Behind the Life of Emily Brontë and her Works
How it works
During the Victorian period, the inequalities between genders were tense because the gap distinction was increasing. Women were tired of the discrimination and the injustice that society was implementing on their shoulders. The frustration of pretending to be the submissive wife and hiding under male pen names to have their works published was pushing women to their limit. Females such as the Brontë sisters used pen names because they knew the receiving backlash inputs them into the group of outcasts. The Brontë sisters were strong writers that caught the attention of the public, but Emily Brontë who wrote under the name Ellis Bell was particular. She published emotional poems and her most well-known book, Wuthering Heights, which caused the critics to dissect her work. Emily Brontë represented the difference and was not afraid to write a piece that challenged the definition of Victorian writing. This Brontë sister changed the course for women and their place in society.
In 1818, Emily Brontë was born into a family of eight making her the second youngest out of the siblings. Her father, Reverend Patrick Brontë, moved the family to Haworth, Yorkshire after being appointed to a new church. Sadly, her mother, Maria Branwell, died when she was three years old, leaving them under the care of an aunt. As the girls grew up, they had planned to open a school motivating Brontë to return to school to improve her French, but their hard work failed to recruit students (Hancock). As life went on, Bronte lost three of her siblings, which had caused her to catch a cold at Branwell’s funeral. The deaths of her brother and sisters assisted in opening her perspective on a broader point of view upon the era she was born into. When Brontë got sick, she knew that her time was up so instead of fearing for what was going to happen to her, she welcomed the fact that it was her time to go. She believed that “nature should be left to take her own course” (Hancock), which led her to refuse bed rest and be seen by a doctor, ending her life at thirty years old with tuberculosis. Before she passed away, she realized the burden that people were carrying on their shoulders was the result of women not being able to speak freely. She saw the downfall of women and used that understanding to break away from Victorian traditional writing. Even though Brontë was known to be simple, her lack of personality was overlooked by her artistic power of imagination. She was known to create vivid images in order to reveal her thoughts on certain concepts. Followed by her death, her book, Wuthering Heights, became known as a classic and developed an in-depth discussion about the true meaning behind it.
How it works
Brontë’s book goes out of its way to make the readers feel isolated and lost, which enforces the fact that Wuthering Height was not meant to be a novel in Queen Victoria’s reign. The book itself does not resemble most Victorian works because it deals with an inner journey of sentiments and the power of imagination with physical adventures highlighting those feelings. In the book, Heathcliff is a rare player because he does not know his origin and is fueled by his anger against his adopted family because he lost his one true love. At first, Heathcliff was a vengeful protagonist, but due to a series of events, the readers can see his transformation into a monster emphasized by his brutality (Tasneem 251-252). His hatred and plan for revenge plunge him into a black hole of spiral emotions, making him commit forcible acts . Brontë does not moralize her book instead she created a code of conduct that was produced from the nature of men. In her the point of view, she felt like if men did not receive what they wanted they were willing to do wrongful acts to acquire their desires. Unlike other Victorian authors, Brontë was able not only to include the violence that a gothic novel involves, but she was also able to maintain control and the sophistication portraying her book on a different level. Brontë had the power to make sure that the landscapes that were illustrated in her book reflected in the reactions of the characters (Tasneem 253). The setting where the action takes place is gloomy and unsettling just like Heathcliff. In comparison to Heathcliff, Edgar represents Thrushcross Grange, which is light. Unlike other works during this period, Brontë does not establish a heroine rather the main characters eventually die and the two last survivors serve as an example of parallel at the beginning of the book.
In fact, Wuthering Height caused a storm of controversy with it being a drama beyond its years. One of the important controversies that came up during the book was that it contains a dynamic of personalities while connecting the responses of the characters in a circle. For example, Heathcliff’s love for Catherine fuels his thirst for revenge, even though he adores her. Catherine’s love for Heathcliff serves to push him physically away but emotionally closer. To many critics, the fulfillment of revenge does not fade away from Heathcliff even when he dies. This example shows that love does not overcome the negative effects instead it points out that there is a thin line between love and hate. Brontë’s book captured the reader’s attention because of the shadow that surrounded the main male character, physically and emotionally. The darkness foreshadows the events that are going to happen next. The negative scenes play a major factor in how well this book is going to be received by an audience. It seems like the surrounding darkness ignores the light that reflects on the outside world. As the book keeps on going, the inner roller coaster of the main characters drives the readers to be enticed on the next upcoming event. Brontë’s control over her writing showed that she knew exactly what she was doing and how well her book was going to execute a storm of unexplainable emotions in the reader.
