Author Archives: Hannah Bentivegna

What I enjoyed and learned about Victorian Literature

Since I am fairly new to the English major, before taking this class I had only ever taken one other English class; New Zealand Literature. Initially I was a little nervous that I would feel out of place in a 300 level English class but as the semester went on I realized I belonged in this class and I made the right decision to become an English major. I have always been interested in Victorian literature, especially reading texts whose story lines take place during the Victorian era so I knew I would enjoy reading various texts written by Victorian authors. I think the best part of the semester for me was reading Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. I had never read this novel before and once I started reading, I simply couldn’t put it down. I especially enjoyed our classroom discussions about the novel and dissecting the various relationships and themes. I also think having groups really helped facilitate classroom discussion and allowed for groups of people to think things through and question what we have read before sharing our findings with the rest of the class. Another think I really liked about this class was that it was mostly classroom driven. Coming to class, I knew that we (the students) would be able to lead the discussion and be able to ask questions about the given text and hear the thoughts and feedback from others. I prefer this type of classroom setting over that of a lecture hall. Overall I really enjoyed reading a variety of Victorian Literature written by many different authors. This class was a lot of fun to attend every week and the readings were always interesting!

Victorian Expectations for Women

While reading Reuben Sachs I came across one quote in particular that stuck out to me, “This woman, with her beauty, her intelligence, her power of feeling, saw herself merely as one of a vast crowd of girls awaiting their promotion by marriage.” This quote is talking about Judith and though she has much to offer she, like most Victorian women, are simply waiting around to get married and fulfill their duties of becoming a housewife. This quote reminded me of Catherine in Wuthering Heights. In chapter 11 of Wuthering Heights, Catherine tells Nelly that Edgar has asked her to marry him and she has accepted. She goes on to explain that she cannot marry Heathcliff because in her eyes he is beneath her in some way. She goes so far as to say, “It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff.” She knows that Edgar Linton is a proper gentleman and can offer her a life of a typical Victorian woman. Judith and Catherine are very similar in that they feel as though they don’t have complete control over their lives. During the Victorian Era, women were expected to be good wives and mothers so this is what was done. Even though these women might have had ideas of their own about how they might want their lives to end up, the traditions of domestic life were so engrained in the society already.

Prison Life Comparrison

In The Ballad of Reading Gaol by Oscar Wilde, the horrible prison conditions described really reminded me of how Newgate Prison was depicted in Great Expectations. In chapter 32 of the novel the prison is described as being disorganized and suffers from serious neglect both to the building and the prisoners who are held inside. The prison has no formal regulations and left prisoners to do as they pleased. When Pip visits Newgate Prison he describes it as being very depressing. This is the same in The Ballad of Reading Gaol, Wilde wonders how a person could be put in such a horrible, depressing place such as the one described in the text. Prisons were quiet horrible during these times and often had multiple prisoners placed together in one cell so that they would barely walk around freely. Both of these depictions of prison life paint a very dreary picture in the readers mind. However, over the course of many years, thankfully there have been numerous improvements of prison facilities and also with the treatment of the inmates.

Pip vs Heathcliff: Love or Obsession?

I feel as though the more I read of Great Expectations the more similarities I see between the main character Pip and the main character of Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff. While reading chapter 44 from this week’s reading one part in particular stuck out to me. It is the moment when Pip finally confesses his love for Estella. He says, “Estella, you know I love you. You know I have loved you long and dearly.” This immediately makes me think back to our reading of Wuthering Heights and how Heathcliff no matter what, continues to love Catherine. This is something Pip and Heathcliff have in common, they try to make themselves into gentlemen for the women they love and even though they know it might be impossible for them to be together, they continue to love them regardless. Although, it may sound endearing that these men will always love these women, I can’t help but think it seems to be a little more of obsession or infatuation than real love. A little later on in chapter 44 Pip says, “I know. I know I have no hope that I shall call you mine, Estella. I am ignorant what may become of me very soon, how poor I may be, or where I may go. Still, I love you. I have loved you ever since I first saw you in this house.” It seems to me that Pip is just ponding over Estella even though he knows she’ll never love him back. Even still, his love for her is overpowering and he feels the need to express his feelings for her, no matter how desperate he seems. In Heathcliff’s case, he knows Catherine loves him but because of social and economic reasons and perhaps even her own selfish reasons, she decides to marry Edgar instead. It seems that both Estella and Catherine are women who have a powerful hold over men like Pip and Heathcliff and it causes them to act out in ways that might mean to be loving but in the end comes off as obsessive or neurotic.

