g., Ernest A. Baker, The History of the English
Novel, viii (London, 1937), 76, repr.in RichardLettis and 1954), reprintedin William M. Sale, Jr., ed., Wuthering
William E. Morris, ed., A WutheringHeights Handbook Heights: An Authoritative Text with Essays in Criticism
(New York, 1961), p. 55: "Its force is concentratedin a (New York: Norton Critical Ed., 1963), p. 367, nicely
series of tremendousclimaxes; the fire and fury of one refersto the ethical system implicitin this view as a "lurid
[such]scene gives momentumenough until the next. There and uncompromisingantinomianism,in which passion is
are, it is true, intricate complications and obscurities in substitutedfor grace as the justificationfor an overriding
between; but, when the great moment arrives, the mental of the [traditional]moral law." Quotationsfrom Wuthering
and moral situation is made clear enough by the actors Heightsare takenfrom this edition.
3 I am
themselves."See also G. D. Klingopulos, "The Novel as anticipatedin my observationof Joseph's use of
Critical Poem (ii): Wuthering Heights," Scrutiny, 14 (Sept. "nowt" by J. Hillis Miller, The Disappearance of God: Five
1947), 269: " Wuthering Heights may be said to justify itself Nineteenth-Century Writers (Cambridge, Mass., 1963), p.
by the quality of some half-dozenor so speechesof Cath- 180.
erine'sand Heathcliff's."It is only right to say that in prac- 4 John K. Mathison, "Nelly Dean and the Power of
tice Klingopuloshardlyignoresthe rest of the novel. Wuthering Heights," NCF, 11 (Sept. 1956), 121, reprinted
62 WutheringHeights and the Limitsof Vision
in Lettis and Morris, p. 155, calls attention to Nelly's vites a treatmentthat rendersthe abuse renderedupon him
"ability to describeaccurately,and yet disregardthe facts as a child irrelevant.Heathcliff the devil invites a super-
in favor of explanationby a conventionalformula.""Noth- natural, religious treatment that undercuts the natural,
ing must interferewith Nelly's determinationto impose her bedrock bond between him and Catherine, and all his
own meaningon events"(p. 152). strong feelings that follow from it. Examples could be
5 Allan R. Brick, "WutheringHeights: Narrators, Au- multiplied.
dience, and Message," CE, 21 (Nov. 1959), 81, reprinted 15An Introduction to the English Novel, I (London, 1951),
in Lettisand Morris,pp. 219-20. 150, reprintedin Lettis and Morris,pp. 116-17.
6 Note how frequentlycharactersin the novel resist tra- 16Arnold Kettle (Lettis and Morris,p. 109) observes,of
ditional classification:Nelly and the young Heathcliff,as the narrators,"Theyact as a kind of sieve to the story, ....
well as Hareton,are neitherexactlyservants nor members which has the purpose not simply of separatingoff the
of the household. Edgar, Heathcliff, and Linton are not chaff, but of making us aware of the difficultyof passing
true husbands, in the full sense of the word. In a sense easy judgments.One is left always with the sense that the
Linton is not Heathcliff'sson, Haretonis not Hindley's. last word has not been said."
7 Love is not too 17Early Victorian Novelists (Indianapolis, Ind., 1935),
stronga word: "She is genuinelyin love
with Edgar.'I love the ground under his feet, and the air p. 162, reprintedin Lettisand Morris,p. 23.
over his head, and everythinghe touches, and every word 18 Perhaps the best example of the novel's toying with
he says. I love all his looks, and all his actions, and him the reader'ssympathies(an example too lengthy to treat
entirelyand altogether.'She speaks gaily, ratherprettilyof here)is Ch. xi, pp. 94-103.
it" (Klingopulos,p. 273). 19Klingopulos,p. 275.
