Brontë’s style

An original tale

Wuthering Heights is the only novel written by Emily Brontë. Some critics have criticised her style, and there are certainly times when she can seem a little clumsy or immature. However, there are also many strengths which outweigh the weaknesses.

The story is entirely individual; she has not copied anyone else. Consequently, it sounds natural and does not strain for effect. There is, for example, little of the sentimentality of some Victorian writing. Part of this originality is in the imagination shown. This is driven by strong emotional force. Look, for example, at Catherine’s delirious behaviour during her fever. 

Literary style

Brontë has a sense of rhythm in her sentences, varying short and long sentences and the sounds of words to create the right pace and mood for the occasion. Compare, for example, Heathcliff’s description of opening Catherine’s coffin in Chapter 24, with the final sentence of the novel. Language is often used in pairs in opposition, as was common in Gothic literature.

Brontë’s use of imagery, often from nature, is vivid and effective. (See Imagery and Symbolism) The number and range of these images draws us into the world of the novel and helps us to understand the way in which characters behave. Much of the animal imagery, for example, is related to fierce, wild animals. Reflecting nineteenth century culture, there is plenty of religious and biblical language. For example, there are frequent references to heaven and hell, Heathcliff being like a devil, and imagery such as sheep and wolves (used in Jesus’ teachings). 

Convincing dialogue

Brontë’s dialogue is mostly convincing, though we might feel that Nelly sometimes speaks rather well for a servant, even though she claims to be well-read. The use of Yorkshire dialect helps to create the local setting and establish social standing, though Joseph’s lengthy speeches can be rather trying for the reader. 

Enduring power

Some aspects of Brontë’s style (violent imagery, her non-orthodox use of Christian terms, the overriding force of emotion) were seen as unacceptable by many Victorian readers. In response to this, Emily’s sister Charlotte (already a published author) wrote a Preface to the second edition of Wuthering Heights, defending its author. Arguably, it is this very ‘non-Victorian’ approach which has helped the novel to remain popular and relevant, even into the 21st Century.

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