For this comparison I am going to use the common theme of ‘simple hell’. These two novels although vastly different in terms of theme, setting, period even structure of the novels both deals with the issues involved in and around simple hell.
The two settings greatly affect the novels, in the way that the characters grow, their behaviour and their actions. In Wuthering Heights the main set for the novels is a windswept farm high on the Yorkshire Moors. It is set in a time between the late eighteenth and nineteenth century.
Wuthering Heights is a farm, set on the Yorkshire Moors. Life is obviously not easy for the people who live there, as for most of the year they are battered by wind, rain and snow. The trees have grown at an angle as they are continually pushed over. As a result the farm is a bastion, with thick walls, jutting corner stones and deep set windows. From the novel there is either little or n o garden, giving the impression that this is a very no-frills sort of place. This may also effect the characters as they are gradually worn down by he lack of colour on the farm.
The inside on the other hand is well lived in, it is still what you see is what you get but it has a feeling of comfort, the brass pots and pans over the fire help to give strength to the image that the inside of Wuthering Heights is a ‘real’ place. I t is an n easy image to imagine. The other set that the novel uses is The Grange.
The Grange on the outside seems warm and friendly with large flower bloomed gardens and pretty white walls, it portrays and image of wealth, sophistication and civilised orderly life. But on the inside it is dead and lifeless. It does have ornaments and decor to continue with the charade that it is a home ‘lived’ in by people of much wealth. Although the residents are infact wealthy, the range never really succeeds in it’s attempt to be anything more that an elegant ‘bed and breakfast’ for the people wish to visit Wuthering Heights. The only time in the novel where a sense of life inhabits the Grange is when Cathy and Heathcliff sneak into the garden and peer into the window, although this is quickly ended when they are seen and the dogs are loosed upon them.
The setting for To Kill a Mocking bird is a small town called Maycomb in Alabama – U.S.A. The period is around the depression of the early twentieth century. Maycomb is a small, old town with little or no energy and a decaying sense of self. The town itself is struggling to keep to “the way it used to be,” change of any kind is not welcome, this is proven when Scout complains to Atticus about school ‘not being good anymore’ when her teachers the ‘Dewey-Decimal’ system, this change although only minor and is most likely a positive change is instantly rejected because it is different.
The Town and through the novel picks up on some of the outside world, but it gives out next to nothing. This probably why the characters never really stray away from the town, with one exception Dill.
Dill is the only character apart from Atticus who is likely to have any real idea of the larger picture that includes Maycomb. He may have a better understanding of events which take place simply because when he is with relatives who live in larger more modern towns, events like Tom Robinson’s trial are more commonplace so he will be able to accept the consequences with greater ease than Scout and Jem.
In Wuthering Heights ‘simple hell’ is used in subtle, cloaked ways as well as the blaring attacks such as Lockwood’s treatment of the hand at the window. Example of the more subtle ways are when Heathcliff, seduces, marries and locks up Isabella to spite and dishonour Edgar. When Heatcliff does this has no love or lust for Isabella; he has only hatred for Edgar after he married the first Catherine.
The first real Example of simple Hell is at the start of the novel, Hindley’s reaction to the introduction of Heathcliff. Hindley reacts to Heathcliff for many reasons, the first and most prominent is Heathcliff’s Gypsy background, at the time of the novel gypsies were hated and thought of as a lower form of life by most white folk.
The next most obvious reason for Hindleys hatred of Heathcliff is the fact that he steals her away from him, although at first she is repulsed by him as Hindley, she eventually comes around and begins to really latch onto Heathcliff, this is proven when the two are playing on the moors and a have a crude childhood romance.
Hindleys treatment of Heatcliff carries on and intensifies after his fathers death, he first starts by making Heathcliff sleep in the barn, by doing this he effectively turns Heathcliff into a slave, not a servant as servants have some basic rights. But as far as Hindley is concerned Heathcliff has none.
