I find the most interesting and also my favorite thing I learned about Victorian literature was the way women writers used their work to shape the public look on the woman’s roll and the patriarchy. I was not expecting this theme to run through this course. From Elliot to Bronte to Levy strong voices speaking out against the oppression of women not only led to great art but opened the door for women to begin to take a stand and intact tangible social change. Even though Bronte and Levy did this in ways that can be seen as subtle, they still used literature to tell stories from a point of view that readers look back on and site as breaking the mold. I loved the work we read by Elliot that explained feminism in such a clear way and allowed for people to see the absurdity of the current system while also calling out people who want to put women on a pedestal and how harmful that is to our equality. I think this point is important and is one that I hadn’t really thought of, so it shaped my thinking as the semester progressed that part of equality is seeing flawed female characters. This was seen in the personality and actions of several keys characters in the works we read, for example, Catherine Ms .Havisham, and Judith. I enjoyed studying these women’s stories and the way each writer, even Dickens, found a way to insert a compelling female character into the work. My take away from this aspect of Victorian literature is that through the help of writers like Elliot women felt inspired to write realistic female characters which then made their art better and in turn the Victorian era special.
After reading the Levy novel Ruben Sachs I could not help but look into the life and inspiration of the author. It is clear she is writing her work from a feminist perspective and commenting on the patriarchal nature of the jewish family structure and community. We watch her character Judith live and deal with these circumstance which reminded me of Pip’s journey to become a gentlemen only Pip did not have to face the discrimination based on religion and gender. Because of this I did not want to make the coming of age comparison, but thought of the inspiration of Wilde’s work. When he writes it is with such passion to be understood and I feel the same sense in Levy’s work as well. The two knew each other and Wilde published Levy’s poems and short stories in his publication Women’s World. I find their relation intriguing and picture the two spending days talking about what it is like to be hated and outcast from society because of something fundamental about their existence. It is interesting to me that during the same time two people who face such different form of oppression knew each other and were helping the other create.I wonder if great art has to come from a lace of pain and outsiderness, or is it this lonely feeling that allows writers to reflect on the world around them?
While reading Wilde’s account of prison I could not help but think of Catherine in Withering Heights. I made the connection based on each persons head-space and how they felt about their surroundings. Catherine was a free women technically in the eyes of the law, but once she married Linton she was doomed to live forever in a marriage that reminds me of the prison Wilde describes. For women of that time marriage was a type of prison. They often did not get a large selection of suitable men to marry and one they were legally married the rights of the women were hard to come by. Even if she got out of a bad or unhappy marriage inevitable social and finical consequences existed that lasted a lifetime. the reader sees this in Withering heights where this prison of marriage eventually kills Catherine. Each account is filled with despair and a calling for a different life and circumstance, for example, in Wilde’s account in “De Profundis” he says, “Out of my nature has come wild despair; an abandonment to grief that was piteous even to look at; terrible and impotent rage; bitterness and scorn; anguish that wept aloud; misery that could find no voice; sorrow that was dumb. I have passed through every possible mood of suffering.” when reading those lines i can picture Catherine looking out the widow of her home wishing for her beloved and the life she could have outside the prison she inhabits.
Last class we discussed a quote that Nelly where claimed everyone in the world of Wuthering Heights is selfish whether it be just or not. Our discussion focused on Heathcliff and while I agree that he can defiantly be considered a selfish character I think Linton is getting off easy. In the reading for last class at the beginning of chapter thirteen there is a description of Linton’s care for Catherine that struck me and my group. If read on its own its easy to overlook the selfish undertone, but read though the lens that everyone in this world is out for themselves another layer is revealed,”…flattering his too sanguine hopes with the illusion that her mind would settle back to its right balance, also she would soon be entirely her former self” (134). I read this with a feeling of desperation on the part of Linton to regain Catherine to her former self. Now that’s a nice thing to want but his motivations and actions surrounding this are self serving. It is almost like he is trying to glue pieces of a vase back together. It feels like an obligation and a chore not an act of love. Later in the reading for class Tuesday I found a passage that calls back to Linton’s care, “I noticed on that occasion how much selfishness there is even in a love like Mr Linton’s, when he so regretted Catherine’s blessed release!” (167) Here we see after the fact the true nature of Linton’s care. He wanted Catherine to be better for his sake not hers and if you love someone you do not care about what is good for you only the needs of your partner matter. Trying to glue her pieces back together prolonged her suffering. And to me that is the most selfish act of all.
The complex histories and connections to the past these first few chapters describe paired with the appearance of Catherine’s ghost made me wonder about what the novel is trying to say about connections with the past. The scene in which Lockwood encounters the ghost is ambiguous, Lockwood had been dreaming leading up to the encounter and it is not clear to the reader if what he is experiencing is real or another dream. I think this ambiguity adds to the deeper meaning behind the desperation of the figure of Catherine. The stories Lockwood is told about the history of Wuthering Heights and its inhabitants have a melancholy feel. Even the way the physical setting is described invokes an unsettling feeling. Which is mirrored in the appearance of Catherine’s ghost and also in the different poems about child labor we read for last class. In “The Chimney Sweeper” there is a line that reminds me Catherine’s plea to Lockwood, “A little black thing among the snow/Crying weep, weep, in notes of woe!” this is describing a child lost in the starkness of the snow crying because of the labor he is forced to preform. This image coupled with the image of Catherine gives me the same feeling. Desperation. The line that she speaks even echos the child’s weeping, “…but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, ‘Let me in—let me in!” I am looking forward to seeing how this theme of melancholy and the past develops as we learn more about these characters and their stories. Right now i would predict that the ghost represents the characters unwillingness to let got of their trauma and cope with life after tragedy so this leaves them in a perpetual state of unrest and sadness.