Emily Bronte’s Victorian novel, Wuthering Heights has formed four critical analysis perspectives: psychoanalytic, Marxist, feminist, and cultural studies. Despite these varying literary criticisms that have been contemplated by contextual documents, I feel that the Marxist outlook is the most valid of the four. In accordance to Marxists, literature itself, is a social establishment that has a distinct ideological function, based on the background and ideology of the author. In essence, Wuthering Heights is an ideal representation of this type of criticism. Bronte used her novel as a presentation of the lack of rights women had at the time, as well as a social assessment on the belittlement of the rich towards the poor. Heathcliff, was a character that served as a stimulus for both ideologies Bronte illustrated in her novel. Beyond these two ideologies, Heathcliff embodied the three main principles of Karl Marx’s theories, Economic Determinism, Dialectical Materialism and Class Struggle throughout the entity of the novel.
Viewing Wuthering Heights in a Marxist criticism lens, it seems that the novel truly is a perfect example of the kind of society that Karl Marx completely warned against. “Marxist criticism is not merely a ‘sociology of literature’, concerned with how novels get published and whether they mention the working class. Its aim is to explain the literary work more fully; and this means a sensitive attention to its forms, styles and meanings. But it also means grasping those forms, styles and meanings as the product of a particular history” (T Eagleton). Heathcliff, essentially was able to obtain full power over others by the use of capital tactics. The dialect in Wuthering Heights is used by contrasting the two different realms: the farm owners that farmed their own land, and the rich society that overtakes the minds of a large quantity of characters. Heathcliff’s refusal to educate Harteton and denial of giving him literacy, further illustrates the inequality present in capitalist societies. The contrasts seen, being nature vs. society and class, is fully apparent in Wuthering Heights and Eagleton’s essay, as well as any Marxism criticism out there.
After reading “Myths of Power: A Marxist Study on Wuthering Heights”, by Terry Eagleton, I was exposed to a new side of Wuthering Heights that I was unaware of previously. Though I had to do a bit of research into the criticism, eventually I was able to fully understand Marxism and easily address what Emily Bronte’s conclusion was set out to be. Bronte, primarily utilized Heathcliff as an easy way to make remarks on the role of women in this society. The revenge that Hindley and Edgar receive from Heathcliff is entirely laid upon the factor that women weren’t allowed to own property, and anything they obtain through death was to be sent to their male partner at once. If this hadn’t been such a large part of the norm in society, Heathcliff would’ve never succeeded at his plan of rising above. Heathcliff, at first, is given privileged treatment because of his “uniqueness”.
However, he is only later discriminated against for the same exact reason. Although Heathcliff was taken care of by the Earnshaws, it was evident that he was completely an outsider. He’s constantly being reminded of his essential qualities that are different from everyone else around him. For example, his dark skin. This difference in physical features is also the cause of his class rank and social status. These elements push Heathcliff to adapt and assimilate with his encompassing culture and push him even further into learning how he can make the twisted society operate in
his favor. By the end of the novel, about 25 years have passed by. Lockwood describes Heathcliff’s apparent success, and how he embodies a higher social status, “Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gipsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman: that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire” (Emily Bronte, Wuthering Heights Ch. 1). By this quote we can see Heathcliff’s transformation into society is quite evident. He used all of his knowledge and experience with social class to his advantage to alter himself in such a way that brought on a large amount personal success. Heathcliff is the best representation of a revolutionary individual within Bronte’s novel, yet not in the conditions of a global revolution.
Instead, Heathcliff progresses through his own personal revolution, he embraces the culture of his enemies for the sole purpose of using it against them in the future. Eagleton explains in his essay how Heathcliff uses culture and his first and foremost weapon, “Just as Hindley withdraws culture from Heathcliff as a mode of domination, so Heathcliff acquires culture as a weapon” (T. Eagleton). Heathcliff then uses this to his advantage to administer revenge on Edgar and Hindley by taking their methods and using it against them instead of his own.
Marx believed that Economic Determinism, Dialectical Materialism and Class Struggle were three of the most vital principles that illustrated his theories. Wuthering Heights represents these three factors to perfection. Heathcliff displays economic determinism by adapting to the social culture of his enemies for his own benefit. By accomplishing this, he eventually takes over Wuthering Heights as well as Thrushcross Grange. The way that society sees the world functioning during that era, is by social classes, a crucial principle in Marx’s beliefs. Everyone determines their self worth by their social status. Heathcliff uses dialectical materialism by recognizing this, and understands the reality that he is an outsider.
Heathcliff, is essentially the main character of the novel considering the entire plot line, relationships, and arguments among other characters are based around his existence. As we can see, he is the only character that embodies any revolutionary traits. He symbolizes an individual with absolutely no class at all, yet by the end of the novel he rises above the rest of society to succeed by using the ways of the “rich” economy to conquer his enemies and their houses. Marxist criticism is based on social and dialectic theories, and here we can see an illustration of how Heathcliff, an outsider, assimilated to his surroundings in order to succeed, then took his adopted culture, turned it around and sought revenge on those who treated him wrongly.