The Social Norms Of Wuthering Heights English Literature Essay

September 30, 2017 English Literature

When I speak of the societal norms and conventions of the nineteenth century, it must foremost be stated what these norms and conventions really entail. In the nineteenth century, more specifically in the Victorian epoch societal norms were something every individual must seek to populate up to, to maintain their repute and regard of their equals intact. In the Victorian epoch life was really different for adult females in comparing to our life today, adult females ‘s rights have improved and grown vastly since so, this is something that must besides be taken into consideration when analysing the formation of the female supporters ( Wuthering Heights, written by Emily Bronte in 1847 and Jane Eyre written by Charlotte Bronte in 1847 ) . Some of the basic norms and conventions of that clip were for illustration ; that adult females had to be taken attention of by work forces, foremost by their male parents and so one time married by their hubbies. This norm helps generalize on the determinations that were made in both novels by the supporters. A adult female in an upper or in-between category household was expected to remain at place and host dinner parties, naming on friends or sing her modiste. A adult male was expected to be the caput of the household, and his regulations were to be respected as such. It was a norm that a adult male and a adult female could merely be married if they were from the same societal category, this was to maintain their households wealth and repute intact. For a adult male and adult female from different categories to be wed, was seen as unacceptable and hence treated as such, in most instances this meant that the lovers would be disowned if they ‘d take to withstand their households will. But in the Victorian epoch, and particularly in its literature it besides became an outlook that the work forces who were considered gentlemen for their category would besides be gentlemen in their behavior alternatively of lone wealth, the rubric of a gentleman began to besides hold a moral anticipation attached to it.

“ He has excessively much good sense to be affronted at abuses [ . . . ] . He is patient, longanimous, and resigned, on philosophical rules ; he submits to trouble, because it is inevitable, to bereavement because it is irreparable, and to decease, because it is his fate. If he engages in contention of any sort, his disciplined intellect conserves him from the blooper. ”[ 1 ]

As Newman states, a ‘real ‘ gentleman was besides expected to hold these internal qualities aside from the obvious outlooks of his wealth. If we look at the male supporters of both novels we see that Heathcliff has none of the features of being a gentleman, and that Rochester has some traits of the choice above, but non all. And if we look at what was seen as a ‘real ‘ gentleman, it helps set the picks made by the female characters into more perspective.

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The female supporters are both really restrained in their romantic life, because of the epoch they were born in, and the societal category they inherited at birth. There are clear romantic limitations, such as Jane Eyre non being of a high plenty societal category to be considered a possible spouse for Rochester. And the outlooks that were put upon Catherine Earnshaw ‘s shoulders pushed her towards Edgar Linton. These two adult females who are wholly different from each other, they ‘re non from a similar societal category nor do they have compatible personalities, yet both suffer from the limitation to be near to the work forces they love. But even though society ‘s norms are the chief limitations for these their romantic picks, their personalities besides play a function in forbiding them from following their bosom. Catherine holding been raised in a in-between category household with nice societal standing has had most things handed to her on a Ag platter due to her beauty. But her personality has great similarities with that of Heathcliff, as she can be really rough and selfish ; this selfishness combined with her being acclimatized to the wealth of her household led her to take for Edgar Linton over Heathcliff. Edgar had the security in wealth of a gentleman, and he besides had the features of a gentleman, doing him the more unafraid option in that epoch. Jane Eyre ‘s personality prohibited her in a wholly different mode ; she was raised to be a governess for a affluent household. She was taught to be the lesser individual, to ever set her ain desires and needs 2nd. Jane learnt to hold self-respect without wealth ; she ironically has all the features described in Newman ‘s quotation mark. And because of this sense of self-respect she refuses to be with Rochester as a kept woman, as she feels there is no pride in being one, it is either all ( matrimony ) or nil. There lies a certain degree of sarcasm in the fact that matrimony under different categories was so frowned upon, and that the lower categories received so small regard from the higher categories. But even so Jane ‘s personality is that of a ‘gentleman ‘ and Catherine ‘s personality is rough and selfish, and yet Catherine receives more regard from society strictly based on her societal standing, when in world Jane deserves this regard more because of who she is as a individual. The strong differences in the personalities of the females, gives us the chance to detect the romantic limitations created by society ‘s societal norms and conventions from two different positions.

The ground I chose this subject is because of the manner both novels caught my involvement, but for wholly different grounds. Wuthering Heights was a narrative that kept me on my toes, and Jane Eyre was more of a earthy novel. But even though these novels are wholly different they still portion similar elements, such as the maleness of the male supporters, and the out romantic love that takes topographic point. And the fact that these two plants were written by sisters, yet are written in such a clearly diverse mode made the novels all the more challenging.

