J. Hillis Miller "Emily Bronte’ in The Disappearance of God
When Emily Bronte began to write Wuthering Heights she did not leave the world of the Gondal poems. She transposed into fictional form the vision of things which her poems express. Jjust as there is no real distinction between the Gondal poems and those which are direct expressions of Emily Bronte’s own inner experience, so the same moral and metaphysical laws prevail in the novel as in the poems.
Poems and novel share a quality which identifies them as belonging to the romantic tradition. Like the prophetic books of Blake they employ privately created personages and events to speak of things usually expressed in terms of collective religious myths. Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights, Augusta Geraldine Almeda, Julius Brenzaida, and the other shadowy figures of the Gondal poems,’ derive from no recognizable religious archetypes. They are creations of Emily Bronte’s imagination, just as Urizen and Enitharmon are creations of the imagination of Blake, even though they may reembody figures or concepts from various traditions. Yet Emily Bronte’s characters, like the personages of Blake, are used to express general notions about the relations of God, man, and the universe.
If the writings of Emily Brontii confirm Blake’s dictum that religion is another form of poetry, there is a sense in which they have the opposite meaning and are evidence of the irreconcilable difference between poetry and religion. A religious myth, to be valid, must become the form of a collective belief, and permeate the culture of a group. The validity of Emily Bronte’s visions depends on their being kept private. Their purpose is to create an inner world excluding other people and the real world, as EmilyBronte affirms in a poem called "To Imagination":
So hopeless is the world without,
The world within I doubly prize;
The world where guile and hate and doubt
And cold suspicion never rise;
Where thou and I and Liberty
Have undisputed sovereignty.2
If the sovereign realm of imagination derives from anything other than Emily Bronte’s own spirit, it comes from supernatural visions, or from experiences of ecstatic fusion with nature- more from the "visions" which have encircled her, she says, "from care-less childhood’s sunny time" (Hatfield Poems, 49), than from experiences of identification with nature, for one of the unsatisfactory things which imagination can replace is "Nature’s sad reality" (2o6).Music and poetry have the power to bring back summer in winter, good weather in a time of bad, just as they can bring back the remembered past, or replace grief with joy (8o, 90-92, 2o6).
Emily Bronte’s willingness to submit to her "God of Visions" is equivocal. She wants as much to command her visions as to be commanded by them. The relation between the poet and her imagination is as much an ambiguous mixture of love and hate, ofsubmission and rebellious defiance, as is the relation between Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. In both cases there is an attempt to reconcile two irreconcilable requirements: the need for a source of spiritual power outside oneself, and the need to be self-sufficient. In both cases the relation is a strange mixture of pleasure and pain. In a famous poem (2o8–09) Emily Bronte says that she has, against all "Reason," rejected everything that the real world has to offer: "Wealth … .. Power,""Glory’s wreath," and "Pleasure’s flower." She has "cast the world away" for the sake of her allegiance to her "radiant angel," the God of Visions. Her relation to this angel of the imagination is not simply submission, for this "ever present, phantom thing" is "slave," "comrade," and "King," all three at once. The God of Visions must be a slave because Emily Bronte must control her visions and manipulate them at will. Only this control will make it possible for her "own soul to grafit [her] prayer." She demandsan omnipotent sovereignty within the realm of her imagination.
The God of Visions must be "King" too, though a king against which she must "rebel," for only a power beyond the poet can guarantee the sovereignty of her visions. Most of all the God ofVisions is an equal, bound to Emily in an intimate tie of love and hate, submission and domination, pain-giving and pleasure-giving. The inner world of imagination is no paradise of easy bliss. Its power to provide an escape from the dull "gloom" of "the common paths that others run" lies precisely in its ability to give pain. Emily therefore addresses her God of Visions as "a comrade," for, as she says:
… by day and night
Thou art my intimate delight –
My Darling Pain that wounds and sears
And wrings a blessing out from tears
By deadening me to real cares …
Emily Bronte’s poems provide the best glimpse of the quality of her visionary world. After Emily and her sister Anne ceased to participate in collective literary games with Charlotte and Branwell they began their own game, the Gondal stories. The Gondalsaga was apparently a shared daydream long before any part of it was written down, and it always remained in excess of the poems and lists of names or events which survive, and even, apparently, in excess of the extensive prose narratives which were written down but do not survive. The Gondal story was a long rambling narrative of melodramatic wars and love affairs, held together only by the centrality of one of its characters, Augusta Geraldine Almeda. But when Augusta died the narrative went on. The primary characteristic of the Gondal saga was its unfinished quality, its openness. Characters and events proliferated endlessly.
