“Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte

Words: 1761
Topic: Literature

Ian Watt argues in his critical text The Rise of the Novel that the novel was the first literary work to use personalized authentic names for its characters. Watt insists that traditional writers used names that implied some behavior or qualities, and, therefore, were not authentic. According to him, such names were common among characters in many works of art. He argues that the names do not identify individual characters as different from other characters.

Watt further argues that most writers used type names, which carried some historical expectations, rather than names for particular individuals. According to Watt, the advent of the novel facilitated the adoption of the new method of characterization. In this method, characters had surnames and first names (Watt 18).

This paper gives evidence from Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights, to demonstrate the use of names by the first novelists: the difference in the use of names by the novelists is clearly different from the use of names by playwrights and other artists.

Emily Bronte’s novel, Wuthering Heights, espouses all the characteristics that Watt describes. She makes her characters look realistic by giving them names that are authentic. Each of her characters is different from the other not only because of their names, but also because of their behavior.

The characters in this novel include Heathcliff, Catherine, Mr. Earnshaw, Edgar, Nelly, Isabella, Hindley, Hareton, Cathy, Lockwood and Frances among other characters (Bronte 6). These names are realistic and not pseudonyms or stock names as in classical drama. They make the characters authentic and realistic. Though jealousy is one of the themes in the novel, and almost every character shows jealousy at some point, they drastically differ in other traits. In addition, not all the characters are jealous of others (Bronte 8).

The characters Bronte creates have surnames that also make them look realistic. According to Watts, surnames were not common in the forms of literature that preceded the novel. Many characters used to have one name, which was mostly a nickname or pseudonym. This paper has already mentioned that the names had meanings. Watt also argues that the main function of such names was not identification.

The surnames of some of the characters in Wuthering Heights include Earnshaw, Linton, Dean and Lockwood. Surnames are the most important parts of people’s names. They identify people better than the first names. They also differentiate one person from the other since they do not easily resemble.

In comparison to the characters in Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, the names of the characters in Wuthering Heights are more realistic. Shakespeare includes some realistic names in his plays, many of his characters have fictitious and symbolic names. Among the characters with names that appear realistic are Miranda, Gonzalo, Antonio, Ferdinand and Alonso.

The rest of the names are similar to the classical characters in the works of Homer and other classical writers. Such names include Ariel, Sycorax and Caliban. They, just as the characters they represent, are not realistic. Readers do not expect to meet such people in real life. On the other hand, Prospero is a symbolic name. It means prosperous or prosperity.

The comparison above clearly agrees with Watt’s argument that the novel introduced a new way of characterization, where characters have particular names. It’s clear that Shakespeare uses the traditional naming system for his characters while Bronte uses specific proper names that can identify different characters.

The Narrator

Literature has three major categories of narration. These styles of narration are the first person narration, second person narration and the third-person narration. The first and third person narrative styles are the most common in prose literature. Narration has a great impact on the setting and tone in literature. It also helps bring out the traits of various characters in works of art. The narrative style is commonly used in prose literature. Nevertheless, playwrights such as Bertolt Bretch have used it in their genres.

The first person narrator is a participant in the narrative. This narrator describes his experiences and the experiences of other characters. Most of the time, the narrator is the protagonist. However, sometimes a minor character or even an antagonist can be a narrator.

A frame narrator is the first person narrator who tells other characters’ stories. Most of the time, the author introduces readers to the frame writer, who then tells the main story. Such situations, usually, involve a story within a story.

Bronte’s novel Wuthering Heights is the best example of a frame narrative. In this text, the author introduces Mr. Lockwood and Nelly Dean. Lockwood asks many questions about Mr. Heathcliff, driving Nelly to tell him the main story. Therefore, the main responsibility of the narrator in this story is narrating the main story. She appropriately introduces the characters because she knows them well.

Most of the time, first person narrators lack objectivity. They express their imaginations, thoughts, prejudices, opinions and conclusions about events, other characters and themselves. Therefore, they do not give the other characters time to make objective expressions. Readers may also lack the ability to see the reality from an objective point of view.

For example, Aphra Behn in her short novel, Oroonoko, uses the first person narrator in the initial parts of the story. The narrator gives her opinions about the beauty of both Oroonoko and his wife, Imoinda. The writer describes Oroonoko by saying, “but we who were perfectly charmed with the character of this great man were curious to gather every circumstance of his life” (Behn 1). This statement clearly indicates that the narrator is subjective.

The narrator refers to Oroonoko as charming and great. However, other people may not see him as charming or great. Therefore, the first person narrator misleads the reader by giving the wrong description of the characters. She also gives the wrong description of the setting because of her personal feelings about the setting.