Society ‘s influence on picks made by the female supporters

Social position has great influence on what was expected of people in the nineteenth century. The society of that clip had a wholly different position on under what conditions two people should be wed, they felt that one should get married within their ain category. This is different from the western society of today where people can get married within any category for any ground. The destiny of an person in the nineteenth century was set from the twenty-four hours they were born, depending on the household they were born into. Jane ‘s state of affairs is a good illustration of the strength of societies influence when it comes down to the norms of societal position, her female parent was born into a affluent household but she chose to follow her bosom and get married a adult male of a lower position, her household disowned her and left her with no heritage. This is dry because, Jane ‘s female parent chose to follow her bosom and because of this Jane can non follow hers, when she ‘s originally meant to hold been born into the same category as Rochester. And the merely other option left for Jane was to go Rochester ‘s kept woman, but her self-respect and dignity would n’t let her to go such. A kept woman is a adult female that is frowned upon, ever comes in 2nd following to a married woman, whose kids have no right to their male parent ‘s household name and who would besides be shunned for her virginity non being integral and being single, Jane felt she deserved a life with more self-respect than that. And Heathcliff, whom was found and brought into the Earnshaw household, was ne’er genuinely recognized because he had non been born into the household, and so was n’t accepted as being from the same societal position as the remainder of the Earnshaw ‘s.

In the nineteenth century the in-between category could be split up into two different signifiers, a household ‘s wealth could either be achieved or inherited. A good illustration of this are the Earnshaw ‘s and the Linton ‘s who both inherit their wealth and repute, but Heathcliff achieves his wealth in some cryptic mode and returns as a ‘gentleman ‘ in wealth. Heathcliff ‘s wealth is considered less esteemed than the wealth of the Linton ‘s, since the Linton ‘s have ‘old ‘ money. The ground ‘old ‘ or inherited money was considered more respectable is because with wealth comes a certain manner of life. Education was better for the rich, and hence their address and idiosyncrasy every bit good. The word ‘poor ‘ did n’t merely intend a individual without wealth but it was related to person that is foul and lacks manners. Therefore person with ‘new ‘ or achieved money would be considered as a individual that has lacked manners and was filthy until they turned affluent, go forthing their wealth to be less respected than the wealth of a individual with a more respectable background. The Linton ‘s are a perfect illustration of a household that has inherited wealth, due to their idiosyncrasies and educated ways of managing affairs. Like said before being a gentleman was n’t merely about being affluent in the nineteenth century it was besides connected to the manner one acted. This is why even though Heathcliff became a richer adult male, he still could non be called a ‘real ‘ gentleman as he ‘s still ill-mannered, with a bad pique and has a disgusting vocabulary.

Catherine chose Edgar because he could offer what their society respected, wealth and a good name. And Heathcliff at foremost could offer her neither, and when he was able to offer her a affluent life it was excessively late, as Catherine had already married Edgar.

“ You love Mr. Edgar because he is fine-looking, and immature, and cheerful, and rich, and loves you. The last, nevertheless, goes for nil – You would love him without that, likely, and with it, you would n’t, unless he possessed the four former attractive forces. ”[ 2 ]

As Nelly Dean references in the quotation mark, Catherine merely loves Edgar for what he has to offer, but she does n’t love him for the love he has to offer, as that is n’t what attracts her it is his wealth and good name that she loves. She wants for herself what society would anticipate and desire from her, to get married into a good household.

Jane Eyre

Jane is obviously, educated and independent and yet she manages to happen a balance in which she keeps her daring to herself most of the clip, as to suit in with the outlooks of person of her societal place. In the nineteenth century a governess was a adult female who worked as an pedagogue and nursemaid of affluent kids. A governess was ever single, misss that were n’t suited for matrimony either because of their household state of affairss or beauty were sent to schools to go governesses. An illustration of when this would happen would be in a instance similar to Jane ‘s where her parents passed off and she moved in with affluent relations, who so sent her to a governess school because they could afford it and she was n’t suited to be married into a good household because of her deficiency of beauty and muliebrity. Bing a governess was a manner for a adult female to be independent and still be respected even though she ‘s single.

“ If they have no hubbies to labor for them, they must win nutrient for themselves. They found, if they would non drop in the graduated table, they must work with their caputs, and non with their custodies ( qtd. in Fraser ‘s Magazine 569 ) . ”[ 3 ]

Becoming a governess was an option for adult female of the in-between category who were unsuitable to be married to a hubby of good standing, because of their deficiency of beauty or in some instances households that refused to put in her matrimony, this was the instance with Jane whose aunt did non care for her at all. By being a governess the adult female would maintain some societal standing in the in-between category. But even though her societal standing was above that of the retainers, it was still below her Masterss, and even though her position is said to be above that of a servant she ‘d still hold to portion some uses with the retainers and they were non obliged to function her. A governess was besides expected to be submissive to her Masterss and their equals, and she could non revenge to abuses made by either.

