The impact of setting in William Blake’s “London” and Emily Bronte’s “Wuthering Heights”

One area of connection (through disconnection) that interests me is the setting in William Blake’s “London” and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. Insomuch as how these two interact, I find it necessary to note a major difference between the London citizenry and the rural genteel. As it goes then, the London citizenry (of the distinctly lower classes) were unable to own land nor were they able to access natural relief, while the rural English genteel were afforded large swaths of land (of which they derived much of their income). In the face of this then, the way each piece of literature explores poverty become distinctly different. With Blake, his exploration concerns the unnamed mass of desperation, and in generalizing the sufferings of starvation and suffering, it loses its emotional weight. In contrast, Bronte is able to distill the observations of Blake into Heathcliff; however, Heathcliff gains an element not achieved by Blake in that he is often described in terms offensive to Romani people. Thus, and to me, the settings definitively impact the way in which poverty is illustrated by both authors, with Blake’s claustrophobic depiction of London rendering the impoverished to be a mass (which is distinctly hard to empathize with), and Bronte’s expanse of land (but sparsely populated land) allowing for a more personal description of the impoverished child. Moreover, the house servant, Nelly, is given the role of narration in Wuthering Heights, which allows for more perspective into the minds of working class people during Victorian England, and more specifically, how they themselves view the landed gentry. As a conclusion, the role of setting, with special attention to how setting influences depiction of character and archetype, appears an interesting angle to take when trying to understand why Blake and Bronte take such different approaches to characterizing the lower classes.

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