The third person narrative style is the most commonly used style in prose literature. Such a narrator can be omniscient or limited. Many scholars of literature argue that the third person narrator is more objective compared to the first person narrator. Such a narrator describes the characters and setting as they see them. Their opinions are usually fewer that their objective observations. Their tones are also neutral.

For example, George Orwell in his article, Confessions of a Book Reviewer uses a sympathetic tone that sounds genuine. He describes the book reviewer’s house and personality from an observer’s point of view. He refers to the house as “cold but stuffy bed-sitting room littered with cigarette ends and half-empty cups of tea…” (Orwell 1).

This description sounds genuine due to the sympathetic tone Orwell uses. He also describes the reviewer, who is the main character in the anecdote, as a poor man despite working very hard. In his description, he says, “he is a man of 35 but looks 50. He is bald, has varicose veins and wears spectacles, or would wear them if his only pair were not chronically lost” (1). Therefore, the role of the narrator in this story is to draw a realistic picture of the book reviewer.

Structure of Power

Language is very important in expressing power and authority. It is always easy to distinguish between the language masters use from that used by their servants. Often, the masters are authoritative while their subjects are humble. In William Shakespeare’s play, The Tempest, there is a clear difference in the structure of power. Shakespeare creates two sides of the society in his play. The masters are on one side while their servants are on the other side.

Caliban remembers the power he had before the arrival of Prospero. His language is still full of the arrogance he had when he was a free man. However, he realizes that things have changed, and he is no longer free. When Caliban meets Prospero in the second act, he tells him, “I must eat my dinner, this island’s mine, by Sycorax my mother” (Shakespeare 13). In response, Prospero reminds him of what he had done for him. He also threatens him with torture.

He says, “For this, be sure, to-night, thou shalt have cramps, side stitches that shall pen thy breath…” (13). Prospero’s statement is authoritative, and Caliban is obliged to submit to his authority. In an aside, he says, “I must obey: his art is of such power… (14). His language changes after his submission. Henceforth, his diction indicates submission to the powers of Prospero.

Shakespeare’s royal characters reverse the syntax of their utterances most of the time (Benjamin 3). This sentence structure was very common among royal families and artists during Shakespeare’s time. It helped create rhyme and meter. In The Tempest, Alonso says, “Heard you this Gonzalo?” In the normal syntactical order, this sentence should have been, “Have you heard this Gonzalo. John Bunyan, in his poem The Author’s Apology for his Book also reverses the syntax of his speech to create rhyme. For example, he says, “I twenty more had in my Crown (line 12).”

The royal characters use a metaphorical language in most of their utterances. For example, while talking to Caliban, Prospero says, “For this, be sure to-night thou shall have cramps…” This statement does not refer to the literal cramps. It implies that Prospero will beat up Caliban to make him submissive.

When Ferdinand appears, Prospero says to Miranda, “The fringed curtains of thine eye advance and say what thou seest yond” (Shakespeare 18). Shakespeare metaphorically uses the term curtain to refer to Miranda’s naivety. He asks her to get rid of her naivety and see the world.

Irony is also evident in the play. For example, it is ironic that Gonzalo envisions a kingdom that lacks sovereignty, commerce and work. This vision symbolizes the lack of agenda among most leaders. Such leaders only want to experience power. It echoes the overriding theme in the play, the greed for power.

It is also ironic that Antonio losses the kingdom he had wanted to protect with all his might. He expects to finish Prospero by chasing him out of his kingdom. However, the exile serves as the best place for him to organize his forces and come back for his kingdom.

Imagery is evident when Caliban creates the picture of the island in the minds of the readers through his description of the island. He says to Prospero, “water with berries in’t…the fresh springs, brine-pits, barren place and fertile” (Shakespeare 13). This image helps envision the extent of Prospero’s new kingdom. He takes over the island immediately Sycorax dies.

Works Cited

Behn, Aphra. Oroonoko, or, the Royal Slave, Raleigh, N.C.: Alex Catalogue, 1990. Print.

Benjamin, Walter. Unpacking My Library: A Talk about Book Collecting, 1931. Print.

Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Oxford: Heinemann, 1995. Print.

Bunyan, John. The Author’s Apology for His Book: The Pilgrim’s Progress. 1909.

Orwell, George.Confessions of a Book Reviewer n.d.

Shakespeare, William. The Tempest, London: Gill & Sons. Print.

Watt, Ian. The Rise of the Novel, Berkeley: University of California Press, 1957. Print.