Author Archives: Sarah Bracy

Abel Magwitch: Infidel to Agnostic

Abel Magwitch is likely not the first person, real or fictional, who would come to mind when contemplating religion; however, while Abel had a difficult childhood, he still strives to follow some type of moral code. Abel is never without the Testament and obliges others to swear on it so that he may hold them accountable to their words and their actions.

Upon learning a bit more about Abel’s backstory, it appears that he never really had a chance when it came to avoiding a life of crime. Nonetheless, Abel clings to his little black book for many years, although he probably would not be considered religious or consider himself in this respect. This led me to draw a parallel between the mystery surrounding Abel’s religion and spirituality and one of the first few lines of Huxley’s “Agnosticism and Christianity”, which reads, “The people who call themselves ‘Agnostics’ have been charged with doing so because they have not the courage to declare themselves ‘Infidels.’ It has been insinuated that they have adopted a new name in order to escape the unpleasantness which attaches to their proper denomination.” Perhaps Abel continues to grasp onto the Testament because, for him, it is the difference between “Infidel”, and the negative connotations associated with this, and “Agnostic”, as well as the positive implications of this term. It also seems that, at the time during which this book was set to take place, society tended to tie Christianity to morality, so without being somewhat religious or spiritual, Abel feels he is nothing in the eyes of society and God. Abel is a much sought after convict, outcasted from society— perhaps he clings to what little semblance of religion he has in order to maintain some dignity and social status, at least in his own eyes, or in the eyes of society through himself.

Children Robbed of Childhood

Upon finishing Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, I thought of the poem “The Cry of the Children”, by Elizabeth Barrett Browning. Browning’s poem focuses on child labor, and the children she writes of are robbed of their childhood, not unlike the way Linton is robbed of his. These injustices are due to adult agendas with one selfish purpose. In terms of child labor, that agenda is, of course, rooted in exploitation and the drive to make money and be successful at any cost. In Linton’s case, Heathcliff is the adult with the agenda; he is hungry for revenge, and Linton suffers at his hands both directly and indirectly. In class, we discussed Browning’s metaphorical use of young animals and plants, perhaps with the intent of emphasizing the innocence of the children in the poem or with the intent of juxtaposing the seemingly more peaceful life of, for example, a young fawn with the corrupted one of a child forced into long work hours, missing out on their youth. I feel that Linton could fit into this poem as well as any troubled child, because everything about his existence seems to be miserable, right down to his poor health. Even Browning’s mention of “the country of the free” reminds us that, while Linton was technically free, he was so overwhelmingly controlled by Heathcliff, even in his temporary, superficial romance with young Catherine, that he was unable to make choices of his own volition; his life was dictated by other people. The very situation into which he was born was such a terrible one, messy and already full of complicated, jealous, and hateful relationships. Much like the poem’s children are slaves to the work that has been forced upon them, Linton is slave to his previously estranged father’s manipulations.

“Infanticism and Sadism in ‘Wuthering Heights'”

The article “Infanticide and Sadism in ‘Wuthering Heights'”, by Wade Thompson, claims that the love that Catherine feels for Heathcliff is not the normal storybook romance. She loved him as a child, but it does not equate to the love she may feel as an adult. The main argument in the article states that, due to Catherine’s childlike nature and possible blood relation to Heathcliff, her love for him breaks norms; Catherine can love both Heathcliff and Linton at the same time since it is two different kinds of love. She considers Heathcliff as her “childhood lover” and Linton as her “adult lover”, and because of this, the reader understands that the story is not a typical romance. Thompson goes as far as to claim that there is a sense of incest between Catherine and Heathcliff because he may be her half brother and they laid in bed together as children. Even though she is married, the article highlights that the nature of her marriage is an escape from a healthy relationship, stating, “Marriage to Linton, a weak, respectable, undemanding person, is essentially an escape from the demands of adult sexuality, and she sees no betrayal of Heathcliff in the escape.” (72). The argument here shows that in all aspects of her life, Catherine has avoided a true romance in a modern sense in favor of a childlike fantasy with Heathcliff, and this is why the novel cannot be considered a romance.

Gender’s Double Standard Throughout “Wuthering Heights”

A recurring theme in Wuthering Heights is the way in which the speaker frames differences in gender, as well as the standard for each gender that characters are expected to meet. Catherine is looked kindly upon for her favorable, “feminine” qualities, like her beauty and quiet intelligence, but this is very much in spite of her less favorable, less “ladylike” qualities, speaking to her strong will and temperament. Heathcliff also insults Linton’s mother in Chapter 20, calling her a slut — yet another instance in which a man judges a woman based on characteristics perceived to be more or less feminine by societal norms at the time. This double standard is a pattern throughout the book; we can even go back to Chapter 8, for example, and examine the instance in which Catherine is looked down upon for her “unladylike temper” with Edgar, when they get into a small fight. This bit of sexism in such a dated book highlights what little value people placed on women in the age at the time, as well as the everyday ways in which women would be judged and characterized for personality, for example.

What I Hope to Learn About Victorian Literature

When I originally added this course, it was in a bit of a panic because I was enrolled in another course that fit poorly into my schedule. Towards the end of add/drop week, upon noticing there was only one spot left in this course, I added it on an impulse. I didn’t know anything about Victorian literature. The reason I decided to keep it in my schedule and give it a try was because of the promise of connecting literature and science in the course description. I have a vested interest in this above all else; I am an English major on the pre-medical track, and throughout my college years, I have been trying to collect reasons and develop an explanation for why I, a non-STEM major, am still ideally suited for my desired career. I am very much interested in the intersection between the arts and STEM, and how academic work in each of these fields is beneficial to the other. This semester, I am hoping to learn what differentiates Victorian literature from that of other eras, as well as continue to analyze and understand why the fields of STEM and the arts have each been essential to the other throughout history.