The ambiguity of imaginative or visionary experience appears in other poems too. The coming of imaginative vision, after the contemplation of a calm spring twilight, is spoken of as a kind of deliquescence of the spirit’ in which the soul is overwhelmed by thoughts and feelings which gush from some inner spring, but give possession of the outer scene too. The same language is later used in a terrifying poem (56, 57) in which a demon, who is perhaps a malignversion of the God of Visions, declares its intention of carrying away the soul of the listener. This evil ecstasy will occur by an intensification of the "strange sensations" which "flood" their victim just as did the feelings of joy in the earlier poem seems to have existed as a full and substantial world replacing the real one, a world with its own chronology and progressive becoming. It was always there, ready to be entered at any time by Anne and Emily, together or separately, and going on even when they were not in it. Nothing is more curious or revealing than the way Anne and Emily in their various diary’ and birthday notes speak of the Gondal stories. Notations of everyday happenings in the Bronte household, or historical events like Queen Victoria’s ascent to the throne are juxtaposed against records of the Gondal world as if the two existed on exactly the same plane of reality. The Gondal events are spoken of in the present tense, as having reached at the moment a certain stage of happening. There is no assertion that the stories have been invented. Rather, Emily and Anne speak of their writing as the recording of events which have a prior and objective existence. They are historians or poets, not novelists.
The most striking evidence of the mode of existence of the Gondal saga is the fact that when Anne and Emily made a trip to York, their first long trip together by themselves, Emily wrote in her diary not of the events of the trip, but of their experience during that time of certain exciting events in the Gondal saga. Emily was then only a month short of being twenty-seven years old. Perhaps in all literature there exists no stranger case of the invasion, domination, and destruction of the real world by an imaginary one.
The Gondal events did not become, like historical happenings, part of a vanished past after they had occurred. They functioned for Emily Bronte just as religious myths functioned for the Greek poets and tragedians. Transformed into a collection of eternal events, they were happening over and over again all the time, always there to be returned to and recreated in poetry. Emily often wrote poems about Gondal events several years after the narrative had, in the sisters’ creation of it, reached that stage of its happening, and Miss Ratchford, in order to put the poems in what is apparently their proper sequence in Gondal history, must much alter the chronological order of their composition. In one sense the Gondal saga was a sequence of temporally related events, like history. In another sense it was the simultaneous existence of all its events in a perpetual present outside of time.
What is the significance of the fact that the Gondal saga was not the private creation of Emily alone, but was shared and livedin by Emily and Anne together? One piece of evidence suggests that, though the events of the Gondal stories were created by Anne and Emily together, and perhaps even revealed at times to Charlotte and Branwell, Emily’s poems were kept secret even from Anne. "Emily is engaged in writing the Emperor Julius’s life," writes Anne in her birthday note of 1845- "She has read some of it, and I want very much to hear the rest. She is writing some poetry, too. I wonder what it is about?" But even if Anne was not permitted to read Emily’s poems, or not permitted to read all of them, the Gondal realm itself must still be defined as a shared daydream, almost a collective mythology believed in by two people alone. Hence the objectivity and impersonality of the poems.Though the Gondal poems are full of the violence and passion of direct experience, these are dramatized in terms of the situation of some imaginary person. The poems have the inipersonality of all authentic literature, for in them the experience of the authorhas been transposed to another plane, and the author herself hasdisappeared in her creation. The fact that the Gondal saga was jointly created by Anne and Emily is an important confirmation of this impersonality. The fact of double creation is nowhere evident in Emily’s poems. So fully were Anne and Emily absorbed in their collective creation that all need to make the stories conscious affirmations of their own personalities seems to have disappeared.
