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Free Study Guide-Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-Free BookNotes
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AUTHOR'S STYLE

Wuthering Heights is unique for many reasons. It is told by several different narrators, including Nelly Dean and Lockwood. It is also told as a flashback, not entirely in chronological order. It is also an interesting study in the Yorkshire dialect, even though the dialogue can sometimes be a little stiff and artificial. The language used by Nelly seems particularly improbable, coming as it does from a housekeeper, no matter how well read she may be. It seems improbable, too, that Nelly should recall so many conversations verbatim after a period of many years.

The images in the novel, which are vivid and powerful, contribute to its style. The figures of speech are effective. Nelly describes Edgar's reluctance to leave the Heights after his quarrel with Catherine through a powerful metaphor: "He possessed the power to depart, as much as a cat possesses the power to leave a mouse half killed, or a bird half eaten." Heathcliff says of Edgar: "I'll crush his ribs like a rotten hazel nut." Edgar's growing interest in Cathy after the death of his wife is described in the following manner: "for a few days . . . he seemed regardless of the puny successor to the departed: that coldness melted as fast as snow in April." These are but a few examples of Emily Brontë's picturesque style.


One of the most striking features of Emily Brontë's style is its lyrical quality. Among the most celebrated in the novel is the young Cathy's description of her ideal way of spending a summer day, contrasted with that of her cousin Linton. "He wanted all to lie in an ecstasy of peace; I wanted all to sparkle and dance in a glorious jubilee." The prose rhythms of Cathy's description almost cry out to be sung. All the 'm' sounds in Linton's description, such as "morning," "middle of the moors," and "bees humming dreamily among the bloom" convey exactly the desired impression of lazy drowsiness. With Cathy's description the prose at once becomes brisker and full of movement. She uses verbs like "rocking," "blowing," "flitting," and "undulating (in waves to the breeze)." They help to build a picture of sparkling, dancing vitality. The last sentence in the novel is a good example of Emily Brontë's unfailing sense of rhythm: "I lingered round them, under that benign sky; watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth."

The language of the novel also characterizes human beings, establishing the cultural differences between man and the social world he enters. Lockwood's speech is pompous, mannered, bookish, and delightfully free from dialect. In spite of his lack of education, Heathcliff is able to address Lockwood, the stranger, with elaborate politeness. Joseph's language is different from the language Catherine uses. His is the typical dialect spoken by a servant, while Catherine's speech is typical of a well-to-do young lady who grew up in the country. Nelly Dean's language is a fine specimen of standard English with a slight regional flavor. The language successfully reveals part of each character's background.

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Free Study Guide-Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte-Free Plot Summary
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