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Emilie Bronte’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ combines the elements of both horror and romance in addition to introducing a Byronic hero into the plot. Although this alone could be said to be enough to create an exemplar piece of Gothic literature, it is the setting which contributes heavily to forming the element of horror which makes this novel Gothic.
The fact that the novel contains two narrators instead of one, means that two different views are involved in creating the drama within the text and in doing so contradict to some extent meaning the reader is left to their own individual interpretation of the information, and due to being exposed to a foreboding atmosphere at the beginning, seem to interpret scenes to be more violent or gothic than is described by the narrators.
Traditional gothic texts normally contain ‘a large mansion or remote castle’ such as ‘The Castle of Otranto’ which is believed to have been the first gothic text, ‘which is foreboding: usually isolated from neighbours. ’ In ‘Wuthering Heights’, Bronte uses both Thrushcross grange and Wuthering Heights to depict the isolation and separation within the novel.
From the outset, Wuthering heights is a tool used to create the dark and foreboding environment that Bronte craves, foreshadowing the gloomy atmosphere found in the remainder of the book. The hostile environment at the heights is reflected by the statement, ‘one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way as if craving arms of the sun.
’ The gothic qualities possessed by Wuthering heights is further emphasized by an observation of its dwindling facades; ‘I paused to admire to admire a quantity of grotesque carvings lavished over the front, and especially above the principle door; above which among the wilderness of the crumbling griffins and shameless little boys I detected the date 1500’. The deteriorating condition of Wuthering Heights along with the date suggest it to be an ancient mansion, and the place upon which it sits, an ominous ridge exposed to the mercy of the north winds, present the dark and gloomy atmosphere perfectly.
The unfriendly and gloomy atmosphere also contribute in helping characterize the people who live there, as Heathcliff’s behaviour is unfriendly itself, ‘I beheld his black eyes withdraw so suspiciously under their brows. ’ Lockwood’s narrative is the other framework of the story, presenting the world as he sees it, bringing the reader closer to the action and truth of the novel at the same time as introducing them to the realities of the hostile and bewildering environment he encounters.
He is intelligent and perceptive; uses calculated language marked by detailed factual description in order to emphasize aspects of the text. ‘The young man had slung on to his person a decidedly shabby upper garment, and, erecting himself before the blaze, looked down on me from the corner of his eyes, for all the world as if there was some marked feud unavenged still between us’. His detailed description gives the text a sort of intensity that contributes to the drama and goes hand in hand with the intensity that two old enemies would have between them.
All of this makes the gothic elements of the novel feel more credible. Overall the novel’s setting and narration does contribute to making the gothic elements more credible as the narration is based on first hand accounts giving the novel a sense of truth and the settings provide the perfect background and atmosphere for the horrific acts and violent pieces of action to take place.