The writing of Wuthering Heights was a brief but important interruption of this absorption in a world of imaginative vision. When, in the fall of 1846, Poems by Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell had failed and Wuthering Heights seeme so unwanted by any publisher, Emily returned to Gondal, and wrote another poem about the Republican-Royalist war. After the publication and failures of Wuthering Heights, she went back to this poem and was working on it at the time of her death. Wuthering Heights was a treason against the visionary world. It exposed that world to the public gaze, and revealed its secret. In a way, though, the secre twas still protected, since Wuthering Heights is a difficult and elusive work, a work with which no reader has felt altogether at ease.
Does not Emily’s reluctance to let her work be known, and hersimultaneous willingness to collaborate in Charlotte’s plan topublish their work represent a contradiction which has meaning?Like Franz Kafka, who asked that his works be destroyed, and yet, significantly, did not destroy them himself, Emily Bronte wanted her vision of the world to remain private and at the same time wished it to be known. She wished it to remain private because it was valid for herself alone, and needed to remain private in order to be valid. At the same time she wished it to be known because only when it was read by others would it become real. This equivocation is already present in the fact that she expressed her visions in the language which she shared with millions of men.The publication of some of the poems in 1846 and the publication of Wuthering Heights in 1848 were an extension of this capitulation to the public world. In order to achieve authentic existence the poems and the novel had to take form in the minds of other people, and yet they needed to remain private too.
The fact that the novel and the poems were published under apseudonym is a confirmation of this ambiguous attitude. Whereas Charlotte seems to have taken a pseudonym because it was proper for a lady writer to do so, Emily tried jealously to protect her real identity. When Charlotte went up to her London editors with Anne to put a stop to the rumor that all the Bronte novels were by a single person, Emily stayed home. She was apparently very angry when she learned that Charlotte had betrayed her identity as well as those of Anne and Charloue. To publish under a pseudonym was to gain for her works the sanction that only a reading of them by the public would give, and at the same time to protect her solitude and its visions.
The publication of the poems and the novel were an attemptby Emily Bronte to use other people for the affirmation of her own life while remaining safely hidden herself. If literature is, as Mallarme said, the creation of a "spectacle de soi," two persons at least are necessary to this creation: the writer and the reader. The brilliant stratagems which Emily Bronte devised in Wuthering Heights to persuade the reader to accept the world of her novel are striking and even pathetic proof of the powerful need which drove her to communicate her visions, even though that communication would in some sense destroy what was communicated by putting it at the mercy of the anonymous reading public.
So far I have spoken only of the mode of existence of EmilyBronte’s writings, and hardly at all of their meaning. The origins of the latter are multiple. Emily Bronte’s view of the world is derived in part from her readings in romantic literature and even more from the religious teachings she received in her childhood. But the meaning of her work was also influenced by the very conditions under which it developed. Her freedom from external restraints in her writing and her experience of the imagination as a dangerous, equivocal power may have contributed to the extremism of her work. Both poems and novel express themselves in hyperbole. They dramatize the clash of figures who embody elemental energies, and the special value of Emily Broriffs work lies in the way it explores the ultimate implications of certain traditional ideas and themes.
All creation is equally insane. There are those flies playing above thestream, swallows and fish diminishing their number each minute: these will become in their turn, the prey of some tyrant of air or water; and man for his amusement or for his needs will kill their murderers. Nature is an inexplicable puzzle, life exists on a principle of destruction; every creature must be the relentless instrument of death to the others, or himself cease to live.