Later on in the novel when Heatcliff returns to find Hindley in a state of of debt drink and depression, he gets his revenge. He keeps him either drunk or in such a state that Hindley is not really there. Hindley Effectively loses his mind; he sells Wuthering Heights to Heatcliff who in return does absolutely nothing to help Hindley regain a little of what he was before. When Nelly visits Wuthering Heights and sees the condition Hindley is in she is appalled. She may be beginning to see Heathcliff of what he really is, a bitter evil man driven by hatred and revenge, to create chaos in the lives of those who he believes have wronged him.
Heathcliff upon returning to Wuthering Heights immediately begins to try to break up Catherine and Edgar’s marriage. He sets about this by first appearing to become a gentleman in his absence. He then begins to flirt with the innocent Isabella, this angers Edgar and because of this, he begins to put out a demeanour of distrust and dislike towards him. When Cathy picks up on this she shows pity and compassion for Heathcliff, and is angered at Edgar for not trusting him. Heathcliff knows that if he gets enough sympathy from Cathy she may begin to love him once again, so he continues to act as though he is infatuated with Isabella. His plan may have worked perfectly, but one event shut off all chance of Heatcliff and Cathy being together, Cathy’s pregnancy. When this happens Heathcliff immediately stops trying to seduce Cathy, but by this time it is too late, she has already fallen in love with him. Cathy calls out for Heathcliff, who stays away, she feels that she has been rejected by Heathcliff and goes mad.
When Catherine is near the end of her pregnancy she becomes very ill, doctors are called in and they judge that she will not survive the night. Nelly goes off to Wuthering Heights t find and retrieve Heathcliff, when they return Heathcliff and Cathy are left alone for a short time, in this time Heathcliff tries to soothe Cathy’s madness by telling her of his love for her, this does naught except confuse and deepen her madness. Heathcliff leaves Cathy when Hindley and the doctor return. When he is walking away in the garden at the grange he hears Cathy’s screams, this distresses Heathcliff when he is a little further one he hears the screams end followed shortly by the cry of a newborn baby.
When he makes it back to Wuthering Heights he is already heavily depressed, he realises the hell he has caused so many people. He has locked up Isabella and made her miserable, made Hindley come to the verge of suicide. He has given Edgar a child with no mother, indirectly killed his wife, and stole his sister. But for him the worst deed was turning his love mad, which must have caused her much pain, then at the end of it all, sent her well and truly over the edge, which killed her, to save her child.
In the time when Lockwood arrives at the grange, Hindley has died and Heathcliff has become a dark and much more foreboding character. When Edgar dies Heathcliff comes to the grange and takes Hareton away, he oppresses Hareton until he becomes in fear of Hethcliff, even though as he is in adulthood he could easily over-power Heathcliff. When the second Cathy arrives, Heathcliff she’s her for what she is, a perfect copy of her mother. This depresses Heathcliff who see’s Hareton and Cathy falling in love just as he and her mother has, he then realises that he has treated Hareton just as Hindley treated him. This is shown as Heathcliff’s last words before he took his own life were, “let us see how they play out with the same pieces reset”.
In To Kill a Mockingbird the author uses simple hell in a much more open and obvious way, issues such as prejudices against race, social class and even people’s rights to live as they wish. Racial prejudice has a huge bearing on the novel. But before I can write about the theme of simple hell, I must fill in some of the background about the novel.
The novel is narrated by Scout, a young girl and daughter to Atticus. She has grown up as a sort of tomboy. She has no real memory of her mother, except what Atticus and her elder brother Jem tell her. The only other mother figure that she may have is Miss Maudie. Scout has not been at school long but her father and housemaid Calpurnia have aught her to read and write. Due to Maycombs isolation, she is relatively unaware of prejudices that surround her.
The background behind the plot is as follows, Mayelle Ewell was allegedly raped and following this her father Bob Ewell accused Tom Robinson, a black man of the rape. Apart from the testimony of these two, white people, there is no other evidence to condemn Tom Robinson. In preparation for the trial Atticus was assigned as attorney to fight his case. With it being such a sensitive case and the defendant being a black man most of the other lawyers of the time would fight half-heartedly. But Atticus being a man of integrity, self-respect and above all peace, could not live with himself if he passed the case aside. So going against the normal white values of the time he is defending a black man with the same drive and vigour that he would a white man.
