Critics have argued that the older Catherine has “no meaningful choices” in ‘Wuthering Heights’ Essay

Critics have argued that the older Catherine has “no meaningful choices”. Compare and contrast the ways in which Emily Bronte and the writer of your other text presents and explores the significance of choice and the lack of choice in their characters lives.

The nineteenth century held many restrictions within society. There were strict class divisions and the majority of people wished for social advancement, this is reflected in both ‘Wuthering Heights’ and ‘The Return of The Native’. Due to social restrictions certain choices are made by characters or in some cases not made. However society does not only affect choice, a sense of fate runs through both novels and aids the course of events.

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Women in the nineteenth century lived in a patriarchal society. Typical characteristics of women were being a loyal, dutiful and faithful wife. Women were expected to be subservient towards men. Due to the restrictions of gender in society women had very few options and choices. Older Catherine reflects the idea of social advancement. Her choice of husband means that her social status is improved and she will become wealthier. Catherine represses her true love for Heathcliff, “to marry Heathcliff would degrade me”, this is a reflection social pressures.

Eustacia from ‘The Return of the Native’ is similar to Cathy and marries Clym for social advancement and possible freedom. Clym is a successful diamond merchant who lived in Paris, Eustacia finds herself attracted to this. The difficulties that women faced in society is reflected when Eustacia dresses as a Knight in the mummers play to get close to a male. Both of these female characters have a choice of two men but they both choose status and wealth. Consequently both female characters make the wrong choices and have tragic endings to their lives.

Not only is it female characters that are affected by choice and status but men also. Heathcliff is affected by status; he derives from a less privileged background and therefore his status is low. As a result of this he is made an outsider. Heathcliffs actions are provoked by his lack of original choices, for example one of his choices is to take revenge. Diggory Venn from, ‘The Return of the Native’ is similar to Heathcliff in terms of being an outsider. Diggory Venn isolates himself from society, when he leaves his environment he has a choice but when in his environment he has no choice.

Choice is affected by fate also. There is a sense of fatalism running through both tragic novels. The environment in both novels suggests tragedy, “It had a lonely face suggesting tragical possibilities”. Character flaws are also important when dealing with the issue of fate. Generally the characters who are tragic heroes do not follow the conventions of society and as a result of this their fate is death. Cathy, Edgar, Linton, Hindley, Eustacia, Mrs Yeobright and Wildeve all pass away. As a result of fate and through death they are unable to make choices.

Wuthering Heights portrays a destructive love, and this is reflected through various characters. Within this novel there is frequent discussion of death and there is a great sense of foreboding. The love that Cathy and Heathcliff have together is beyond this world. There is also a strong sense fatalism running through ‘The Return of the Native’. Eustacia was an ‘organic part of the heath’, this suggesting that tragic events beyond her control were to follow. Hardys use of narrative foreshadowing also suggests tragic possibilities to the reader. Clym is the tragic hero of ‘The Return of the Native’. His physical and a metaphorical “blindness” is a reflection of him and his tragic character flaws.

It is clear that both novels present the idea of a lack of choice within Cathy and other similar characters. When put into context though her actions are understandable. However it is not only female characters that have “no meaningful choices” the male characters can also suffer from society and its expectations.


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