Spaces in Victorian England: Wuthering Heights and Reuben Sachs

I’ve touched on the concept of space in Victorian England before, but the fact that it keeps coming up is quite interesting. In this case, Wuthering Heights and Reuben Sachs are both books that are emblematic of fairly different spaces in Victorian England, especially in contrast to the era’s focus on the urban center of London. In saying the usual focus is on London, I mean that the focus is on a certain strand of London, which is a London read through pure class delineation. Wuthering Heights is not in London, but it is a book that goes further than the pure class analysis that seemed so popular in Victorian England. Where Wuthering Heights separates itself is in the racial ambiguity of Heathcliff, which is not a minor factor, but a visual note that consistently pops up within the characters. I won’t go so far as to say the book takes an intersectional lens on Victorian class structures, but it does make the reader aware that class is experienced or viewed differently when race and ethnicity are brought into the mix. Likewise, Reuben Sachs is a book that talks about the Jewish population in London at the time. I think the book does deal with class as a question, but it is clear that the book is also asking what it means to be Jewish in Victorian England, and more than that, what it means to be separate from the gentile hierarchy in Victorian England. Yet the analysis the book is undertaking is far more complex, for while all the characters are Jewish, all of the characters are distinct. This is better read to in light of the fact that Amy Levy is writing against George Eliot’s depiction of Jewish people in Daniel Deronda. In contextualizing with that, Levy is clearly writing a book that is attempting to create a Jewish literary space that is accurate, reflective, and not created from an outside perspective. All in all then, each of these two books attempts to creating a sort of space for their characters to operate earnestly and accurately.

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