Wuthering Heights

Womanhood in Wuthering Heights College

If the setting of a novel is 19th century Europe, there is a good chance that the women in the novel will be treated as a means to an end rather than as autonomous beings who have intrinsic value in and of themselves. This is the case in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. In the twelfth chapter, Catherine, who is feverish and desperate, cries out “I wish I were out of doors -- I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free” and then asks herself “why am I so changed” (92)? The contrast that she draws here between her childhood and womanhood points to the freedom that she felt as a child and the apparent oppression that she is experiencing as an adult woman. Readers are introduced to a number of women in this novel, each of whom, like Catherine, face the same fate - marriage, childbirth and, for some, death. To be a woman in the world of Wuthering Heights is to give oneself up to marriage and childbirth which, more often than not, results in death; as a result, women lose all autonomy which is why Catherine yearns to be a girl again - she is yearning to be free of her inevitable female destiny.

The first two women of importance are Mrs. Earnshaw, mother of Hindley and Catherine, and Mrs. Linton, mother of Edgar and...

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