‘I was in the condition of mind to be shocked at nothing’: losing the plot in Wuthering Heights

Oulton, C. (2018) ‘I was in the condition of mind to be shocked at nothing’: losing the plot in Wuthering Heights. In: de la L. Oulton, C., ed. British Women’s Writing from Brontë to Bloomsbury, 1840-1940 Volume 1: 1840s and 1850s. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-3-319-78225-6

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While class struggle is essentially a social problem, one of the achievements of Wuthering Heights is to locate social mobility and exclusion within the isolated world of the moors, and it does so largely through characters’ attempts to negotiate and reinforce status through access to books. A range of characters, from the self-made Heathcliff to the obviously middle class Cathy Linton, assume basic literacy and the imaginative response to literature as a vehicle of power over their own lives and the lives of others. It is no coincidence that the fortunes of the second generation are restored after Cathy teaches Hareton to read. But the novel itself complicates simplistic readings as it repeatedly undermines its own Romantic trajectories, forcing the reader to question the literary paradigms on which it initially seems to depend. In the process it challenges the status of both its main narrators; as their faith in literary representations of morality are shown to be inadequate, the novel suggests that readers’ response to ideas of good and evil are as culturally constructed as the story they are reading.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR0111 Women authors
P Language and Literature > PR English Literature > PR3991 19th century (1770-1900)
Divisions: Faculty of Arts and Humanities > School of Humanities > International Centre for Victorian Women Writers (ICWW)
Depositing User: Prof Carolyn W. de la L. Oulton
Date Deposited: 16 May 2018 12:26
Last Modified: 31 Jul 2018 16:29
URI: https://create.canterbury.ac.uk/id/eprint/17324

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Last edited: 29/06/2016 12:23:00