[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.]

Decorative Initial A uthering Heights (1847) is composed of two stories told one after the other. The first is about Cathy Earnshaw's relationships with Heathcliff and Edgar Linton. The second traces the course of Catherine Linton's relationships with her two cousins, Linton Heathcliff and Hareton Earnshaw. It has long been recognized that the two stories have much in common, and this is usually attributed to `repetition', a view which emphasizes the chronological sequence of events. Criticism has always shown more interest in the Cathy-Heathcliff plot, not only because it is more vivid, but also because it is invariably assumed that the events in the first generation are anterior to, and therefore determine, those in the Catherine-Hareton plot.

In an article published in 1955, Lévi-Strauss raised the question: "What if patterns showing affinity, instead of being considered in succession, were to be treated as one complex pattern and read as a whole?"(212). . . . [Lévi-Strauss's approach] reveal[s] that the novel tells one story on two distinct but closely interconnected levels of fictional representation. . . . But whereas Lévi-Strauss held that each part of a narrative pattern belongs to the same kind of fictional reality, I argue that a radical difference exists between the two stories told in Wuthering Heights: that the Catherine plot has the properties of a Bildungsroman, the Cathy plot, the characteristics of a myth. Further analysis suggests that the events in the first generation suppose the existence of those in the second generation. These distinctions suggest that one can "superimpose" the two stories. [289]


Claude Lévi-Strauss, Structural Anthropology. Tr. C. Jacobson and B. Grundfest Schoepf. London, 1968.

Victorian Overview Emily Brontë Science and Technology

Last modified 25 November 2004