“Wuthering Heights” accurately reflects many of the attitudes associated with love and sex in the Victorian Era. With reference to appropriately selected parts of the novel and relevant external, contextual information on Victorian attitudes to love and sex, give your response to the above view. The Victorian era when “Wuthering Heights” was written and first published was a time when love and romance and true emotion were the antithesis of reasons to marry. Sexual love was frowned upon greatly and no woman should ever have had sex outside of marriage. Sex was something that was solely for procreating and nothing else.
Although, it was considered that a man could not control his animal instincts and so if he had sex outside of marriage of ever cheated on his wife, it would not damage his social desirability or impair his reputation on society. Marriage in Victorian times was for a place in high society and financial stability and children. This is shown in Wuthering Heights when Cathy marries Edgar Linton instead of Heathcliff because she knows it would degrade her to marry Heathcliff. This is also very common in Victorian times; people were not to marry below their own class. They would marry above or in the same class as themselves.
Victorian literature always focused on idealised representation of people who use work hard, perseverance and love to win out in the end. Good deeds will always be rewarded and wrongdoers will be punished. All novels were very moralistic and usually had a good social message or comment on society, for example, Oliver Twist. Victorian novels tended to be melodramatic, including features such as pathetic fallacy, exaggerated emotions, extreme passion and unrealistic characters. Victorian novels are also very long, with lots of characters, plots and intertwining sub plots.
Wuthering Heights is very different from this in that it is set in a very isolated scene with a small number of characters. The relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff completely defies everything that was typical about a Victorian real-life relationship and the relationships in novels. They share such extreme passion and love for each other that shocked everyone who read in and the contemporary critics such as H. F. Chorley, who said the novel “was disagreeable and seem to affect painful and exceptional subjects. ” The Atlas also said that each chapter “seems to affect painful and exceptional subjects”.
People didn’t understand how a woman could understand and write so convincingly about something that she couldn’t possibly have experienced. Victorians were not allowed to spend any time alone with their partners until their engagement was official and even then they were only allowed to hold hands and were not to be alone together after midnight. Cathy and Heathcliff had grown up together and slept together as children and spent a lot of time alone in the moors and this was not accepted easily. Wild passion is a major theme in Wuthering Heights.
The relationship between Cathy and Heathcliff is haunting and powerful and from the very start we can see the intensity of their feeling towards each other. There are various parts of this novel which make us certain that nothing could ever come between Cathy and Heathcliff. Cathy confesses her love for Heathcliff so passionately and sincerely, “I love him, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because whatever souls are made of his and mine are the same. ” The reference to the souls shows that it is not physically love that they share but, even after death, their souls will still be as one and together. Nelly, I am Heathcliff,” they are the same person and even when Cathy dies she knows she will still be alive through Heathcliff. It is not physical, sexual desire that causes them to need each other, even though Cathy’s death destroys Heathcliff, but kind of a spiritual force which connects them together. This is also showed when Heathcliff says “Oh, God! It is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul! ” There are also other love relationships to explore throughout Wuthering Heights, one of them being the relationship of Edgar Linton and Cathy.
The relationship between the two is the exact opposite of that of Cathy and Heathcliff. Their marriage is of convenience to Cathy although Linton does adore Cathy very much. Cathy has typical reason to marry Edgar such as, “he’s handsome and pleasant to be with … he is young and cheerful … he will be rich, and I shall be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood. ” At the time of the novel these were all perfectly acceptable reasons for wanting to marry someone and these were not things the Heathcliff could provide Cathy with.
Cathy explains her conflicting emotions between Edgar and Heathcliff as, “moonbeam from lightning, or frost form fire. ” Cathy and Edgar marriage is very Victorian, very typical and very acceptable, love was not a necessity. Although we can tell Edgar loves Cathy and that it means something in its own way, it is still only a mere affair next to the wild, uncontrolled passion of Cathy and Heathcliff. All of this leads me to say, no, Wuthering Heights does not reflect the attitudes of love and sex in Victorian times.
Cathy and Edgars relationship defiantly does but it is not the main relationship in the novel and even so, Cathy, as a married woman still loves Heathcliff and spends time alone with him and this is not typical of a Victorian relationship as women practically belonged to their husbands and this is not the case here. This novel is completely different from other novels of its time as it doesn’t have a moral, the good are not rewarded and the bad are not punished and there was no social message, it has no defined place in literature.
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