Pip and Heathcliff: Men Who Will Do Anything for the Woman They Love

In chapter 22 of Great Expectations, Pip asks Herbert teach him how to be a proper gentlemen. Pip is desperate to impress Estella, even though the two had always played together and enjoy each other’s company, Estella has always looked down on Pip.  This reminded me of Heathcliff and Catherine’s story in Wuthering Heights. When Catherine and Heathcliff were young, they would often play together and loved being together but ultimately when faced with the decision to marry Heathcliff or Edgar Linton, Catherine chooses Edgar. She feels as though by marrying Edgar he will be able to help her more, both financially and socially. This is what ultimately pushes Heathcliff to leave home and become the gentleman that Catherine is looking for to show her he can change. In Pip’s case, he is aware of his low social status and hopes that by educating himself on becoming a proper gentleman, he will be able to make Estella love him. Both Heathcliff and Pip want to change who they are for love but that’s not always a good thing. People should love you for who you are, and if they can’t then that doesn’t mean you should change to fit someone’s ‘ideal’ image. Personally, I think Heathcliff and Pip are very similar in the fact that they are really struggling with who they are and who they want to be. For both these men, it’s easy to change themselves into a different person for a woman. 

Boys To Men

While reading the beginning of Great Expectations I couldn’t help but see the similarities between main character Pip and Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. Both men were orphaned at a young age and due to this, grew up in less than perfect households. For Pip, he lives with his sister Mrs. Joe and her husband Joe Gargery. Although it isn’t the worst place to grow up his sister is often very tough on him and likes to keep a strict house. We see in Wuthering Heights that Heathcliff was also an orphan boy who found a home with and was adopted by Mr. Earnshaw who always treated him like his own son. Heathcliff’s living situation can’t be considered perfect either as he was often tormented and pushed around by his ‘brother,’ Hindley, who never considered Heathcliff his brother. Like Heathcliff, we see Pip being treated poorly in the first few chapters by the convict who grabs him and pushes him around demanding Pip to return the next day with food and a file so he can cut himself out of his chains. It seems that both Pip and Heathcliff are two men who suffered a lot of hardships while growing up. Not only did they not have parents but they were pushed around by the people they were surrounded by growing up. I think it’s interesting to see how similar these characters are in their early stages of childhood and I wonder what sort of character Pip will become as the story progresses. Will he stay a shy and fearful boy unable to communicate with others or will he become a confident man who stands up for himself?

The Withering Characters in Wuthering Heights

In Charles Darwin’s, On the Origin of Species By Natural Selection, it states; “…a plant on the edge of a desert is said to struggle for life against the drought, though more properly it should be said to be dependent on the moisture.” This quote is explaining the different perspectives when looking at life. Some would say a desert plant struggles for life in a drought while others would say that desert plants are dependent on moisture. This quote reminded me of Catherine and Heathcliff’s relationship in the novel Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. In a way, Catherine can be compared to the plant Darwin talks about in the quote stated prior. Without Heathcliff in her life she is like a desert plant, struggling against the drought. Like a plant is dependent on receiving moisture to stay alive, Catherine is dependent on Heathcliff’s love to keep her alive. There is one point in the novel when Catherine is talking to Nelly about Heathcliff and she says “Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being.” No matter how hard Catherine tries not to be depend on Heathcliff he is such a big part of her life that it’s almost like she needs him in order to survive in this world. This is also true for Heathcliff as we see how much Catherine’s death affected Heathcliff as a person. After Catherine died, a piece of Heathcliff died along with her. It wasn’t until Heathcliff’s own death that he was finally able to be at piece again, knowing that he would be reunited with his love Catherine. 

