The major struggle for characters in Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre are their positions in society. Both Heathcliff and Jane are placed in houses were a higher class family lives. They both grow up with the wealthy but are never really classified as part of the group. Jane may have had the etiquette and educational background that was most common amongst the wealthy, but she was still treated as a servant.. Jane could have done whatever it seemed to have to fit in with the people around her but she was never going to quite be at their level. And the fact that Jane knew that impacted many of her decisions.
We see Jane’s knowledge and understanding of this when she is hesitant of marrying Rochester. She knows she loves him but she knows she feels like she’ll be holding him back if she agrees. And she only does agree to marry him when she comes into her late uncle’s wealth. Jane’s pride as a woman is ultimately what stops her from going with her heart. Heathcliff and Jane both we’re affected by love, but their responses were very different. Jane put her feelings aside because she was too proud and Heathcliff was arguably ruined because of it. Both of these responses were derived from who they were.
Heathcliff, the orphan boy not born into a wealthy family couldn’t change the way Catherine felt. Jane, who was pretty much an orphan as well couldn’t oppose Rochester’s marriage because she knew she didn’t have a place to do so. Because these two characters weren’t as high and mighty as their lovers, they were forced to accept what came about and let it shape who they are. Symbolism in Spirits The novels take an interesting approach and use ghosts as a method of symbolism. In both books, the main characters are exposed to some sort of spirit that helps them make certain judgments.
Heathcliff has claimed to see the ghost of Catherine many times and he is conflicted by what it means. “…Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living; you said I killed you – haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers, I believe. I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always – take any form – drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul! ” (E. Bronte, 123-124) Catherine’s death has clearly driven Heathcliff mad.
We see Jane come to a similar conflict when she is trapped inside the Red Room by her adoptive family. She thinks, “…and the strange little figure there gazing at me, with a white face and arms specking the gloom, and glittering eyes of fear moving where all else was still, had the effect of a real spirit: I thought it like one of the tiny phantoms, half fairy, half imp, Bessie’s evening stories represented as coming out of lone, ferny dells in moors, and appearing before the eyes of belated travelers”. (C. Bronte, 4) The Red Room is a room decorated in red furniture and is the room in which Mr.
Reed died. Jane has internal conflicts and feelings towards the Reeds and being placed in solitary confinement causes her emotions and rationale to run wild. Jane is still young at this point of life and has been exposed to living with the Reeds for her entire life. She is unable to logically think about her issues due to the restrictions she has been placed upon. The only way Jane feels she can process what has happened to her is through the spirits she sees in the Red Room. Heathcliff’s desperation for Catherine was also seen in the beginning of the story. “Come in! come in! ” he sobbed.
“Cathy, do come. Oh, do – once more! Oh! My heart’s darling, hear me this time – Catherine, at last! ” (E. Bronte, 20) The characters in both novels were troubled with the idea of spirits of people who use to love them. Mr. Reed was the only nice one to Jane so she’s processing her guilt and pain by assuming she’s being haunted. Heathcliff is the same way. He’s so traumatized by Catherine’s death that he has to assume that’s she visiting him from beyond the grave because he misses her so much. The desperation to be in touch with these loved ones again is challenging the reasoning in these characters.
Both characters process their pain through envisioning spirits because it’s the only logical way for them. Again, this is another characteristic trait that is changed based on what happened to them. As a result of the restrictions and failures on the path to happiness, there is an issue of making distinctions between reality and ultimately what is desired for that character. This aspect of the novels is significant because the effects of the class and gender conflict are being portrayed. The heartbreak and identity issues are effecting judgment and causing characters to potentially lose track of reality. Reliability of Narrator
The reliability of the narrators in both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights can be considered a major factor in the characters presented to us. We are told the story of Catherine and Heathcliff through the eyes of their maid, Nelly Dean. The story of Jane Eyre is told from Jane’s perspective. Both of these characters may have biases towards the story their telling. It’s important to consider that these characters may be biased in their story-telling because societal pressures and desire to be please others may be a key factor in what they say. Nelly Dean served at Wuthering Heights during Catherine and Heathcliff’s childhood.
She made it clear to Lockwood, who she was telling the story too, that she was not very fond of Heathcliff. Nelly said herself, “Hindley hated him, and to say the truth I did the same. ” (E. Bronte, 24) Before Heathcliff arrived on the manor, she served only Catherine and her brothers. In this time, she grew very close to Catherine. When she seen the relationship between this wild orphan boy change Catherine is, she becomes weary of him and starts to develop a strong displeasure for the boy. As Heathcliff grows older and eventually takes control of Wuthering Heights, he starts to treat Nelly with less remorse.
Heathcliff treats her like he is less than her and doesn’t give Nelly the respect she thinks she deserves. His actions towards her could have caused her to make him out to be the villain in her tale. Most of the novel is told from hindsight bias from Nelly’s perspective; because she feels like Heathcliff ruined Catherine and because he was cruel boss, she may not be telling the whole truth. Because Nelly felt disrespected and mistreated by Heathcliff, her opinions can be clouded. Nelly, like Jane, is prohibited in her responses because she is a woman.
Nelly’s position as a maid stops her from being able to stand up for Catherine. Jane is narrating her story and the biases are a possibility from her perspective as well. While Jane is thorough in detail, she sometimes is modest and reserved with her inner thoughts. Jane was always hesitant to expose what she’s feeling. Rochester says, “Your garb and manner were restricted by rule; your air was often diffident, and altogether that of one refined by nature, but absolutely unused to society, and a good deal afraid of making herself disadvantageously conspicuous by some solecism or blunder.
” (C. Bronte, 105) Jane isn’t accustomed to being around people who are so willing to want to hear from her and have her willingly to be part of her life. Bronte chooses to make Jane so weary in her honesty because she’s been suppressed all her life. Living at an unloving home and then attending a school that continued to limit her, she is not used to this attention. The relationships between characters are affected because the role they place in society changes the way people see them. Nelly and Jane are both potentially biased in their stories because the role others played in their lives.
Conclusion Set in a time and area where the wealthy controlled pretty much everything, the pursuit of love and happiness are often clouded by society’s pressures. It was unheard her of for a wealthy man to fall in love with a servant or for a well-known woman to get married to an orphan. Wuthering Heights and Jane Eyre both highlight these problems. Jane, Catherine, and Heathcliff are stopped from being who they want be and who they want to be with because they have a certain reputation. There isn’t much that can be changed about where they stay in society so the characters try to get around it.
Heathcliff’s destruction comes from his broken relationship with Catherine and Jane’s pride comes from her past. They both knew where it was they grew up, they knew they didn’t seem to have a chance to be more, and it ultimately lead them on to different paths. Jane tried to show society that she couldn’t be pushed around, and Heathcliff should that he could move up on the social ladder but he was still destroyed by his failed love. Gender and social class were, and possibly still are, issues when trying to find what truly makes you happy.
The authors were trying to show the changes that are happening, or what they wanted to happen, to the standards society has set. Through the use of a woman who puts self-identity before love and the conflict between classes, the Bronte sisters are trying to say the societal standards and gender issues are not a justified reason for prohibiting happiness. Works Cited Bronte, Charlotte. Jane Eyre. New York: Random House, 1945. Print Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: Random House, 1943. Print.