Birth of a Poet Emily was born on July 30, 1818 in the town of Thornton, Yorkshire of England. Her parents are Patrick Bronte, a reverend, and his wife, Maria Branwell. Out of six children, she was their fifth.
Bronte’s Childhood Emily grew up in a parsonage in the town of Haworth. Her mother died of cancer when Emily was only three. Emily was home schooled until she attended the Clergy Daughters’ School at Cowan Bridge for one year. The conditions were so horrendous there that her two older sisters who had already been attending the school, Elizabeth and Maria, died of tuberculosis as a result. Fortunately though, Emily was taken home to be homeschooled once again, but this time by her father’s sister, Elizabeth Branwell.
Isolation and Imagination Emily’s relationship with her father was far from close-knit. Her father dined alone and his physical presence often remained absent from her life. Although he wasn’t always there for them, Emily’s father did encourage creativity and artistic goals to his children. On her spare time when she was not being homeschooled by her aunt Elizabeth, Emily and her remaining siblings created a world of imagination.
The Magical Kingdom of Angria Using a couple of toy soldiers and the creativity they developed from reading multiple novels provided by their father, Emily and her siblings created Angria. Writing the stories and poems of Angria were a way for Emily to express her feelings toward human conditions such as passions, imprisonment, adultery, incest, murder, revenge, and warfare.
Shift to Gondal At the approximate age of 13, Emily, along with her younger sister, Anne, started to focus their time and energy for imagination into their own world of Gondal, distinct from Charlotte and Patrick’s Angria. The stories of Gondal were about reckless royalty, political secrecy, love abandoned, wars, murders, and assassinations that all take place on an imaginary island in the North Pacific called Gondal. The characters often involved motherless children, just like Emily.
Detour to Roe Head In July of 1835, for the first time in a long time, Emily left her home to accompany her sister Charlotte who was a teacher for children in Roe Head. Emily didn’t last long as she grew homesick and missed time to express her imagination with her sister Anne through the world of Gondal.
Law Hill School In September 1838, Emily made another attempt to break out of her daily routine of spending her days lost in the world of Gondal when she became a teacher at Law Hill School in Halifax. Unfortunately, the 17-hour work day was too much for her so she returned home after about a year since starting. From then on, she would remain a stay at home daughter, doing the chores of the parsonage, and teaching
The Dream that Could…Not In 1842, Emily accompanied her sister Charlotte to a Girls Academy run by Constantin Heger, in hopes of opening their own school. However, after their aunt Elizabeth passed away, they returned home and tried to open their school from there, but had no success. Emily would remain a stay at home daughter from that point on, doing chores for the house, teaching Sunday school, and producing poetry until the day she would die.
Death of a Poet Unsanitary conditions in Emily’s home and contaminated drinking water contributed to the Tuberculosis she was diagnosed with, ironically on the day of her only brother’s funeral. Emily was offered medical assistance plenty of times during her sickness, but refused help every single time. The disease took it’s toll on her on and she passed away December 19, 1848.
Wuthering Heights Emily’s most successful masterpiece is a tale of love and revenge. Heathcliff, an adopted gypsy-like boy, falls in love with his adopter’s daughter, and the two grow very close. However, he runs away when Catherine, the woman he loves, decides to marry another for his social status. Heathcliff returns later, rich and educated to wreak vengeance upon the two families that he believed ruined his life.
The Destructiveness of Permanent Love Nelly, the narrator of Wuthering heights, accuses the love Heathcliff has for Catherine as immoral. His never-changing love for her is the source of many conflicts that occur in the novel. However, it is not clear whether Emily suggests the reader to condemn this lover as guilty or to idealize him as a romantic hero whose love exceeds social norms and conformist morality.
The Instability of Social Class The shifting nature of social status is demonstrated most noticeably in Wuthering Heights in Heathcliff’s switch from being a homeless orphan to a young gentleman through adoption, to a common laborer, and back to a gentleman again. Catherine’s marriage to Edgar, a very classy and upper-middle class gentry man, causes her social status to rise, which gives another example of how one’s social class (excluding those of aristocracy / royalty) is vulnerable to change, for better or worse.
Pairs Emily organizes Wuthering Heights by arranging the characters, places, and themes of the novel into pairs. Catherine and Heathcliff are similar in many ways, and see themselves as identical. Catherine’s character is split into two opposing sides: the side that desires Edgar and the side that yearns for Heathcliff. The two houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, seem to symbolize conflicting worlds and values at first, but, by the end of the novel, so many intermarriages have happened that it’s difficult to tell the two families apart.
Cycles Nothing ever ends in Wuthering Heights. Alternatively, time runs in cycles, and the tragedies of the past repeat themselves in the present. For instance, Heathcliff’s moral degradation of, Hareton (the son of Heathcliff’s brother through adoption, who degraded him when he was first adopted), repeats Hindley’s original degrading of Heathcliff. Also, the young Catherine’s (daughter of Catherine that Heathcliff fell in love with) mockery of Joseph’s (a servant) serious evangelical passion repeats her mother’s mockery. Even Heathcliff’s second attempt at opening Catherine’s grave to see her repeats his first.
Nature vs. Culture Nature is represented by Heathcliff and Catherine in particular. These characters live by their desires, not by reflection, consideration or ideals of courtesy. Similarly, the house where they grew up in Wuthering Heights serves to symbolize a wildness just like theirs. Conversely, the house of Thrushcross Grange and the character Edgar (the classy man Catherine leaves Heathcliff for) characterizes culture, refinement, convention, and cultivation.
Moors The stress on landscape in Wuthering Heights gives the setting symbolic importance. This landscape is made mostly of moors, which are wide stretches of soggy land, the soggy aspect making them uncultivable. These moors contain patches in which people could potentially drown. Therefore, the moors serve as symbols of the wild hazards posed by nature. The start of Catherine and Heathcliff’s love is marked by the two first playing on the moors. The moorland ironically then transfers its symbolic associations of danger onto their love.
Ghosts Emily presents ghosts in such a way that whether they really exist remains uncertain. Therefore, the realm of Wuthering Heights can be analyzed as a realistic one. Certain ghosts such as Catherine’s spirit when it appears to Lockwood, one of the two narrators of Wuthering Heights, can be explained as nightmares. The villagers’ alleged sightings of Heathcliff’s ghost could be canned as unproven superstition. Whether or not the ghosts are real or not, they symbolize the manifestation of history within the present, and the way memory sticks with people.
Discussion Question How are the concepts of death and loss illustrated in Emily Bronte’s Remembrance? Include at least two quotes from the text to support your answer.
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