I feel as though it is unquestionable that there are stark similarities between Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights and Pip in Great Expectations, and these similarities only become more pronounced in this set of chapters. Heathcliff and Pip have extremely similar upbringings and thusly, extremely similar character arcs. Raised as orphans, not destined for wealth or a gentlemanly lifestyle, they were most likely going to slip through the societal cracks until an inheritance of vast wealth. However, their transition to a different social class appears artificial, and that’s because it is. At its roots, Heathcliff and Pip are not naturally indoctrinated to live the lifestyles of gentlemen, and this issue is prominent when it comes to their desire for love. Heathcliff’s incessant longing for Catherine can’t be fulfilled, because in her eyes there would be a social stigma that still remains, and in order to keep her social perceptions intact, she would be better off with Edgar Linton. This is similar to Pip and his relationship with Estella, who goes on to marry Drummle. Situationally these relationships differ, as Healthcliff’s love seems requited more-so than Pip, but the point still stands that although wealth is garnered, these men have a difficulty escaping the predispositions that have been placed on them, and their self-awareness of such gives them great anguish.
Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights is a depiction of the intricacies of class structure during the 19th century; an idea had been addressed to some extent in nearly every piece of Victorian literature we had read thus far. The relationship between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff is perhaps one of the strongest ways that Bronte addresses the plights of minority classes, by injecting it into a bleak love story that cross-examines both women and Africans. Heathcliff’s love for Catherine is unattainable because of his social status. William Blakes’s The Chimney Sweeper and The Runaway Slave at Pilgrim’s Point are both representative of some of the struggles of African’s during this time. Heathcliff’s specific situation is more complex, being that he went from poor orphan to being raised as an upper-class individual. Following the death of Mr. Earnshaw, Heathcliff is redelegated so a subservient role due to Hindley’s resentment of him. It is Heathcliff’s role that is the reason Catherine’s love for him is equally unattainable. Catherine must shroud her desires for Heathcliff because to be with him would mean subjecting herself to being viewed as lowly, in comparison to being with Edgar who is a much more suitable partner from a societal standpoint. This can be connected to “Margaret Fuller and Mary Wollstonecraft”, where the conditions of women and the way in which they are subjected to a position where they have to sort of mold to the sensibilities of their husband.
Thomas Carlyle’s Past and Present and Harriet Martineau’s Society in America were written within six years of each other, and it is because of this that I find the stark contrast between their social ideologies so compelling. At its most basic, the main difference is obviously Martineau’s persistence for the equality of women and Carlyle’s disinterest in allowing for any change in the social hierarchy if it infringes upon the power that men have (in relation to women or minorities). This is blatant, and it is a consistent theme throughout this time period, as women pushing for equal rights would continue to remain prevalent through the 20th century. However, my intrigue in this comparison is due to the distinct difference in how Carlyle and Martineau strive to get their point across. Carlyle, in essence, idealizes a feudal work system where there is nobility in living a difficult life, draws from the Bible for nearly every argument he states, and overall exudes an arrogant persona. Martineau is substantially more concise in her argument, and instead of clouding her values with religious imagery, she primarily uses the Constitution and basic definitions to showcase how the United States is very contradictory in its treatment of women. An important distinction is that Martineau is looking to propel society forward, whereas Carlyle is looking to the past for guidance, often referencing values of nobility and chivalry. This is apparent towards the end of Section VII where Martineau states “The kings of Europe would have laughed mightily, two centuries ago, at the idea of a commoner, without robes, crown, or sceptre, stepping into the throne of a strong nation. Yet who dared to laugh when Washington’s super-royal voice greeted the New World from the presidential chair, and the old world stood still to catch the echo?”. Martineau is saying that at one point even the President of the United States, who is held in such high regard, was viewed as “less than” in comparison to others. Although hindsight should be noted, Carlyle’s argument seems very antiquated both in his ideals and execution compared to Martineau.
Like many others taking this course, Victorian-era literature is not something that I am well versed in or have a significant understanding of. Although along the way I have a read a couple of Victorian novels (Dracula and A Christmas Carol), I read them without having any understanding of what Victorian literature is; I just knew they were classic novels. So I suppose my hopes for this course, is to have an understanding of what constitutes Victorian literature. Obviously it is mainly characterized by the time period the works were produced in, but I’m interested to see if there are any similarities between the literature, such as themes and influences. Charles Dickens and Oscar Wilde are two authors whose works I am excited to read, they are very revered and I think getting introduced to their works are important for me as an English major. I hope to maintain an interest in the literature throughout the semester, and I am excited to establish my own ideas about the Victorian Era.