‘In the world of Wuthering Heights extremes of behaviour are presented as the norm and moderation is neither known nor desired.’ GOTHIC ESSAY

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`In the world of Wuthering Heights extremes of behaviour are presented as the norm and
moderation is neither known nor desired.' To what extent do you agree with this view of the
novel?
From the outset of the novel, Bront's initial depiction of the environment suggests a secluded
atmosphere to Wuthering Heights; a `grotesque carving' with `narrow windows...deeply set in the
wall' and `corners defended with large jutting stones.' This opening description implies a
contradictory environment to the suggested world with `extremes of behaviour', but rather
connotes seclusion and isolation, and the absence of life. However, upon further consideration, there
is ambiguity surrounding Wuthering Heights as Bront goes on to state: `No wonder the grass grows
up between the flags, and cattle are the only hedge-cutters'. There is dichotomy and mystery
established surrounding the nature of the house, and the question arises as to whether it is keeping
these `extreme' behaviours out, or confining them within. This element of mystery is a typical Gothic
convention, quickly establishing the novel as fitting with the traditional Gothic genre and working to
set up reader expectations which Bront then goes on to challenge and manipulate.
Lockwood, the narrator, is additionally portrayed as a representation of gentlemanly civility and
emotional repression, particularly highlighted in his short explanation of his past: `I...shrunk icily into
myself, like a snail; at every glance retired colder and father.' The use of simile incites bold imagery of
Lockwood's self-repressive behaviour whilst his `shame' at being in love with a woman represents
his civility and gentlemanly nature. However, as the chapter progresses, Bront quickly destabilizes
this image and instead begins to contrast Lockwood's actions through Lockwood himself: `parrying
off the larger combatants as effectually as I could with the poker, I was constrained to demand,
aloud, assistance.' An innate, violent nature and defensive side to Lockwood is highlighted, with his
use of a `poker' as a weapon against the dogs working to break down the image of him as a
representation of civility, and instead establishing the opposition between the both the civil and the
uncivil. Following this, Lockwood is seen to then embrace this more crude, unrestrained element to
his character as Bront continues to depict an aggressive component within him: `Wretched
inmates...you deserve perpetual isolation from your species for your churlish inhospitality.' Irony
arises within Lockwood's criticism of the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights, as his own hostile,
extreme behaviour is shown to surface, particularly in his condemning of them as `wretched inmates'.
As a result, Brontë destabilizes the traditional Gothic opposition between the civilized and the
uncivilized, blurring the boundary and highlighting the two as implicit, one within the other. This
creates an uncertainty and unpredictability surrounding the characters and their behaviour, making it
both extreme and destructive and inciting the fear and uneasiness commonly associated with works
of the Gothic genre.
There is, however, also argument as to whether or not the norm and moderation is desired within
the novel. The initial portrayal of Heathcliff suggests that perhaps he does hold a desire for such
restrained behaviour, and makes an effort to reject such extreme emotion and action. Lockwood, for
example, states: `I know, by instinct, his reserve springs from an aversion to showy displays of
feeling.' Hence, a similar sense of self-repression is highlighted within Heathcliff, though this façade
is quickly stripped away upon the entrance of Cathy's ghost. Lockwood states, after observing
Heathcliff's reaction: `There was such anguish in the gush of grief that accompanied this raving, that
my compassion made me overlook its folly, and I drew off, half angry to have listened at all.' The
verb `gush' further implies the idea of Heathcliff's extreme emotions as innate and unavoidable as
they are shown to `break free' from his self-imposed restraints, highlighting the inability to control of

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Wuthering Heights. Lockwood's regret at having listened to
Heathcliff's private anguish additionally implicates that such behaviour does not belong within the
realms of his imposed civility, and so he removes himself from the situation. Furthermore, there is
also contradictory argument that suggests that underneath his façade, Heathcliff does in fact revel in
such extremity of feeling and experience, supporting the statement that `moderation is neither
known nor desired' as he cries: `Come in! Come in...Cathy, do come.…read more

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