How Does Bronte use gothic features in the first three chapters of Wuthering Heights?
In Emily Brontes classic novel Wuthering Heights, we are led into Gothic world where the characters are as much part of the landscape as the trees around their house. She uses a variety of tools to create this world. One way Bronte creates Gothic mood and atmosphere is by her use of Lockwood as the narrator. Lockwood is an ordinary and well mannered man who takes us into the strange world of the novel. He makes it easier for us to believe what is happening as we feel like outsiders. Bronte used the weather and the setting to reflect the harshness of the environment and how that has affected the inhabitants of the Heights. The way Bronte characterises Cathy and Heathcliff, in particular, creates the Gothic mood: sometimes this is done through their speech and appearance, but more often through their actions and re-actions to those around them. There is a permanent sense of the supernatural at the Heights; a sense of things being withdrawn from the public eye and hidden from view.
Bronte uses a number of narrators throughout the novel to ensure that reader gets the full story from the witnesses to events. The first narrator, Lockwood, highlights the difference between the outside world and Wuthering Heights. As a new tenant at Thrushcross Grange, he is paying a visit to his new landlord. His well-to-do and out-going language contrasts with how he describes Heathcliff. He tells the reader that This is certainly a beautiful country and goes on to describe Heathcliffs black eyes withdrawing suspiciously under his brow and his fingers sheltering themselves. This suggests that Healthcliff is un-used to strangers visiting and not welcoming. However, using Lockwood as an outsider, makes the reader feel comfortable in accompanying him inside the house, so to a certain extent, the reader shares his reactions to the violent world of the Heights, making us more likely to accept the reality of the novel.
From the outset of the novel, we are told that the Heights is so completely removed from the stir of society. Lockwoods first description of the Heights tells us of the excessive slant of a few stunted firs all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun This reflects the way the inhabitants of the Heights have been affected by the grim weather conditions and desolate landscape over many years. He goes on to describe the straggling gooseberry bushes which suggest a sense of carelessness and mistreatment. The house is described as being dark and foreboding with narrow windows.deeply set corners defended with large jutting stones. This suggests that the house is un-welcoming and repels visitors. It also reflects the first description of Heathcliff whose eyes are black and hooded under the brow. Inside the house Lock wood tells us things are primitive. The kitchen is described as being forced to retreat altogether into another quarter with a clatter culinary utensil deep within and we are aware of something taking place beyond our view. The house has never been under-drawn: its entire anatomy lay bare to an inquiring eye and we understand that no attempt has been made to prettify or luxuriate the house. The guns and horse pistols above the fire threaten any visitor and the reader. Bronte reinforces the bareness of the house by telling us the whole furniture consisted of a chair, a clothes press and a large oak case with squares cut out the top resembling coach windows and a few mildewed books piled up in one corner. This is obviously not a house which has time for relaxation or comfort. To enhance the idea of the hidden secrets of the Heights, Lockwood describes the primitive structures lurking in the shade and the dogs reposed in an arch under the dresser.
Another way Bronte creates mood and atmosphere is through the weather. The weather reflects the emotions and feelings of the inhabitants of the Heights. For example, gusty wind and driving snow reflects the inhospitality of the place and the people inside. Also, bleak hill-tops, the earth was hard with a black frost suggests the characters are complex and rough and this description is a metaphor for the bleak hard life of the inhabitants. The harsh weather gives the reader a strong sense of the impact of their environment on the people living at the Heights.
Bronte also creates mood and atmosphere in her characterisation of Heathcliff. To some extent Heathcliff appears to be a stereotype of the gothic character: mad, bad and dangerous. He is described as sullen, surly, morose and slovenly. His word are uttered with closed teeth and often he does not speak at all: a nod was the answer. He reinforces that visitors are not welcome by saying Guests are so exceeding rare in this house that I and my dogs, Im willing to own, hardly know how to receive them. The way he treats his fellow inhabitants of the house disgusts Lockwood and bordering on repulsive and Heathcliff confirms this with his subsequent behaviour when other members of the house offer to accompany Lockwood across the moor: Youll go with him to hell!. However, on occasions he lets glimpses of a softer side show through when he says Your health sir and over dinner invites Lockwood to bring forward your chair to the dinner table. He shows concern for Lockwood saying you are flurried, Mr Lockwood. Here take a little wine. He has obvious gentlemanly ways which seem to be out of place among the strong Yorkshire dialect and rough ways of Joseph, Zillah, Catherine and Hareton. His passion shows itself after the appearance of the ghost, Lockwood sees Heathcliff bursting into an uncontrollable passion of tears. Lockwood notes that there was such anguish in the gush of grief that accompanied this raving that my compassion made me overlook its folly. When he next sees Heathcliff however, he is back to his brutish manner and tells Lockwood There you at your idle tricks againyou live on my charity. ..You shall pay me for the plague of having you eternally in my sight - do you hear, damnable jade?. Lockwood is confused by the extremes of emotion and as we see through Lockwoods eyes, so if the reader.
Our first view of Cathy reminds us of Cinderella as she is on her knees, surrounded by brushes and coal scuttles. Bronte implies to us that she is persecuted and trapped like a servant-girl, but when Lockwood gets a clear view of her he remarks that she was slender and apparently scarcely past girl-hood: an admirable form and the most exquisite little face that I have ever had the pleasure of beholding. However, we see how the rough ways of the Heights have affected her when she admonishes Joseph and calls him A scandalous old hypocrite. She tells him that she has progressed in the Black Art enough to have power over animals and humans alike which reminds us of the supernatural powers always threatening to invade.
The sense of the supernatural is always apparent be it from Cathys threats or the appearance of the ghost. Even in the kitchen, there is a feeling of something beyond the control of the reader like the heap of dead rabbits which Lockwood mistakes for live puppies. When Lockwood is shown to the bed chamber Zillah tells him that they have had so many queer goings on and the scene is set when he finds that the room houses an old-fashioned couch very conveniently designed to obviate the necessity for every member of the family having a room to himself. It reminds us again of the repeated references to the truth being hidden form view and supernatural forces at work. While we trust Lockwood as one of us we are not entirely sure of his testimony of the ghost. We are told of the events leading up the ghost: the names scratched on the ledge, the flickering candle, Lockwoods exhaustion and encounter with the vicious dogs, the tapping of the branch on the window all remind us that the event could have been a figment of Lockwoods imagination. However, Heathcliffs reaction is so real and passionate, we begin to think that perhaps the supernatural is at work.
Bronte creates her gothic atmosphere in Wuthering Heights using a range of literary techniques, all of which lead the reader to recognise that the harsh, uncontrollable, environment has a direct effect on the inhabitants of the house. This is highlighted through the weather and the setting of the house and is reflected in the characterisation of the in-mates of the Heights. The sense of foreboding and threat is constant with the truth being hidden from view. It is easy for the reader to believe, through Lockwoods innocent eyes, that the supernatural is in control of Wuthering Heights.