“ You should hear mamma on the chapter of governesses: Mary and I have had, I should believe, a twelve at least in our twenty-four hours ; half of them abhorrent and the remainder pathetic, and all incubi – were they non, mama? “ 4

“ My dearest, do n’t advert governesses ; the word makes me nervous. I have suffered a martyrdom from their incompetence and impulse. I thank Heaven I have now done with them! ”[ 4 ]

This is the manner Rochester ‘s invitees would talk of Jane whilst she was in the room, they did n’t care for her feelings, nor did they esteem her adequate to whisper or wait boulder clay she left the room. It is a great illustration of how Jane was expected to be submissive, and that she fulfilled this anticipation by non revenging to these abuses.

But Jane besides had traits that were n’t common in an mean governess, she was independent and strong-minded. These features come out when she tries to prosecute and adumbrate relationship with Rochester despite her societal category. This takes bravery and a strong sense of what she wants, and shows that she ‘s willing to give up the regard from her society to follow her bosom. Another mark of her strong bravery is when she leaves Thornfield, even though she wanted to be with Rochester her self-respect and self-respect would n’t let her to set aside her pride and go his kept woman. Society ‘s norms and conventions have a great influence on how Jane reacts and nowadayss herself in state of affairss. And her narrative shows how society strongly influenced who she was on the surface – submissive, quiet, and plain – but it could n’t suppress her strongest features that ever came out in her biggest determinations. And it was thanks to her strength and doggedness that she was able to stop up with the adult male she loved after holding waited patiently. And her bravery that made certain she kept true to herself till the terminal, and Jane is rewarded for remaining true to herself by finally stoping up with Rochester.

Jane ‘s life style was really much criticized in the Victorian epoch, non merely by the people in the novel, but by its readers of the nineteenth century.

“ It is a really singular book: we have no recollection of another combine such echt power with such horrid gustatory sensation. Both together have every bit assisted to derive the great popularity it has enjoyed ; for in these yearss of excessive worship of all that bears the cast of freshness and originality, sheer discourtesy and coarseness have come in for a most misguided worship. “ ( Elizabeth Rigby )[ 5 ]

Rigby states that the ground Jane Eyre is appreciated is because it is original, but she besides finds that it is ‘vulgar ‘ , ‘rude ‘ , and a ‘mistaken worship ‘ . If we compare this to for illustration my position on Jane Eyre, which is that she was a immature adult female who had to populate through a batch of adversities and managed to still remain true to what she felt was right and in the terminal got rewarded for this self-perseverance. We see that sentiments have changed vastly with clip.

Catherine Earnshaw

Catherine comes from a household with good societal standing, and is besides really beautiful. These are two traits, which are necessary for a adult female to be an eligible option for get marrieding into a affluent household. But these are n’t the lone traits that were expected from a suited bride in the Victorian epoch, they were besides expected to be submissive to their hubby, a good hostess to their invitees during dinner parties and such, and have kids for whom they ‘d engage a governess to take attention of. Catherine had the beauty, but her personality was n’t that of a suited married woman, she ‘s depicted as natural state in the novel, bad tempered, selfish and passionate. Catherine had the superficial traits of going a good married woman, but none of the internal features necessary.

During this epoch a adult female was wholly dependent on her hubby, so it ‘s apprehensible that Catherine would take the safer route, and marry Edgar Linton for his security and position. But it became an internal struggle for Catherine, because even though she thought Edgar could offer her what she wanted, he could non. She thought that what she wanted was what society proposed she should desire, even though her personality traits are that of a individual who in our clip would be considered livelier and wants the things that are less conventional, and what she really wanted was to be with Heathcliff.

“ My love for Linton is like the leaf in the forests. Time will alter it, I ‘m good cognizant, as winter changes the trees – my love for Heathcliff resembles the ageless stones beneath – a beginning of small seeable delectation, but necessary. Nelly I am Heathcliff – he ‘s ever, ever on my head – non as a pleasance, any more than I am ever a pleasance to myself – but, as my ain being ”[ 6 ]

This describes Catherine ‘s internal struggle, she loves Edgar for what he has to offer her, but she loves Heathcliff as a portion of herself, he is her true love. Yet she can non be with him harmonizing to the norms of society. Emily Bronte shows how society ‘s conventions of the Victorian age base in the manner of a adult female ‘s bosom and feelings, by depicting the struggle Catherine feels when she has to do a pick between what is conventional and what she truly wants. And her when she chose society ‘s conventions, she besides chose her ain ruin, because she discovers she chose the way of a otiose life. Catherine taking Edgar alternatively of Heathcliff brings out a batch of understanding in readers of today ‘s society, because we ‘re now used to people acquiring married for love alternatively of it strictly being based on wealth and position. Most readers feel so much understanding, Catherine ‘s flaws become less evident.