Cycle of Abuse

I really enjoyed reading the novel Wuthering Heights as I’ve never read something quite like it. While reading the last few chapters I couldn’t help but question a lot of the characters motives throughout the story. Heathcliff practically killed himself by not eating and it was all justified in the end because for years he had longed to be reunited with Catherine, his ‘one true love.’ However, many of Heathcliff’s and Catherine’s actions towards each other raise the question of whether or not they were truly mean to be together. It became more and more clear to me that the constant competition and jealous between Catherin and Heathcliff is not something that is healthy in a relationship. Although relationships require a lot of work and sacrifice, it seemed like neither of them were willing to risk it all to be together. Both Catherine and Heathcliff appear to be very self-centered characters and in a way you can say that they were made for each other in that regard. Being a woman myself I could help but feel that Heathcliff treats the women in his life quite terribly, especially Isabella. Even after he married her, all he could think about was being with Catherine and he was upset he couldn’t have her. This in particular made me think about the poem we read called “The Runaway Slave At Pilgrim’s Point” by Elizabeth Barret Browning. The poem is narrated by a female slave who had fled from her abuse and cruelty that she has endured. In the poem she talks about another slave she knew who she was in love with but was separated from him. This all reminds me of Isabella and Heathcliff and even a little bit about Heathcliff and Catherine. In Isabella’s case, she actually cared for Heathcliff in the beginning and hoped he would eventually grow to love her but instead he grew more hateful and bitter and treated her horribly which led her to escape his terrible treatment. In Catherine’s case, she loved Heathcliff and he loved her but Catherine chose Edgar which drove Heathcliff to seek revenge on Catherine by marrying Isabella, Edgar’s sister. In a way this could be seen as mental abuse by Heathcliff who wanted to see Catherine hurt by his decision to marry. I think there is a sort of cycle of abuse throughout this novel, and we even see it towards the end when Heathcliff refuses to eat and the starvation ultimately kills him. The characters in this novel not only treat each other poorly but they have no value for their own lives. It’s a sad conclusion to come to but at least at the end of the novel, with Heathcliff’s death, there might be a chance for their children to break the horrible cycle of abuse. 

Carefree, No Moor

            After reading these next few chapters In Wuthering Heights I was intrigued thinking about the relationships between the different characters. As we read earlier on in the novel, when Catherine and Heathcliff were children they would often run off together and play and enjoy each other company as most young people do. We can compare their relationship to that of their children years later. I found it interesting that the carefree attitude that Catherine and Heathcliff once had is not as easily acquired for their own children. Heathcliff’s son Linton is a sickly boy who is often too weak to go out and instead stays inside whining all day. His father treats him quite poorly as he never even loved his mother and thus doesn’t care much for the boy. Cathy, Catherine’s daughter longs for more freedom but her father forbids her from seeing Linton because of the bad history he has with Heathcliff. I think it’s also important to talk about Heathcliff’s treatment of Hareton, Hindley’s son. It seems that Heathcliff loves treating the people in his life very poorly. I find this extremely ironic as Heathcliff himself used to be treated badly by Hindley and was often times treated like a servant in his own home. Now, many years later, Heathcliff has made it his mission to take revenge on those who have wronged him and I think that is apparent with his mistreatment of Hindley’s son, Hareton. Instead of being able to go out and play with his cousins Cathy and Linton, he is forced to do whatever Heathcliff says. He is practically treated like a servant and has no freedom of his own. Heathcliff won’t even let Hareton get a proper education so he doesn’t even know how to read. After reading this, I immediately thought of the poem we read in class called “The Cry Of The Children” by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. This poem expresses the child labor victim’s sorrows as they spend all their time working instead of playing and enjoying their childhood. Although Cathy, Linton, and Hareton aren’t out working in factories all day, they are bound by family ties and obligations and have no time to enjoy themselves. In my opinion, Hareton is the one who is really put to work and is ordered around by Heathcliff the most. Unlike their parents, Linton and Cathy don’t have the luxury of roaming around the moors and acting carefree. 

Social Status and Poverty

After reading the first chapters of “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte, I couldn’t help but notice the obvious underlying racial tension that arise due to social status. It’s obvious that Lockwood feels superior to Heathcliff as almost ever comment he makes about him is negative or degrading to the way he looks. It appears to me that Lockwood is so accustomed to the privileges he’s had in life and has no regard for anyone who isn’t of the same social standing as himself. It’s important to note that growing up Heathcliff was a homeless orphan who had no money to his name but now, years later, he has acquired both power and money and has made something of himself. This sort of made me think of the poem we read last week called “The Chimney Sweeper” by William Blake. This poem talks about a child who is forced to become a chimney sweeper due to financial troubles at home. These jobs were life threatening as they caused major damage to children’s lungs. It was during this time in the Victorian Era that poverty effected many families and children were out on the streets looking for ways to make a living. In Heathcliff’s childhood he was just like this boy in the poem, poor and doing anything to get by.