Love as Terror, Destruction, and Misery in "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë

Essay, 2019

41 Pages, Grade: 5.0


Table of Contents


Chapter One: Emily Brontë – Life, Work and Death

Chapter Two: Wuthering Heights – the uniqueness of the story

Chapter Three: The Destructive Force of Love in Wuthering Heights




This paper is titled Love as Destruction in Wuthering Heights and it refers to numerous faces that love takes in the novel.

The aim of the paper is to analyze the various aspects, described by Emily Brontë as ‘love’, which in fact, lead to terror, destruction and misery for most of the characters.

In order to present the topic of the paper correctly, I have decided to divide the work into three following chapters.:

Chapter One, titled Emily Brontë – Life, Work and Death, focuses on the author and her personality – the traces which made such novel possible to be created.

Chapter Two - Wuthering Heightsthe uniqueness of the story, is an analysis of such aspects as romanticism and Gothicism of the novel. It also looks at the nature as a working factor behind the deeds of human beings.

Chapter Three – The Destructive Force of Love in Wuthering Heights is the final part of the paper and the one which tries to answer the question – ‘What actually does love do to characters of the novel?’

Chapter One: Emily Brontë – Life, Work and Death

The fascination with Emily Brontë’s life and character that her early critics attest to follows Charlotte’s lead, who characterized her sister as a true eccentric, happier in nature than society. Other critics, notably Elizabeth

Gaskell and T. Wemyss Reid, extend this representation with a variety of anecdotes about Emily’s strange affinity for animals and her almost complete withdrawal from the world. / Tabitha Sparks/ 1

Virginia Brackett, the author of Bloom’s How to write about the Brontës stresses that “[…] it is possible to write an analytical paper that also considers the work’s context. After all, the text was not created in a vacuum. The author lived and wrote in a specific period and in a specific cultural context and, as all of us are, was shaped by that environment.”2 Indeed, learning more about the historical and cultural circumstances which surrounded the author and his or her work may help understand the text better and provide the reader with productive material for a subject of the work.

Emily Jane Brontë was born on July 30th 1818, at Thornton, near Bradford, in Yorkshire. She was the fifth child and fourth daughter of the Reverend Patrick Brontë and Maria Branwell. Patrick Brontë was an Angelican clergyman, born in Ireland, who was educated at Cambridge. It was common for the friends of the family to compare Emily and Anne, who were said to behave like a twin-sisters. Both Emily’s sisters – Charlotte and Anne were also writers and also her brother, Branwell, but in a little bit more limited way.

In 1820 the family moved to Haworth where the father – Patrick got a job as a curator. That is how Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, the author of The Brontees’ Web of Childhood describes their lives there:

Once upon a time four gifted children built themselves a dream world, magnificently wrought and marvelously beautiful. Taken by death, they left their creation intact, glorious in imagination, exquisite in fancy, but invisible save through a long unrecognized talisman. The father of the children was a curate, their home a parsonage at the top of a Yorkshire hill. From the back of their house stretched purple moors, while in front their small garden joined a churchyard leading into a church dedicated to the glory of God in honor of St. Michael the Archangel. In that church lay buried their mother and two older sisters. A stone's toss beyond the church stood the Black Bull Inn and beyond that a village of wild, rude millhands. Such was the careless challenge dropped by fate at the feet of four gifted children.3

In a year, after the family’s moving to Haworth, Emily’s mother died and from that time, her sister Elizabeth maintained the family house for all of the remaining members of the Brontë family until she died in 1842.

1.1. Childhood, Education and the Fantasy Worlds of the Brontës

It is worth realizing that all of the siblings grew up in the early nineteenth century, the era when women did not enjoy the privilege of the equal education rights. Nevertheless, their father wished that all of his children were educated. He insisted that his children were tutored in the confines of his office and apart from that, they were allowed to read virtually anything from his huge library.:

No childhood friend was the young Brontës' confidant, for the shy, sensitive children did not mingle with the rude youngsters of the village. The Reverend Patrick Brontë took a pastor's interest in the parochial school at Haworth, but as an instructive medium he considered it beneath the station of a clergyman's family. Thus the four Brontës had their lessons in their father's study and in their aunt's bedroom, and indulged themselves, uncensored, in wide reading from the Parsonage shelves and neighboring libraries.4

Education is often observed as very important in the Brontës’ novels, and there are used the images of schools or classrooms as settings as well as the profession of governess or teacher can be recalled in reference to numerous characters. Because of their father’s desire to educate his children, Charlotte and Emily were enrolled soon after their two elder sisters – Elizabeth and Maria in a school named Cowan Bridge. Sadly, probably because of the poor conditions within the facility, both older sisters soon became ill of tuberculosis and needed to get back home where they died a short time later.5 This painful experience had probably an influence on Charlotte and her first novel, titled Jane Eyre.

