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Literary Criticism Summary
According to the editor Currer Bell, the novel Wuthering Heights may seem rather
crude and unintelligible to those who know nothing of the author. Strangers who are
unacquainted with the setting where the story takes place, or who are unfamiliar with the customs
of the time may also look at Wuthering Heights with a critical eye. “To all such Wuthering
Heights must appear a rude and strange production” (Bell 5).
Readers may feel that the manners, language, and the very dwellings of the characters
are somewhat “repulsive” (Bell 5). People who are perhaps calm and collected will “have no idea
what to make of the rough, strong utterance, the harshly manifested passions, the unbridled
aversions, and headlong partialities” (Bell 5). Many people have been taught carefully to observe
the evenness of language and manner, and it is these people whom the roughness will shock .
The entire novel is regarded for its rusticity. “It is moorish, and wild, and knotty as the
root of heath” (Bell 5). However, Currer Bell insists that this is exactly the way the novel should
be. The author was a product of these wild and rustic moors, and it is quite natural that she writes
about what she lived in. “Her descriptions, then, if natural scenery, are what they should be, and
all that they should be” (Bell 6).
The author herself was not a very social person. She looked upon most
people with benevolence, but there were very few instances where she interacted with them on a
personal level. However, this did not stop her from accurately identifying the ways, language, and
family history of most people. “She could hear of them with interest, and talk of them with detail,
minute, graphic,and accurate; but with them she barely exchanged a word” (Bell 6-7). Her
imagination was dismal yet powerful.
Still, there are certain examples in Wuthering Heights that bring a sort of brightness to
the other dreary aspects of the novel. The character of Nelly Dean is an example of tenderness
and compassion. In the character of Edgar Linton one can see a sense of constancy and
thoughtfulness. Also, “some glimpses of grace and gaiety animate the younger
Catherine” (Bell 8). Even the first Catherine possesses strange sort of beauty in the midst of all
her intense passion.
Heathcliff possesses only one characteristic that shows he is in fact human. It is not his
love for Catherine, which is wild and fierce, but it is his, “rudely confessed regard for Hareton
Earnshaw- the young man whom he has ruined; and his half -implied esteem for Nelly Dean”
(Bell 8). If it weren’t for these mere examples, we would look upon Heathcliff as a child purely of
Wuthering Heights was a novel formed out of poor materials with simple tools, yet it
reflects an amazing sense of power. There was no model for it except the visions of the
author’s mind. It took time and effort, but the novel took on a human form and there it stands
dark and mighty, radiating a sense of strength and charm.
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