"This essay was written by Emily Bronte as a devoir for her teacher M. Hoger in Brussels. In its form it is a moralizing or theologizing of natural history in the manner of the famous Meditations of James Hervey, ardent Methodist and friend of John Wesley. But the moral which Emily Bronte derives from her butterfly has no parallel in Hervey’s Meditations, in Wesleys Compendium of Natural Philosophy, or in eighteenth-century natural theology generalIy–which was dedicated to showing the wisdom and beneficence of God as manifested in the works of the creation. The transformation of the caterpillar into a butterfly is a traditional symbol of resurrection, or of the liberation of the soul. (Harvey makes the silkWesley’s picture of nature is strikingly like Emily Bronte’s: ". . . what savage fierceness, what unrelenting cruelty, are invariably observed in thousands of creatures, yea, are inseparable from their naturesl Is it only the lion, the tiger, the wolf, among the inhabitants of the forests and plains; the shark and a few more voracious monsters among the inhabitants of the waters; or the eagle among birds, that tears the flesh, sucks theblood, and crushes the bones of its helpless fellow-creatures? Nay, the harmlessfly, the laborious ant, the painted butterfly, are treated in the same mercilessmanner even by the innocent songsters of the grovel The innumerable tribes ofpoor insects are continually devoured by them…. During this season of vanity,not only the feebler creatures are continually destroyed by the stronger; not onlythe strong are frequently destroyed by those that are of equal strength: but boththe one and the other are exposed to the violence and cruelty of him that is nowtheir common enemy, man…. And what a dreadful difference is there between what they suffer from their feIlow-brutes, and what they suffer froth the tyrant,maul The lion, the tiger, or the shark, gives them pain from mere necessity, in order to prolong their own life; and put them out of their pain at once. But the human shark, without any such necessity, torments them of his own free choice:and, perhaps, continues their lingering pain, till, after months or years, death signs their release" (256-57).
For Emily Bronte, created beings can only be related to one an-other destructively. The strongest and most implacable beings livethe longest, for the life of each depends on the death of others, andif it does not relentlessly kill it will be killed, or die of inanition.The model of this relation is the consumption of one being byanother. Nature is like a patternless maze created by a madman.Its insanity lies in the fact that the good of one part is the evil ofanother part. Therefore no coherent moral judgment can be madeof any action or event. What is the worst evil for the flies, beingeaten by the fish and swallows, is the highest good for the fish andswallows, since it is necessary to their life. Any attempt to makesense of life leads to inextricable confusion, and the creation canonly be described, not understood. Viewed as a totality, nature.isengaged in a constant act of suicide, tearing itself to pieces in thevery effort to prolong its own life. Murder is the sole law of life,that is to say, life paradoxically depends upon death, and is impossible without it.
Emily Bronte’s vision of the creation matches the traditionalChristian description of the state of nature, the state after thefall and before the "new birth." John Wesley’s sermon on "TheGreat Deliverance" is a good example of such a description."Wesley, however, exempts from his tableau of ferocious destruction the "Children of God," those who have been saved by graceand by faith from the consequences of the fall. But for EmilyBront6 every man, to borrow Wesley’s words, "does in effect dis-claim the nature of man, and degrade himself into a beast." Man is as much a part of nature as flies, swallows, and fish. Like the others he lives by murder and by murder alone. Or, rather, man is worse than any other natural creature, for he kills wantonly, "for his amusement," as well as "for his needs." The inexplicablepuzzle formed by the mixture of good and evil in any relation between God’s creatures is matched by the inexplicable puzzle ofman’s own unique nature, for only he takes positive pleasure in the useless infliction of mortal pain on other beings.
The darkest meaning of Emily Bronte’s assertion that "all creation is equally insane" is the fact that no man can understand whya good God should have chosen to create such a world at all. Each man’s life, like that of any other creature of nature, is merely a sequence of violent acts done or suffered, and it ends in death.
why was man created?" asks Emily Bront& "He torments,he kills, he devours; he suffers, dies, is devoured – that’s his whole story. " Long centuries of civilization have created artificial barriersbetween man and man, and between man and nature, barriers oflanguage, of custom, of moral restraint. Nevertheless, man’s truenature remains the same, ready to reappear at any moment if rea-son and morality are destroyed. The opening chapters of Wuther-ing Heights introduce the reader, through the intermediary of the narrator, to a set of people living in the state of nature as itis defined in "The Butterfly." This state also matches that of theGondal poems, with their wars and rebellions and sadistic cruel-ties. In Gondal, as in the country of Wuthering Heights, everyman’s hand is against his neighbor.