During this time, while her book was not as widely known as before, those who accepted that she was an excellent writer came to the realization that her piece of work was a true masterpiece for that era. One of the main conflicts that is being discussed throughout the book is the differentiation between society. Catherine grew up with wealth while Heathcliff was born into poverty. The contrast between them made Heathcliff an unworthy husband forcing Catherine to marry someone from her societal class. Society does not allow them to be together because back then someone as poor as Heathcliff does not deserve someone as proper and ladylike as Catherine. Brontë tackles this issue of class inequalities to show people that preventing two lovers from being with each other can cause a tragedy and more drama than intended. Heathcliff is an important factor in the life of Catherine just how she is in his life. The readers realize that they depend on one another, but society does not realize the emotional and physical pain that separation causes people during their period. The author utilizes the inequalities to stir up dark incidents, which are seen as the cause of the deaths of the main characters. Brontë was skillful enough to handle society’s affairs in a negative manner to expose how much the public needs to work on themselves.
On the other hand, Brontë’s poems offer an insight that male-dominance was not an idea that frightens her, but rather that she preferred to be alone in solitude. When Virginia Woolf said, “her poems perhaps will outlast her novel” (Akbay 374) writers acknowledged the significance behind her poems. Those poems encouraged the contribution to the fight for women rights. She wrote about sorrow and affection to connect women with experiences that they can provoke in order to win their liberty. In comparison to her sisters, Brontë made an effort to discuss the ideas that males wanted to come out and dispute about. Her position during the era was not to fight against male writers, but instead, expose a voice full of imagination in a time of silence. Most of her poetry work uses natural elements in order to enhance the true nature of human relationships. She considered the idea that people were ignorant to the value of stable communication between the community. Instead of leaving the boundary in-between both genders, she decided to try to smooth the blurred lines and creates a similar environment where they can coexist. The way she used her words in order to create a picture made it clear that she was not trying to paint a utopia. She believed that the citizens need to comprehend the seriousness of working together because the outcome can be rewarding.
In addition, Emily Brontë had been known the bend the rules of Victorian poetry. In her poem, “Lines”, she broke the common gender stereotypes by writing about love and death (Akbay 377), which were typically seen in the Romantic period. Within “Lines” she makes death uncommon by giving the importance to peace and freedom after one’s passing away. Death to her seemed to be a part of the circle of life, which riled the crowd since death was a topic of controversy. Death was not a matter to be considered in the streets but rather it was seen as a private affair. The men were unpleased with the work that Brontë wrote because the message of morals was not being executed in a proper manner. On the opposite side of the sphere, women embraced the intelligence that Brontë possessed because it made them realize that women can be equal or even better than men in the scope of writing. Women began to idolize Emily Brontë when they grasped the concept of learning to defend themselves in the social, economic and political aspects of life. Her readers sensed that Brontë was the authority figure in her poems and placed her experience into her poetry to connect with the audience on a logical level.
Not to mention, this Brontë sister had the ability to pour her lonely world into her poems to assert that it is okay to be alone and not follow the established norms. Her voice and thoughts do not reject isolationism rather they contain a sense of pride. The energy that she pours throughout her pieces has the effect to conceive a realm of what the nation needs to be. In reality, her book and poems are based on passion rather than reason to create a more somber mood.
As a matter of fact, common themes that Brontë demonstrates in her works include nature, death, and revenge. These three themes are represented in unusual ways, which leaves readers with an open interpretation (Abkay 379). The free range allows for the critics to come up with ideas on how Brontë decided to exploit her themes. Leaving the readers without a clear understanding of the message allows room for controversies to start up and for the unknown questions to be talked about for years. One subject that is clear is that Emily Brontë is not afraid of death because for her it is like to be transported into her realm of creativity. In a way, it feels like Brontë is telling her readers that death one way or another is going to be inevitable.