After Charlotte and Emily returned to home to the parsonage they were tutored for several following years by Elizabeth Branwell, an aunt who had moved in with them to help to raise the children after their mother’s death four years earlier in 1821. Their aunt, also, let them for themselves. Elizabeth Branwell was over forty years old when she took over the duties in managing the household permanently. It was not a serious change for children because of the fact that she used to stay with them a lot before and she took care of their mother during her fatal illness. To the literary historians, she seems to have been a person of no outstanding characteristics, “a little given to complaining and retrospective vanity”.6 Hinkley describes her place in children’s lives in the following way: “She was intelligent enough, for she read aloud habitually to Mr. Brontë, and they discussed the reading vivaciously. She did her duty as she saw it, and did it well enough. She taught the girls to sew which bored them, and had them learn other household arts.”7

Truly important person in their life was Tabitha Aykroyd who was fifty-four when she became the part of the Brontës household. Apart from the several times that she was temporarily absent, she stayed with them throughout the rest of her life, as well as nearly the rest of theirs, because she died a month before Charlotte, at the age of eighty-five. She was an active influence in the childhood of the Brontës. She was the one who directed them, took care of them, and when it was necessary – reprimanded them. She would manage their time it was her who gave them stories and songs. Hinkley, again provides a precise explanation why the person of Tabitha, or Tabby – as children called her, was so valuable and had an impact on Emily’s work: “Unlike their father or their aunt, she appears recognizably in their work. Ellen Dean in Wuthering Heights is just such a servant-housekeeper-nurse-companion-friend, possessed of just such a responsible disposition, tart tongue, and independent spirit.”8

Beginning from 1826 the four Brontë children became fascinated by the toy soldiers their father brought home. Soon, their favourite game – so-called ‘Young Men's Play’ got a new shape due to a suggestion of the Reverend J. Goldsmith A Grammar of General Geography. And so they created the imaginary African kingdom which they called Angria.

On the night of June 5, 1826, a year after Maria and Elizabeth died, the Reverend Patrick Brontë, returning from Leeds, placed beside the bed of nine-year-old Branwell a box of wooden soldiers requested by the lad to supplement older sets now battered and broken. […] These soldiers Branwell good-naturedly agreed the girls might claim as their own, though they were still to be his in reality. In these wooden soldiers the children had at hand dramatis personae for an ever-lengthening series of games.9

Interestingly, Blackwood's Magazine, the paper beloved by the Parsonage family, served as a model for the earliest written literature of the Young Men’s Play and as soon as 1829 Branwell made their own magazine, in the covers made of leaf. With that, the children started their own ‘editorial careers’, penning the stories and satires in each edition of their own magazine, prepared and illustrated by themselves for their own enjoyment.

William Stanley Braithwaite, the author of The Bewitched Parsonage: The Story of the Brontës claims that indeed: “Much of the secret of the Brontë’s genius lies in the writing they did as children, when they seriously played at being authors.”10 He also adds that “during those formative years the Brontë children all seem to have given free rein to an imagination that escaped into a world of fancy.”11

That is certainly true, not only Branwell, who was extremely detailed in the years after following Angria in describing its every detail, but obviously Charlotte and Emily also gained their skills and literary potential in this time. “This escapist writing, transcribed in tiny script on small pieces of paper, continued into adulthood and is a remarkable key to the development of genius in Charlotte and Emily.”12

After some time, Emily and Anne – those two sisters who were so close to each other, invented another kingdom located in the Pacific which they named Gondal. Nevertheless, they all wrote essays, poems and sketches about those kingdoms for the rest of their lives.