Lockwood’s discovery of the nature of life at Wuthering Heightscoincides, with his step-by-step progress into the house itself. Onhis two visits he crosses various thresholds: the outer gate, the doorof the house, the door into the kitchen, the stairs and halls leadingto an upstairs room. Finally he enters the interior of the interior, the oaken closet with a bed in it which stands in a corner of this inner room. Wuthering Heights is presented as a kind of Chinese box of enclosures within enclosures. The house is like the novel itself, with its intricate structure of flashbacks, time shifts, multiple perspectives, and narrators within narrators. However far we penetrate toward the center of Wuthering Heights there are still further recesses within. When Lockwood finally gets inside the family sitting-room he can hear "a chatter of tongues, and a clatter ofculinary utensils, deep within," and Joseph can be heard mumbling indistinctly in the "depths of the cellar" (5). This domestic interior is, by subtle linguistic touches, identified with the interior of a human body, and therefore with another human spirit. Lockwood’s progress toward the interior of Wuthering Heights matches his unwitting progress toward the spiritual secrets it hides. Just as the "narrow windows" of Wuthering Heights are "deeply set in the wall" (2), so Heathcliff’s "black eyes withdraw . . . suspiciously under their brows," and Lockwood’s entrance into thehouse is his inspection of its "anatomy" (3).
The nature of human life within this "penetralium" (3) is precisely defined by the animals Lockwood finds there. The shadowy recesses of these strange rooms are alive with ferocious dogs: "In an arch, under the dresser, reposed a huge, liver-coloured bitch pointer surrounded by a swarm of squealing puppies; and other dogs, haunted other recesses" (3). Lockwood tries to pet this liver-colored bitch, but her lip is "curled up, and her white teeth watering for a snatch" (5), and later when, left alone, he makes faces at the dogs, they leap from their various hiding places and attack him in a pack. In a moment the hearth is "an absolute tempest of worrying and yelping" (6). The storm which blows at the exterior of the house and gives it its name (2) is echoed by the storm within the house, a tempest whose ultimate source, it may be, is the people living there. Lockwood’s encounter with Heathcliff’s dogs is really his first encounter with the true nature of their owner, as Heathcliff himself suggests when he says: "Guests are so exceedingly rare in this house that I and my dogs, I am willing to own, hardly know how to receive them" (6).
The animal imagery used throughout Wuthering Heights is one of the chief ways in which the spiritual strength of the characters is measured. Heathcliff is "a fierce, pitiless, wolfish man"(117), while Edgar Linton is a "sucking leveret" (13 1), and Linton Heathcliff is a "puling chicken" (237). Such figures are more than simple metaphors. They tell us that man in Wuthering Heights, as in the essay on the butterfly, is part of nature, and no different from other animals. Critics have commented on the prevalence of verbs of violent action in Wuthering Heights, verbs like " writhe, drag, crush, grind, struggle, yield, sink, recoil, outstrip, tear, drive asunder." No other Victorian novel contains such scenes of inhuman brutality. No other novel so completely defines its characters in terms of the violence of their wills. In Wuthering Heights people go on living only if their wills remain powerful and direct, capable of action so immediate and unthinking that it can hardly be called the result of choice, but is a permanent and unceasing attitude of aggression. Continuation of life for such people depends on their continuing to will, for in this world destruction is the law of life. If such characters cease to will, or if their wills weaken, motion slows, things coagulate, time almost stops, and their lives begin to weaken and fade away. Unless they can find some way to recuperate their wills, their lives will cease altogether, or tend slowly in the direction of death. So Lockwood, after his terrifying dreams, says, as the hours crawl toward morning, ". . . time stagnates here" (3o). So the second Catherine, at the low point of her life, when only her own action will save her, says, "Ohl I’m tired- I’m stalled . – -" (342). And so Isabella, one of the weak people in the novel, can only escape from the tyranny of Heathcliff by precipitating herself into the realm of violence inhabited by the other characters who survive. The description of her escape fromWuthering Heights is a condensed distillation of the quality oflife in the novel: "In my flight through the kitchen I bid Joseph speed to his master; I knocked over Hareton, who was hanging a litter of puppies from a chair back in the doorway; and, blest as a soul escaped from purgatory, I bounded, leaped, and flew down the steep road: then, quitting its windings, shot direct across the moor, rolling over banks, and wading through marshes; precipitating myself, in fact, towards the beacon light of the Grange."
