Windward Heights

Reconceptualizing the Plight of Isabella

Readers of Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights and Maryse Conde's Windward Heights can easily become overwhelmed by the deluge of voices that permeate each of the respective novels. After sorting through the complicated filtering of narratives in Brontë's novel and the multitude of voices in Conde's text, the reader can find that the presence of a letter offers a refreshing opportunity to receive unmediated information. A letter provides a first person account, eliminating the possibility of mistranslation or distortion of a character's experience. Yet letters raise equal complications, as the writer of a letter is free to narrate what she chooses, and the events she describes are mediated by her personal subjectivity. This subjectivity is key in understanding the letters by Isabella and Irmine, where the characters' partiality determines their accounts of their respective marriages to Heathcliff and Razy. A straightforward analysis suggests that Irmine suffers far greater indignity and horror than Isabella, who is much more superficial in her complaints. Deeper study, however, shows that it is impossible to project a clean dichotomy between the two women, and ultimately shows that Conde works with the same...

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