Simple hell in this novel is based and tied in heavily with racial prejudice and social class prejudice. Not only are the blacks of he time looked down upon for having a different colour skin, but they are also looked down upon for living out past the dump in the poorest areas of town. This prejudice is usually sprouted as a means of degrading a persons sense of humanity. I he can be harassed enough into thinking he is worthless then he believes it and gives up his free will. There are two exceptionally racist people in Maycomb, Bob Ewell and Mrs Dubose. Both of which react in a huge way when they hear of Atticus defending Tom Robinson.
Atticus creates a lot of hell for himself in To Kill a Mockingbird, if he had not kept to his principles in such a strict way then much of the hassle his family received would not have arisen. But Atticus doing the right thing, is going to make the town think, although it is not written in the text I believe that he is trying to make the town look upon itself and see the decadence and horrific values that it clings to. Much n the same way that Hamlet does in Hamlet, when he tries to break his mother’s air of ignorance to the events surrounding her. Atticus is probably doing this to stand up to the decaying old values of the town.
Mrs Dubose as a character represents the towns moral and values. She like the town is old and withering, she has a blatant racist side and a small-minded self-assurance, which stops any chance of change. Although she was raised this way so she cannot help it. It is obvious that the author placed her in the novel to mirror the town through imagery. She like the town simply lies still, begins to decay and rejects anything but what she conceives is the norm.
Bob Ewell the evil man. Through various reports by characters, his actions and Mayella’s testimony, Bob Ewell is not a man of conscience. When Mayella says “what papa does is different,” we get a pretty strong view that sexual abuse and incest are all regular parts of Ewell life. The town as a whole despises only the blacks more than the Ewells. From all accounts including their own they are happy to lie back and let the state feed them, they are the least respected whites in town.
These characters on their own will not stand up to scrutiny, but their testimonies combined with the antiquated values of the town and the ability for good men to simply stand back. Allows for an innocent black man to be tried, and convicted of rape without good evidence. Bob Ewell knows quite well that although he and his family are considered the lowest people in town their word carries more weight than a black mans in any court of law. The reasons behind Bob Ewell accusing Tom Robinson are reasonably clear, according to the Testimony of Mayella, she and her father have “close” relations. It seems that Bob could not face the possibility of his daughter falling in love with a black man. The reasons for his wanting to end this are, his fear of his relationship with his daughter being revealed, the fact that he would clearly lose what little face he has in the town and finally the fact that he could not tolerate a black man being more attractive than himself.
Boo Radley represent the towns fear of change, he is the unknown, the inexplicable, they cannot predict him do they fear and mock him. Boo in the end despite the life the town has given him, does the town a great favour but as it turns out to be Boo that has acted his actions are covered up. The town as a whole is scared of change because they know that slowly but surely their way of life is disappearing. So in one last defiant attempt to stop the change they are becoming the worst they could possibly be, the racist values have been heightened to include any white person who has sympathy of any sort for the blacks of the town. When Atticus stands up for Tom, his name is instantly slandered.
The racial prejudice is not just white to black. When the children go with Calpurnia to the black church they are greeted by jeers and a mob. Although Calpurnia quickly silences and disperses them it still shows that prejudices usually run both ways.
The social prejudices are greatly related to family status, Aunt Alexandra exaggerates this. She believes greatly that family history is a great part in their life, and following in the family footsteps is the way forward in life. This is carried on throughout the town; it is generally followed that if your father was a farmer then the son shall too. This is even shown by Jem who wishes to grow up to become a lawyer like his father Atticus. This is also shown in the family gene pool, as generations seem to repeat themselves, as bloodlines remain intact. It seems quite likely that all of the families of Maycomb would trace their ancestry back to 2-3 founding families.
Money also plays a part is status, with people like the Cunninghams who are considered the poorest of the poor with exception to the Ewell’s and the blacks. The part of money cannot play a major part is status as there is a depression taking place at the time the novel is set in therefore money as a whole is not the commodity it normally is.