Lockwood learns when he makes his second visit to Wuthering Heights what it means to say that the people there live like ferocious dogs, and can survive only through the strength of their wills.He finds that everyone at the Heights hates everyone else with a violence of unrestrained rage which is like that of wild animals.Anarchy prevails. Even that mild Christian, Nelly Dean, accepts this universal selfishness when she says, "Well, we must be for ourselves in the long run; the mild and generous are only more justly selfish than the domineering . . ." (105). At WutheringHeights only force is recognized as an intermediary between people, and each person follows as well as he can his own whim. "I’ll put my trash away," says Catherine Linton to Heathcliff, "because you can make me, if I refuse . . . But I’ll not do anything, though you should swear your tongue out, except what I pleasel"(33). As in Lockwood’s dream of Jabes Branderham’s sermon, every moral or religious law has disappeared, or has been transformed into an instrument of aggression. The "pilgrim’s staves"of the church congregation are changed, in Lockwood’s dream into war clubs, and the service, which should be the model of a peaceful community, collectively submitting to divine law, becomes a scene of savage violence, recalling the two times when Lockwood has been attacked by dogs, and giving an accurate dream projection of the relations among the inmates of WutheringHeights (26).
This animality of the people at the Heights is caused by the loss of an earlier state of civilized restraint. For a human being to act like an animal means something very different from a similar action performed by the animal itself. There are no laws for an animal to break, and there is nothing immoral in the slaughter of one animal by another. The characters in Wuthering Heights have returned to an animal state. Such a return is reached only through the transgression of all human law. The inmates of Wuthering Heights have destroyed the meaning of the word "moral,"so that it can be used, as Heathcliff uses it, to define the most inhuman acts of cruelty (174). In civilized society man’s needs are not satisfied immediatelyand selfishly, but are mediated by a complex system of cooperativeaction. Most social actions are for others, or for the sake of afuture satisfaction. As a result, there is in civilized society little direct contact between men. Emily Bronte’s example of civilized man is Lockwood, the foppish representative of fashionable society.Lockwood is mortally afraid of any close relation with anotherhuman being. He is bored and weak, and has no idea what to dowith himself. Ennui has brought him to Thrushcross Grange, andhis attitude toward the country people is that of a condescendingsophisticate who goes slumming in search of excitement.
Wuthering Heights is the opposite of this. There, people are open to one another. Nothing stands between them, and no law restrains them. Though this savagery puts people in extreme danger, it is, for Emily Bronte, better than Lockwood’s artificiality and insincerity. Lockwood himself comes eventually to recognize this. "I perceive," he says, "that people in these regions acquire over people in towns the value that a spider in a dungeon does over a spider in a cottage, to their various occupants; and yet the deepened attraction is not entirely owing to the situation of the looker-on. They do live more in earnest, more in themselves, and less in surface change, and frivolous external things. I could fancy a love for life here almost possible; and I was a fixed unbeliever in any love of a year’s standing . . ." (70). Unmediated relations toothers may be a mortal danger to the self, but such relations are also a way of living a deeper and more authentic life. Lockwood has been a fixed unbeliever in any love of a year’s standing. At Wuthering Heights he witnesses a love which has lasted beyond the grave.