Similarly, to the value of the themes, her diction was another factor that scared the critics and made her work unforgettable. It was “like viewing something monstrous from which one cannot look away” (Baldys 49), that statement alone shows that when Brontë spoke about uncommon subjects it was the reason that her works are still taught and spoken about today. The purpose of her dissecting her characters was to show the audience the instability of each persona and how they reflect the talent Brontë held to capture the essence of each attribute being presented. Her word choices developed the characters physically and mentally because they represented the anger and betrayal that Emily Brontë had felt when her sister had discovered her writing. The “mental distortion and deformity” (Baldys 50) language helped to make the readers uncomfortable and antsy to the point where they were torn putting the reading down or continuing until the end. Brontë’s wordplay came in handy to her because it allowed her to take the readers into a different dimension. Emily Brontë’s choices of words and style helped create a new form of writing that women needed to explore in order to expand their sense of creativeness.
On the other hand, during the Victorian era, women were known to be religious and wife material. Those two factors were completely opposite of what Emily Brontë represented and idealized. In terms of religious beliefs, Brontë and her works show that she was fine with the women that were afraid to break tradition. Personally, Brontë was not going to sit back and follow the church rules when it was not a topic that piqued her interest. Brontë had no connection with religion, but a critic like Simon Marden thought that her work “[engaged] with religious questions, themes, and texts” (Michael 165) to highlight that she dives into the discussion of religion to obtain a new meaning of church traditions. In contrast to religious beliefs, the political beliefs of Emily Brontë were not known to many simply because she did not feel like sharing where she stands and usually goes her own way. Brontë seemed to be the oddball out of her sisters because her writing strays away from the direction her sisters were going.
Of course, her thinking of life made her spiritual beliefs pure and enjoyable. She lived her life by admiring the peace in the simplest objects. Her easy-going nature made it comfortable for her to enjoy those around her and appreciate the direction her life journey was heading towards. The knowledge of her being accustomed to being around moors makes it effortless for her to assemble the environment setting at the beginning of the novel. The known snippets of her life focus on her spiritual views intensifying the knowledge of letting others know that it is okay to be different and not follow the footsteps of their loved ones. Brontë strongest faith comes in through a spiritual level because she believes that people needed to be okay with themselves first before they fully decided on the life path they want to take.
Overall, Brontë and her work, prove that women have the talent to create a classic piece while exploring the psychological dimensions of the main characters. Her work atmosphere generated a final product that was considered unspeakable ideas due to its controversial aspects of mental battles. In contrast, her poems were seen as less conflicting because readers did not have to think as hard to come up with an interpretation. The beauty and awareness in her works can be seen as a parallel to the close relationships that she had with her siblings. At the same time, her household life had been just as dull as when she went off to school. The neglect that she faced led her to easily get attached to items such as toy soldiers and the country life, which serve to enforce the passionate tone in her writing. Emily Brontë demonstrated that even when there is light a haunting shadow lurks around waiting to plant its tragedy.
- Abdulla-hel Baqui, Gazi, and Nishat Tasneem. “Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights: An Unconventional Victorian Masterpiece.” ASA University Review, vol. 8, no. 2, July 2014, pp. 251–258. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=116350644&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.
- Akbay, Yesim Sultan. “The Mighty Voice of the Silenced: The Victorian Sappho’s Literary Painting.” Journal of Suleyman Demirel University Institute of Social Sciences, vol. 28, no. 3, Oct. 2017, pp. 371–381. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=127119079&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.
- Baldys, Emily M. “Hareton Earnshaw and the Shadow of Idiocy: Disability and Domestic Disorder in Wuthering Heights.” Philological Quarterly, vol. 91, no. 1, Winter 2012, pp. 49–74. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=85516729&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 16. 2019.
- Hancock, Sheila, et al., directors. The Brilliant Bronte? Sisters. TVF International, 2015. Infobase, http://libproxy.wc.edu:2153/p_ViewVideo.aspx?xtid=93784. Accessed 17 Apr. 2019.
- O’Neill, Michael. “Emily Bronte and the Religious Imagination.” Religion & Literature, vol. 48, no. 3, Sept. 2016, pp. 164–167. EBSCOhost, search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=a9h&AN=128652877&site=ehost-live&scope=site. Accessed 16 Apr. 2019.”