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Gender Studies in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights Essay

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Gender Studies in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights  


Gender played an important role in the style of writing known as "Gothic". Traditional stereotypes were often broken. Men were not always portrayed as dominant, strong, rational or masculine. Likewise, women were not always portrayed as weak, submissive, irrational, or feminine. This essay will take a look at the relationship between Catherine and Edgar Linton in Emily Brönte's Wuthering Heights. We will take a look at how their characters are portrayed, how this affected their marriage, and how each character retained some of the traits attributed to their gender.

Catherine's character will be examined first, since she is one of the main characters in the book. Catherine was not your typical sweet, caring, angelic little girl. Ellen describes her by saying, "Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going--singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same. A wild, wicked slip she was-" (p.32), and, " In play, she liked, exceedingly, to act the little mistress; using her hands freely, and commanding her companions: she did so to me, but I would not bear slapping and ordering; so I let her know."(p.33). From these two descriptions of Catherine, it seems she was always testing her limits, not at all submissive. Even as a child she had a strong mind that would not easily be swayed. It is obvious that Catherine was dominant and even domineering, an example of this would be the way she continually ordered her playmates around and by resorting to physical abuse to get them to do what she wanted them to do. Later in the book Catherine described herself as a child by saying she was "half savage, and hardy, and free"(p.97).

Edgar's chi...


... middle of paper ...


...ar gave up his judicial office, stopped attending church, and did not go anywhere anymore. So he assumed the wife's role by staying home and raising his child, and that was Catherine's final show of dominance.

Edgar and Catherine had a complex relationship. Each went into the marriage for different reasons. Edgar thought he loved her but only loved an idealized version of her, and Catherine married him to help the man she truly loved, Heathcliff. He thought she was perfect, she thought he was weak and easy to control. Eventually, these idealizations faded away. Throughout their relationship, Catherine and Edgar switched gender roles. While they did switch roles, each one managed to keep traits that were attributed to their own gender at that time.

Works Cited:

Berg, Maggie. Wuthering Heights: The Writings in the Margin. New York: Twayne Publishers, 1996.


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