1.2. Emily – the Free Romantic Spirit and a Loving Sister

Charles Morgan wrote: “Emily had two lives. It was the essence of her genius that they were distinct. One, the superficial life, the life of the daughter at the parsonage, which she is commonly praised for having led with dutiful heroism, was not in her eyes heroic. It was the activity in the midst of which she learned how to feed upon the spirit within her.”13

Numerous literary critics are blocked by the image of Emily, who seems to have been very withdrawn and private. The only connection of hers, immortalized by her ‘diary-papers’ was with her place on earth – Haworth and her siblings, especially Anne and Branwell. “Acutely reserved, Emily preferred to be alone much of the time, and her self-imposed isolation became a repeated theme in her lyric poetry.”14

In addition, there is a description of Emily which comes from T. Wemyss Reid, the author of Charlotte Brontë biography:

Emily . . . had, like Charlotte, a bad complexion; but she was tall and wellformed, whilst her eyes were of remarkable beauty. All through her life her temperament was more than merely peculiar. She inherited not a little of her father’s eccentricity, untempered by her father’s savoir faire. Her aversion to strangers has been already mentioned. When the curates, who formed the only society of Haworth, found their way to the parsonage, she avoided them as though they had brought pestilence in their train. On the rare occasions when she went out into the world, she would sit absolutely silent in the company of those who were unfamiliar to her. So intense was this reserve that even in her own family, where alone she was at ease, something like dread was mingled with the affection felt towards her.15

Emily loved the nature so much, that she felt connected with everything that described the moors – the wilderness, the strong winds, rapidly changing weather, strong smells and the sense of connection with the surrounding world. Nevertheless, even in that beloved place she was keeping to herself. Ratchford points out that when Emily was fifteen she built her own world, creating her own solitary philosophy and she became engrossed in such simple games as chasing tadpoles and judging them strong or weak, brave or cowardly according to their frightened jumping. Her hiding was “in a far nook called The Meeting of the Waters, shut off from the rest of the world by miles of heather and open only to the blue of the sky and the brightness of the sun.”16

Perhaps it was the reason why she could not leave her home for longer because if she was ‘forced’ to, she felt so homesick that it seemed as if she might die of sadness. As it was mentioned above, she left home to attend the school as a child, to Cowan Bridge. Later, Roe Head, where, as Charlotte described it, she was afflicted with acute homesickness. She deeply needed to return to Haworth and the moors, where she might enjoy her true privacy. After only three months at Roe Head, her wish was able to come true, and Anne took her place at the school. According to Braithwaite words: “Emily Brontë deprived of her beloved countryside was as Samson shorn of his locks.”17

Her following departure from home-place was for a school period in 1835 when Emily accompanied Charlotte as a tutor at a school in East Yorkshire, but she was unhappy there and quickly returned to Haworth. In 1837 or 1838 she worked as a governess at Law Hill, near Halifax; a house near this school, High Sunderland Hall, some scholars assume it to be the major inspiration for future Wuthering Heights.

At age 20, Emily became a teacher at Miss Patchett’s school at Law Hill, Halifax, despite Charlotte warning her against the long hours, lack of exercise, and poor diet that characterized such positions. Emily faced the challenges, managing to produce poetry while teaching 40 pupils. The Law Hill area contributed greatly to Emily’s creative output, and her students were said to have liked her, although Emily told them frankly that she liked the dog more than them. When she returned for a second term, her health deteriorated, as did her creative output, and by March 1839 she was again home at Haworth.18

In 1842, as part of a plan to open a school at Haworth, Emily left her beloved home once again, this time to the Pensionnat Heger in Brussels with Charlotte to study languages. The sources inform that this first period was rather good for both sisters but, although Emily was admired for her intellect, especially her amazingly fast achievements in mastery of French language, her frightful manners could not attract many pupils.

With her return to Haworth late in 1842, Emily devoted herself to the writing of poetry about Gondal.

What is also important, is to mention Emily’s diaries. Her life-long diary-papers began one late autumn morning when she was sixteen and she was sitting in the kitchen together with Anne. It was when Emily wrote the first of those personal papers.

At this point one arrives at the very curious aspect from the biographical point of view. Emily’s own accounts of her life, preserved in her diary-papers and reproduced with original spelling and punctuation errors are curious for various reasons – not only because they are so detailed and rich in descriptions of every single person, event or place. On the one hand she gives the locations of her family members and animals as if they were all equal (animals also), but on the other hand, mostly, Emily focuses on her optimistic vision of the future, in which she hopes and imagines she and her sisters will run a flourishing school and be living together in busy harmony.19

Here lays the biggest difference and opposition with descriptions of Emily as a lonely solitary spirit who wishes to be left completely alone. In this documents, Emily is thoroughly normal and well-conditioned teenager. What is more, it is amazing when one realizes how many interests young Emily has: animals and pets, human characters, cookery and food, domestic responsibilities and domestic co-operation, humor, play of imagination, out-door plays, mischiefs, music – and that do not cover all of them. This papers clearly present the person she actually was, and that girl who is interested in all these things at the age of sixteen is doing very well. She is as far as possible from the self-centered, self-pitying, miserable persona which numerous literary critics would like to present her to the world. Hinkley goes as far as to state definitely that:

