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Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights


Emily Brontë

Analysis: Writing Style


Before she wrote Wuthering Heights, Emily Brontë composed quite a bit of poetry, and the urge to write in a lyrical manner really shows in her prose style. Her poems are full of flowers, mountain breezes, frozen snow, thorny briars, and the like. Like Heathcliff and Catherine, she finds inspiration in nature. Some of the only affectionate and cheerful descriptions in the novel concern the heath and the hills, flowers, bees, and moonlight.

Brontë varies the style depending on whether Lockwood or Nelly Dean is narrating, and even further with each character being described.

Nelly's speech is animated, with lively images and vivid descriptions that reflect her presence at the scenes she describes. She also enjoys ratcheting up the drama, infusing her accounts with her own opinions and attitudes. You can tell she enjoys her position as narrator to Lockwood's listener, and this sense of power influences her style.

Technically we are reading Lockwood's diary, and his style is intimate but more formal and composed than Nelly's.

Above both of them, Brontë's style prevails, and she has something of a rhythmical and elegiac approach. For just about every implication of the sinister and dark, there is a beam of light struggling to emerge. Her prose style is not so heavily under the influence of the Gothic that she denies the possibility of hope and redemption. An example of her striking ability to balance these oppositions can be found in the novel's final sentence, where, standing at the graves of Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar, Lockwood observes:

I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and hare-bells; listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass; and wondered how any one could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth.

Brontë crafts the image of the three graves in subtle, graceful terms. Gothic elements are still present, with the suggestion of life after death and the supernatural human-like description of the breathing wind. Even in the face of death, nature is life-sustaining and life-giving. And rather than mentioning dead corpses buried in the earth (which she wouldn't be above doing!), Brontë terms the bodies as "sleepers," a far more poetic characterization, and uses the word "unquiet" instead of "disturbed." Brontë's careful style accommodates both the extreme moments of gothic horror and the interludes and conclusions in which a peaceful romantic scene prevails.

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