[These materials have been excerpted with permission of the author from Terence Dawson, "An Oppression Past Explaining": The Structures of Wuthering Heights." Orbis Litterarum 44 (1989): 48-68.]
Wuthering Heights appears to belong to a social reality. For example, "The appartment and furniture would have been nothing extraordinary in belonging to a homely, northern farmer . . . " (3). But Mr. Heathcliff is not a homely northern farmer. He has no dealings with his neighbours. The residents of Wuthering Heights are all a-social. The is demonstrated by their antipathy towards Lockwood. Their lack of interest in him is not a reaction to an individual. It mere signals that they have and desire no connection with anyone from "the busy world" (256). Wuthering Heights is a hermetic world, with its own laws and customs.
It has long been recognized that the two houses represent the fundamental polarities in the novel. Critics have tended to see them as symbolizing two abstract principles "out there," equally necessary in the order of things and thus requiring some kind of balance between them. But the polarities conceived by the imagination are not necessarily of equal value. For example the figure of a man in a woman's fantasy has a quite different meaning for her than any female figure. In dreams, houses very often symbolize aspects of the subject's personality..
Examples of polarities offered by critics of the novel
- Sinclair: soul vs. body
- Gilbert: hierarchical vs. anthierarchical
- Gilbert: [Lévi-Strauss's] raw vs cooked
- Benvenuto: yang vs yin
Emily Brontë. Wuthering Heights. Ed. Ian Jack. "Oxford Classics Edition." Oxford UP, 1981.
Richard Benvenuto. Emily Brontë. Boston: Twayne, 1982.
Sandra Gilbert. The Madwoman in the Attic. New Haven: Yale UP, 1979.
May Sinclair. The Three Brontës. London: Hutchinson: 1912.
Last modified 25 November 2004