There is one further reality to which Lockwood is introduced at the Heights. If civilized society keeps out the savagery of wild animals and northern tempests, it also keeps out the irrational tumult of supernatural forces. The latter, like the former, can never be reduced to man’s measure. When Lockwood slides back the panels of the oaken bed and encloses himself in the innermost chamber of all he feels "secure against the vigilance of Heathcliff,and every one else" (2o). But just here he is most in danger, not from human or natural violence, but from supernatural energies. This innermost room has a window to the outdoors, and through that window, in Lockwood’s dream, the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw tries to come. The otherness of nature is replaced by the more frightening otherness of a ghost, and the stormy moors areestablished as the expressions of a supernatural as well as a natural violence. These spiritual powers are immanent in nature, and identified with its secret life. The expression of this double life in Wuthering Heights, as in Emily Bronte’s poems, is an ancient and primitive symbol: the wind. There is a great storm on the night Mr. Earnshaw dies; another tempest when Heathcliff leaves the Heights splits a tree whose bough falls on the house; and there is a rainstorm on the night Heathcliff dies beside the very same window where Lockwood has seen Catherine’s ghost. The immeasurable violence of occult forces matches the unrestrained violence of wild animals and of storms. All these terrifying forces have been released at Wuthering Heights, and people live there in close proximity to extreme danger. Inevitably they succumb to that danger, and the release of irrational passions from the depths of man’s soul parallels the unchaining of energies outside man. In his dream the effete cosmopolitan Lockwood is brought, in spite ofhimself, to participate in the turbulence of Wuthering Heights.In a paroxysm of fear he rubs the wrist of the ghost-child to and fro on the broken pane until the blood runs down and soaks the bedclothes.
Why is it that things have reached this state at WutheringHeights? Something has happened to break down all the barriers cutting man off from nature, from animals, and even from the supernatural realm. Man has been forced to participate in the seas he did long ages ago before he became human by separating himself from them. Have nonhuman energies invaded the human world and succeeded in dominating it, as Lockwood is swept intovthe storm at Wuthering Heights, or have acts of man unleashedvthese energies outside of man by liberating them first from the untamed deeps of the human soul?
The violence of Emily Bronte’s characters is a reaction to the loss of an earlier state of happiness. Heathcliff’s situation at the beginning of Wuthering Heights is the same as the situation of many characters in Emily Brontii’s poems, and the refrain of both poems and novel is "Never again" (64).
This state of loss is dramatized in many of the poems as thelonging in harshest wintertime for the vanished warmth of midsummer weather, or as the memory of an earlier time of happy love, ecstatic visions, or unity with nature. The sense of bereavement is often expressed as a condition of exile, imprisonment, or separation, or in terms of the grief of the living for the dead. TheGondal saga was apparently a species of prose epic, of which we possess only the lyric poems which were interspersed here and there in the narrative. These usually pick out some moment of special poignancy or significance, and dramatize it in the speech of the person who experiences it. Most often the moment chosen is not the time of joy, but the moment of sorrow, exile, or defeat. It seems as if all the elaborate machinery of the Gondal saga had been contrived as a means of expressing repeatedly, in different forms, one universal experience of absolute destitution:
I know that tonight the wind is sighing,
The soft August wind, over forest and moor;
While I in a grave-like chill am lying
On the damp black flags of my dungeon-floor. (P, 234, 235)
Light up thy hallsl ‘Tis closing day;I’m drear and lone and far away –
Cold blows on my breast the northwind’s bitter sigh,
And oh, my couch is bleak beneath the rainy skyl (P, 85)
Such people are suffering the anguish of irremediable loss. Their eyes are fixed backward in retrospective fascination on some past moment of sovereign joy. Only in that moment were they really alive, really themselves. Their present lives are determined by the loss of some past joy, and by the suffering caused by that loss. Such people live separated from themselves, and yearn with impotent iolence to regain their lost happiness. The fundamental dramatic situation of the poems reappears again in Wuthering Heights. Like a Gondal character, Isabell alongs to be back at Thrushcross Grange after her elopement with Heathcliff, just as Heathcliff is tormented after Catherine’s death,and just as Catherine suffers after her marriage to Edgar Linton."But," she says, "supposing at twelve years old, I had been wrenched from the Heights, and every early association, and my all in all, as Heathcliff was at that time, and had been converted,at a*stroke into Mrs. Linton, the lady of Thrushcross Grange, and the wife of a stranger; an exile, and outcast, thenceforth, from what had been my world – You may fancy a glimpse of the abyss
to be continued.