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Religion and mysticism in

Emily Brontë` s Wuthering


Heights
•Definition of key –
words
• Religion:
1. a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the
universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman
agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual
observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct
of human affairs.
2. a specific fundamental set of beliefs and practices generally agreed
upon by a number of persons or sects:
the Christian religion; the Buddhist religion.
3. the body of persons adhering to a particular set of beliefs and practices:
a world council of religions.
4. the life or state of a monk, nun, etc.: to enter religion.
5. the practice of religious beliefs; ritual observance of faith.
6. something one believes in and follows devotedly; a point or matter of
ethics or conscience: to make a religion of fighting prejudice.
7. religions, Archaic. religious rites:
painted priests performing religions deep into the night.
• Mysticism:
1. Evelyn Underhill defines mysticism as "the direct intuition or experience
of God" or "the life which aims at union with God“, and a mystic as "a
person who has, to a greater or less degree, such a direct experience–one
whose religion and life are centered, not merely on an accepted belief or
practice, but on that which he regards as first-hand personal knowledge.“
Religion in Wuthering Heights
1. THE SETTING
Thrushcross Grange – The Heaven:
Thrushcross Grange is a desirable paradise of wealth described in luxurious terms ‘a
splendid place carpeted with crimson’ and a ‘pure white’ ceiling. When Catherine and
Heathcliff are outside looking in through a window they compare it to ‘heaven’. They both
desire the luxury, elegance and social security of Thrushcross Grange, and this is what drives
Cathy to marry Edgar and what drives Heathcliff to go away to make his fortune.
Quotes:
«a splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson-covered chairs and tables, and a pure
white ceiling bordered by gold, a shower of glass-drops hanging in silver chains from the
centre, and shimmering with little soft tapers. Old Mr. and Mrs. Linton were not there; Edgar
and his sisters had it entirely to themselves. Shouldn't they have been happy? We should
have thought ourselves in heaven!» (Chapter 6)
The Heaven – Thrushcross Grange
Wuthering Heights – The Hell:
Wuthering Heights is a place of suffering for all the generations in the novel. Hindley
rules with violence and later Heathcliff makes it a place of misery for Hareton, Linton and
young Cathy as well. Lockwood says they would ‘brave Satan and all his legions’. They have
fought off the demonic in Heathcliff and won victory with his death. But the novel doesn’t end
with the happy image of Cathy and Hareton, it ends with Lockwood’s idyllic interpretation of
Wuthering Heights’ ‘quiet earth’. Given the resonating image of Catherine and Heathcliff’s
spirits walking on the moor, it seems that the earth is anything but quiet! It is full of passion
and the love of Catherine and Heathcliff. The world of the novel is one of storms and violence,
not benignity as Lockwood suggests.
Quotes:
• «Wuthering' being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to
which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up
there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by
the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns
all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had
foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners
defended with large jutting stones.»
The Hell – Wuthering Heights
2. THE CHARACTERS:
• Nelly Dean:
• She directly voices religious sentiments
• She is also eager to express her religious plattitudes
• Her own behaviour does not seem to be affected by her religious principles,
but by her feelings at the moment.
• Her attitude does not represent an active point of view.
• Joseph
• The type of sanctimonious old hypocrite, certainly representing the more repressive
and dogmatic parts of his religious belief.
• He is compared to the Pharisees („He was, and is yet most likely, the wearisomest
self-righteous Pharisee that ever ransacked a Bible to rake the promises to himself
and fling the curses to his neighbours. By his knack of sermonising and pious
discoursing, he contrived to make a great impression on Mr. Earnshaw; and the
more feeble the master became, the more influence he gained. He was relentless in
worrying him about his soul's concerns, and about ruling his children rigidly. He
encouraged him to regard Hindley as a reprobate; and, night after night, he
regularly grumbled out a long string of tales against Heathcliff and Catherine:
always minding to flatter Earnshaw's weakness by heaping the heaviest blame on
the latter.”);
• There is no mercy in his behaviour and no love for the others, only judgement.
• He establishes an atmosphere of harsh Christianity,
• His perspective is based also on pagan elements, which he considers to be in his own
advantage.
• Catherine and Heathcliff
• Their own religious ideologies, including their own versions of ‘heaven’ based on
their love of nature.
• After Mr Earnshaw’s death, both characters are trying to find their comfort in
religion
• At the end of the novel, Heathcliff has clearly rejected Christian beliefs
• Heathcliff and Catherine may be able to inhabit their own heaven together after
death.
• Both characters are linked with supernatural powers other than the Christian God
• Heathcliff has so-called ‘mystical’ religiosity, because practised in order that he may
remain in communication with Catherine after her death, and also ensure their
reunion in the afterlife, is ‘superior’ to the Christian doctrines he implicitly rejects.
The religious symbolism of
number three
• It is inspired by Bible, Genesis 1:13, where it is said that God made the earth rise out
of water in the third day.
• In Wuthering Heights, a strong and eloquent exemplar of the power of number three
is Heathcliff.
• Heathcliff’s first arrival at Wuthering Heights comes about when Mr. Earnshaw
returns after having been away for three days, bringing with him a new son,
Heathcliff. The family is now forever changed. This “creation” of a new son, named
after the first-born son who had died years previous, now brings the number of
children in the Earnshaw household back to its previous number, three. It may not
be the fact that Earnshaw was gone away for three days that makes this such a
powerful example of Bronte’s use of three. It is the chain of events that this three day
journey has now put into action, and cannot be stopped.
• “He threw himself into a chair, laughing and groaning, and bid them all
stand off, for he was nearly killed— he would not have such another walk
for the three kingdoms” (Bronte, 1847, p. 32). Thus, early on in his creation,
Bronte connects her religious background to her character Heathcliff.
• According to religious belief, the three kingdoms refer to the kingdom of
mankind [earth], the kingdom of heaven [God’s realm], and the kingdom of
the spirit [God’s laws].
Another aspects
• Another aspect that may lead readers to the thought of
this religious part of the novel is the blend between
Christianity and pagan superstitions, beliefs, that
underlines the motivation of the characters in the
novel. The ghost of Catherine, the excessive emotional
experiences suffered by Heathcliff and his desecration
of the graves, Lockwood's comments about hauntings,
all explainable as entirely natural occurences, have
both pagan and Christian origins.
Exercise:
• Answer the next questions:
1. What do you think about Catherine's ghost? Did it appear, or it was only
an effect of Heathcliff‘s depression?
2. Was Joseph as faithful as he claimed to be? Explain your answer, if
possible with quotes.
3. Do you know any other religious characters in novel?
Bibliography:
• Emily Brontë – Wuthering Heights
• Richard E. Mezo – A Student’s Guide to Wuthering Heights by Emily
Brontë
• http://academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu/english/melani/novel_19c/wuthering/
mystic.html
• https://teachmelit.wordpress.com/2012/03/30/religion-in-wuthering-
heights-the-color-purple/
• http://crossref-it.info/textguide/wuthering-heights/35/2464
• http://www.sparknotes.com/lit/wuthering/quiz.html

Presentation realised by Marin Ioana, L121 Româna - Engleza