“ We do non excuse their indignations, but neither do we simply condemn them. We do something larger and more of import: we recognize in them the calamity of passionate natures whom unbearable defeat and loss have stripped them of their humanity. “ ( John Hagan )[ 7 ]

“ The success is non equal to the abilities of the author ; chiefly because the incidents are excessively harsh and disagreeable to be attractive, the really best being unlikely, with a moral contamination about them, and the villainousness non taking to consequences sufficient to warrant the elaborate pains taken in picturing it. ” ( Unknown )[ 8 ]

When we compare these two statements made by two different critics, the first statement being by Hagan who is nearer to our society of today and the latter one being a statement made by a critic in 1847 the twelvemonth that the novel was written we see that our return on morality and understanding is wholly different from the morality of the society Wuthering Heights took topographic point in. When we look at the unfavorable judgment made in the nineteenth century, it helps set position on the pick Catherine made, taking Heathcliff would ‘ve been ‘disagreeable ‘ and have a ‘moral contamination ‘ as expressed by the critic. But even though Catherine chose Edgar, the novel still received moral unfavorable judgment because her bosom was n’t in understanding with her pick and Emily Bronte displayed that in a ferocious mode, which harmonizing to the critic was ‘improbable ‘ . When Hagan states that the passion between Heathcliff and Catherine is something we recognize, and even makes us neither ‘condone ‘ nor ‘condemn ‘ their rough Acts of the Apostless of retaliation. Catherine ‘s determination to take Edgar and seek to populate up to her society ‘s outlooks seems more apprehensible now we ‘ve compared these two critic ‘s sentiments. Emily Bronte shows us the contention Catherine was undergoing by holding her brand the conventional pick, but holding her show her feelings for Heathcliff in an ‘immoral ‘ manner.


In decision, both females suffered in their romantic life because of what society ‘s societal norms and conventions expected from them. Jane was expected to stay submissive, quiet and in the background, and Catherine was expected to get married a adult male of her societal position, bare kids, and go a good hostess. Both adult females refused to go what their society tried to implement them to be.

Jane, who was n’t of a high plenty societal category to be permitted to get married Rochester without conveying upon shame and disaffection for both of them, was left with the option to go his kept woman. She chose to non go his kept woman out of self-respect, self-respect and pride. Throughout her narrative we see that she tries to contend the societal conventions while at the same clip maintaining true to her ain ethical motives.

Catherine became really influenced by society ‘s societal norms and what her society expected from her. She so had to do the pick between the safe and unafraid route ; Edgar, or the unsafe and passionate route ; Heathcliff. She chose for the safer route, as this is what she was raised to take. But in the terminal her determination to take Edgar is what brought her to her terminal. These two wholly different adult females both made different picks. Catherine chose society ‘s route, and ended up hitting her ruin out of pure wretchedness, and Jane who ever kept true to what she felt was right, ended up get marrieding the adult male she loved, and non as his kept woman. These two show what a great impact society ‘s norms and conventions have on its people, and on the determinations they ‘ve made. We can see that it was difficult for Catherine to do the right pick, and she did n’t remain to true to what she truly wanted, a major determination like the one she made would put person ‘s full life in that clip. “ Why should n’t you endure? I do! Will you bury me – will you be happy when I am in the Earth? ”[ 9 ]Catherine is showing her hurting to Heathcliff, she feels as if she ‘s the victim, as if she ‘s been tricked into doing the incorrect pick. And she wants to cognize if Heathcliff will still retrieve her, why merely she has to endure under her error. Her selfish personality comes out in this quotation mark, one of the qualities that got her to do the incorrect pick in the first topographic point. By looking at these two adult females we see that society destroys Catherine and that Jane is strong plenty and perseveres because she ever stays true to herself and her ethical motives. “ Reader, I married him. A quiet nuptials we had: he and I, the curate and clerk, were entirely present. ”[ 10 ]Jane ended up happening her felicity with Rochester, unlike Catherine and Heathcliff. The novels tell us that remaining true to society over remaining true to yourself will allow you run into your terminal.

There lies a certain sarcasm in the fact that what the community wanted for its adult females was what brought one of these adult females to her day of reckoning. One must inquire, why would a society want something that stopped people from remaining true to themselves, and barred out the option of them of all time being happy? Society is what forms these adult females, but the Bronte ‘s show that they still have a pick left to do for themselves. It would look that the ruddy yarn that is fluxing throughout these novels has one great similarity, which is that there is no felicity to be found if one can non be true to themselves.


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