Emily did not whimper. Charlotte, at some times in her life, cried easily and often, but, except as we choose to consider certain of her poems literally autobiographic, there is no record of Emily's ever shedding a tear. Nor did she have anything to whimper about. The pathetic picture of Emily's slighted, misunderstood, unloved, undervalued youth is contrary to fact. She was one of a singularly happy, united family. This cross section of adolescence could not show so promising a character development if it were not also a cross section of unusually free, harmonious, educative family life.20

What is more, “a love of fun and mischief was a trait of the everyday young Emily. Emily was a child for glee and enjoyment. She was also a child for mischief.”21 For example, she really like to force Charlotte to go where she would normally be afraid to go if she could decide on her own. As Emily grew older, and life became more complicated and filled with various sad aspects, her humorous personality slightly evaporated and turned into a quiet, but still energetic cheerfulness.

And it is perfectly true that when Charlotte and Anne became completely overwhelmed by their brother – Branwell’s behavior as drunk and addict, and they realized that he went definitely too far to be able to stop or be helped in any other way, Emily remained by his side. It was also Emily who waited almost every night for Branwell to return from the tavern. Finally, it was Emily who managed to save him with her own hands from the burning bed he had incidentally, in a drunken state, set on fire.22 (Braithwaite 95)


1 Sparks, Tabitha (ed.), The Brontës. (New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2008), p. 127.

2 Brackett, Virginia, Bloom’s how to write about the Brontës. (New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009), p. 7.

3 Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, The Brontees’ Web of Childhood. (Columbia University Press, New York, 1941), p. 3.

4 Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, The Brontees’ Web of Childhood. (Columbia University Press, New York, 1941), p. 5.

5 ”Brontë”. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. 2012. Digital version.

6 Laura L. Hinkley Charlotte and Emily. (New York: Hastings House, 1945), p. 12.

7 Laura L. Hinkley, Charlotte and Emily. Contributors: (New York: Hastings House, 1945), p. 12.

8 Laura L. Hinkley, Charlotte and Emily. (New York: Hastings House, 1945), p. 13.

9 Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, The Brontees’ Web of Childhood. (Columbia University Press, New York, 1941), p. 6.

10 William Stanley Braithwaite, The Bewitched Parsonage:The Story of the Brontes. (New York: Coward-McCann, 1950), p. 33.

11 William Stanley Braithwaite, The Bewitched Parsonage:The Story of the Brontes. (New York: Coward-McCann, 1950), p. 34.

12 ”Brontë”. The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed. 2012. Digital version.

13 The Great Victorians by H. J. Massingham in William Stanley Braithwaite, The Bewitched Parsonage:The Story of the Brontes. (New York: Coward-McCann, 1950), p. 94.

14 Brackett, Virginia, Bloom’s how to write about the Brontës. (New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009), p. 50.

15 T. Wemyss Reid, Charlotte Brontë: A Monograph, 1877, pp. 42–43.

16 Fannie Elizabeth Ratchford, The Brontees’ Web of Childhood. (Columbia University Press, New York, 1941), p. 64.

17 William Stanley Braithwaite, The Bewitched Parsonage:The Story of the Brontes. (New York: Coward-McCann, 1950), p. 104.

18 Brackett, Virginia, Bloom’s how to write about the Brontës. (New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2009), p. 50

19 Sparks, Tabitha (ed.), The Brontës. (New York: Bloom’s Literary Criticism, 2008), p. 128.

20 Laura L. Hinkley, Charlotte and Emily. (New York: Hastings House, 1945), p. 165.

21 Laura L. Hinkley, Charlotte and Emily. (New York: Hastings House, 1945), p. 167.

22 William Stanley Braithwaite, The Bewitched Parsonage: The Story of the Brontes. (New York: Coward-McCann, 1950), p. 95.

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Love as Terror, Destruction, and Misery in "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë
Jan Kochanowski University of Humanities and Sciences in Kielce
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brontë, destruction, emily, heights, love, misery, terror, wuthering
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Marta Zapała-Kraj (Author), 2019, Love as Terror, Destruction, and Misery in "Wuthering Heights" by Emily Brontë, Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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