8 The divided 20Klingopulos,pp. 271-72.
personality is presented, at least at one
21 In a paper read to the Heretics, Cambridge Univ.,
point, by what the authorcalls her. Cf. " 'What new phase
of his characteris this?' exclaimedMrs. Linton, in amaze- reprintedin Lettis and Morris, pp. 6-7. Klingopulos also
ment" with "'Oh, the evil is that I am not.jealous, is it?' remarksthat "theconclusionof the novel is diagrammatic"
cried Catherine"(p. 97). When she feigns ignorance of (p. 272).
22The tranquillitythat is presumedto precedeand follow
Heathcliff'sways, she is "Mrs. Linton"; when she knows
his sharp words so well as to return them in kind, she is the events of the story may be merelyconventionalframing
"Catherine." -a dramaticallycontrastingbackgroundfor EmilyBronte's
9 On the matter of Catherine'screating her own Heath- true considerations-but it accounts for the qualification
cliff see Herbert Goldstone, " Wutherilg Heights Revisited," in my remarkhere.
23 Mary Visick, The Genesis of Wuthering Heights, 2nd
EJ, 48 (April 1959), 182: "Catherine'simaginationharms
her love for Heathcliffbecauseit enablesher to want a love ed. (Hong Kong, 1965), p. 9; reprinted in the Norton
that would perfectlyembody both Heathcliff'sand Edgar's CriticalEd., p. 308.
24Cecil, in Lettis and Morris, p. 33. John E. Jordan,
values. If she could not so stronglyvisualizewhat Edgar's
world means, she might care less for it and accept more "The IronicVision of EmilyBronte,"NCF, 20 (June 1965),
readily Heathcliff'sworld. Yet ultimatelyher imagination 1-18, is the first to take Lord David Cecil to task for this
does enable her to find happiness in her love.... In going remark.Although Jordan'sessay goes no deeper than the
out of her mind . . .she ... retreats to an ideal world of surfaceof the readingexperience-he does not try to sound
her imaginationin whichshe rediscoversher happinessas a the novel for meaning-he makesseveralobservationsthat
child with Heathcliff. She creates her perfect Heathcliff." supportmy argumenthere.
See also Klingopulos,p. 270. 25Others have sensed the general complications, but
without really letting them affect their overview of the
'o On this episode see Klingopulos,pp. 275-76.
novel. See, e.g., F. H. Langman, "WutheringHeights,"
11CatherineEarnshaw,at the Grange,has a vision of the
EC, 15 (July 1965), 304, who calls attentionto the fact that
Heights (p. 108), but at the time she has lost sight of her we are given two, differing accounts of the beating ad-
immediatesituation. ministeredHindley by Heathcliff:"Thus we can't be sure
12 Pace Vereen Bell, "Wuthering Heights and the Un- what we have seen.... This kind of analysis, pushed too
forgivable Sin," NCF, 17 (1962), 189, who believes that far, could make the novel impossibly ambiguous." See
"the unforgivablesin is to accuse another of committing
especiallyInga-StinaEwbank'sfine readingin TheirProper
the unforgivablesin-or, more simply put, the absence of
Sphere: A Study of the Bronte Sisters as Early-Victorian
forgiveness,of forbearance,of mercy." Female Novelists (Cambridge,Mass., 1966). She finds in
13 When Cathy Linton is taken captive by Heathcliff,she
Emily Bronte "an ultimate suspension of judgment" (p.
is "deeplyimpressedand shockedat this newviewof human 124), and, in the novel, an "interactionof judgments"(p.
nature-excluded from all her studiesand all her ideas till 125): "We have opposite attitudes and judgments played
now" (p. 181). off againsteach other; and only the structureof the work
14 Heathcliff's mercurialnature makes interpretingthe as a whole gives anything like a conclusive evaluation"
novel especially difficult. Heathcliff the ruffian invites a (p. 126).Of course, I disagreethat the structureof the work
psychological treatment: his shabby upbringingaccounts does any such thing; the structureof the novel does not
for his later mean streak. Heathcliffthe beast of prey in- belie its texture.