The Concept of light and darkness is a common devise in literature; there is no opposite pair so naturally engrained into the human consciousness. From the day one is born to the final breath before death night and day move around us. Emily Bronte understood this play between light and dark and used it to highlight her characters in her novel, Wuthering Heights. This essay will demonstrate Bronte’s use of light and darkness to relate elements of her plot in order give a third dimension to the characters. Understanding these points allows to reader to fully experience the characters and the settings that they occupy.
The first instance Bronte orchestrates the use of light and darkness is in the description of her characters. Bronte’s use of luminous characters and dismal characters add foreshadowing and additional conflict interactions between the characters, especially those that represent the to opposing zenith points. The first character that is described in this manner is Heathcliff. Heathcliff is Bronte’s most outstanding dark characters in this novel. This holds more significance as the plot come to show him as obsessive, vengeful, and utterly haunted by his past actions. Heathcliff is subject to this description from the onset. Mr. Lockwood begins the description by referring to him as a “Dark Skinned gypsy, in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman”. This conflict is evident of Heathcliff’s entry into the Earnshaw domicile; he is quite sinister and quite out of place. This foreshadowing also appears in Nelly Dean’s description of the young Heathcliff as a “dirty, ragged, black-haired child”. From the start Heathcliff’s is over loomed by the dark cloud of ominous darkness. Without this aspect of Heathcliff described, the character of Heathcliff would not have the mental cognition that the reader receives with it. The emotional darkness also is demonstrated early in the novel. Also in Nelly’s description is Mrs. Earnshaws reaction to the young Heathcliff stating the “Mrs. Earnshaw was ready to fling it out of doors” and the “she did fly up- asking how he (Mr. Earnshaw) could fashion to bring that gypsy brat into the house.” This early symbol of rejection sat the pattern for the alienation that would lead him to develop an extremely dark-hearted manner. Furthermore, the dark and shadowy nature of Heathcliff’s unknown past contributes to Heathcliff’s sinister guise. As Heathcliff ages, the reader come to find out that Mr. Heathcliff is vengeful and cruel, but is made that way by Hindly Earnshaw, who hates Heathcliff because Heathcliff had won the affections of Mr. Earnshaw. Hindley is a weak character and steadily shifts from the light hearted brat, to a weak mousy alcoholic man. Mr. Earnshaw’s loss of love for his son fans the flames of Hindley’s hatred, superimposing it on the abused Heathcliff.
In contrast to the dark characters, Bronte provides an array of luminous characters in Wuthering Heights that serve as balances to the plot. Catherine Earnshaw is the principle luminous character in the novel. While her attraction to Heathcliff propels him into a cycle of cruel obsession and vile acts, Cathy herself is a “Free spirit” and seemingly innocent, or perhaps just ignorant. Cathy is beautiful, charming and comes to be well behaved, she also stays loyal to her husband despite her feelings for Heathcliff. Unlike the dark characters that become ruined or emotionally tormented, Cathy becomes physically ill. A sense of brightness also surrounds Cathy, and is extinguished with her death. Mr. Earnshaw, Cathy’s father, is the next principal luminous character. Being described as kindly and generous, it is a wonder that the likes of Hindly sprung from his loins. The nature of language Bronte uses to express Mr. Earnshaw is even and his voice portrays the characteristics of a gentleman. This feeling of merriment and benevolence is visible when he asks his son, “Now, my bonny man, I’m going to Liverpool today.. What shall I bring you? You may choose what you like; only let it be little, for I shall walk there and back; sixty miles each way, that is a long spell!” The generous nature of this man can be seen in the way he goes about asking his children, he limits what they may have, apologizes and then justifies why he has done so. He even asks the servant what she would want causing her to testify to his generous nature by stating, “He did not forget me, for he had a kind heart.”
The setting also produces contrasts between light and darkness. The actual structure of Wuthering Heights, the edifice, seems dark and ominous, however, the reader see a change in the descriptive style of the structure. In the first segments of the Nelly’s description of the story to Mr. Lockwood the house is alive with the loving family a result of Mr. Earnshaw’s generous nature. This is, however, a very different place than the one Mr. Lockwood describes for himself the night he is forced to spend there. The fact that the house is located where it is weathered is a testimonial to the changing nature of the house. All evidence points to a steady collapse of good feelings at the Heights, As Hindly and Heathcliff began to “decompose” emotionally and socially, the place assumes the rather dark and gloomy appearance that is noticed by Mr. Lockwood. The final connection to darkness made regarding Wuthering Heights, the estate, and darkness comes when Heathcliff return from his absence (some scholars claim he went to America) and pays off Hindly’s gambling debts and Heathcliff comes to own the complex.
In contrast to the Heights, Thrushcross Grange is described with a more luminous manner. The Lintons are the single factor; they represent a more educated system that the somewhat farm-folk-like Earnshaws. When Cathy goes to live with the Linton family for five weeks, she has been transported to another world. Thrushcross Grange remains true to its original description due to the fact that dark characters, such as Heathcliff, choose to live elsewhere. The gap between the two estates becomes clearer as Edgar Linton and Heathcliff assume sides in each dwelling superimposing their respective characteristics on each building.
In conclusion it is evident that the elements of light and darkness can be easily seen in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. With out these contrasts to extent the characters’ personalities, much of the imagery and allusion would be lost. . From the day one is born to the final breath before death night and day move around us, this is the driving force behind Bronte’s characters.