A Book Inside a Book: Wuthering Heights, Self-Referential Narratives, and Death

From the outset of Wuthering Heights, the most interesting event in the beginning chapters was Lockwood’s discovery of Catherine’s diary. However, the fascination lies not in the act, but rather, in how Catherine’s diary is presented. As it stands, the diary was not a typical diary, but a diary that constituted itself to be both a diary and an obscure book (the book’s title hardly matters). On surface level, Catherine’s diary can obviously be interpreted as a meta-reference to how Emily BrontĂ« delivers the narrative of Wuthering Heights, which is that of the frame narrative. To wit, this object is self-referential towards the form of the novel, but it can also offer itself as a meta-object that deals with the content of the novel. To those ends then, the two content-rich narratives are separately that of the implicit and the explicit. The implicit narrative, and the framing narrative, is the socioeconomic system that prevents Catherine and Heathcliff from realizing their romantic ambitions together. This, of course, is not a traditional narrative, but a systemic narrative localized to Victorian England. Yet, the narrative of Catherine and Heathcliff’s romance is a literary narrative, yet, it also retains aspects of a dialectic (albeit a negative one). But why is this an important aspect of the novel to point out, and how does it flesh out the characters? For the first part, this aspect of the novel gains its importance in Catherine’s death, which is helplessly intertwined with her realization that the dual narratives she and Heathcliff operate within are sustained upon absence. That is to say, she has realized that not only will she never meet the societal expectation of the systemic narrative she takes part in, but she will also never fulfill her romantic expectation with Heathcliff. In this realization then, Catherine can be seen as someone who has had both of her guiding narratives fully deconstructed, and cannot stand the essential nothingness of each of the narratives she has been forced into. Thus, the meta-object of the novel opens up the necessary steps to understand this conclusion. To wit, the meta-object breaks down with Heathcliff, and in most senses, was never there for him. Thus, the breakdown of Catherine, and the unexpected stoppage of her writing their stories in the margins of the systemic narratives, leaves him in a lurch. This lurch comes because he has not yet fully died, in both the physical and philosophical sense. Of course, his narrative with Catherine is dead, but he is still left with the overarching systemic narrative that ripped him and Catherine apart. It follows then, that this narrative is the one he fully rebels against. His anger and diabolic machinations reaches to a fever peak in the following chapters of Catherine’s death. Now herein lies a new question, does Heathcliff rebel so earnestly against that systemic narrative because he hates what it perpetrated onto him and Catherine, or does he rebel because it creates an unbreakable bond of hatred (which could be seen as a good thing for the systemic narrative was deeply intertwined with him and Catherine’s personal narrative, and thus, retains a parcel of Catherine herself) between him and that system?

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