Wuthering Heights and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde

The intellectual idea of historicism, which proponents of the literary theory perceive the works as a mirror image of 19th century England, is one of the most widely accepted concepts in the critique of Wuthering Heights and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. The premise is based on a body of socialist and dialectical theories that view literature as a rumination of the social institution from which the works emanate. This idea is known as the Marxist literary idea of the ideological function of texts. To emphasize the sociocultural context in which they were written, both novels use a complicated interplay of non-linear narrative techniques, diary entries, and conversations, among other styles. While both books explore a number of sociological issues from the Victorian England, one of the most pronounced subjects is domestication of women, a jingoistic notion that was founded on a belief system that females were naturally insignificant and less intelligent when compared to their male counterparts. In her exploration of the burdens of history, Burton notes that civilization in the British society was paradoxical, where in spite of attempts to support suffrage through the Victorian feminist program, women continued to suffer from ancient barbarism. The views that women were in a state of oppression when Wuthering Heights and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde were authored informs the primacy of the discussion, where the centrality will be whether the characterization and plot developments reveal the patrilineal regimen during the Victorian Era. The focus of the interpretation will be the identifying patriarchal notions in the setting of the novels and exemplars of women oppression in the interactions between male and female characters.

While Wuthering Heights and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde submit to Romanticism because of ideas of classism and keen interest in death, both works personify the theme of overarching patriarchal oppression of the Victorian period. Women characters are insubordinate where their role in the public sphere is limited. They are also expected to follow strict norms to maintain their femininity. Individuals who challenge the patriarchal construction are deemed maniacs or monsters. The sociological issue is evident in Catherine Earnshaw-Linton in Wuthering Heights where she put an antic disposition on efforts to run away from the abusive marriage. She feigns insanity, where she desires to break her husband’s heart as vengeance for the pain she has caused her. According to Lutz, her decision to refuse to eat is to legitimize her claims she is mad as per the treatment of women who refused to conform to patriarchy, a supposition that is evidenced by countless declarations of madness and delusions.

On the other hand, Stevenson’s masterpiece is a critique of the late-Victorian social organization, where pre-oedipal and oedipal emotions threatened the existence of a community. Veeder and Hirsch point out that men in the novella establish a close-knit society that replicates mother-child mirroring. The males learn from each other through homosocial and homoerotic bond and avoid a relationship with women of their age. While the male-centered presentation blurs the female word, the duality of characters helps in understanding roles associated with masculinity and femininity. The latter is linked to the private sphere, where feminine engagements include domesticity morality, marriage, chastity, and love, an observation that is confirmed by cook and homemakers in Jekyll’s household. The attributes highlight the traditional gender roles in patriarchy, where women were considered nonsignificant. The notions of irrelevance are evident in the ephemerality of women’s appearance, where background and names of female characters are hidden. For instance, Stevenson only talks of Hyde’s resentful female relatives as well as a young girl from a disadvantaged setting he tramples when their paths cross. The author also speaks of a maid who witnesses the murder of Sir Danver Carew.

Wuthering Heights also characterizes autocratic male dominance and oppression of female sexuality, an image that represents gender relations in the Victorian England where women were excluded from professions and universities among other aspects of public life. The exploration makes Bronte an informant of the stereotyping in her native Yorkshire, with Mr. Earnshaw, Heathcliff, and Hindley Earnshaw being the agents of dictatorial actions. The characterization highlight an unpleasant reality in the Victorian England where wives were considered a property of their husbands and the society legitimized persecution of women through beatings, starvation, and sexual violence, as well as home imprisonment. Bronte’s portrayal of Catherine, Isabella, and Cathy highlight the 19th-century normative belief where the idea of separate spheres culminates to varying degrees gender-based violence. Heathcliff is an inescapable offshoot of the patriarchal society that constricts the independence and space of women in the community. He typifies both side of offensive male power, where he is a perpetrator as well as the victim of insubordination directed towards the minorities. His attempts to immortalize violence after becoming the master of Wuthering Heights arises from irremediable brutalization they suffered together with Catherine at the hands of Hindley Earnshaw. As the dominant figure in the novel, Heathcliff’s masculinity typifies the eccentricities of women fantasy. He is a symbol of erotic attraction and its resonance in the women imagination, where is pictured as a refined and wild man. The dark-skinned gypsy with an erect and handsome figure is a Byronic hero, a profile that was primarily influenced by the Romantic poetry that Emily studied. However, he is an unhappy man with dangerous appetites for revenge like villains of Gothic novels. His role is castigating women violence is evident in his interaction with Isabella Linton and Catherine Linton.

Isabella is blinded by passion and desire, delusions that are beguiled by novels she had read. The middle-class young woman perceives Heathcliff as an unmistakable fictional hero she has imagined of and beliefs that the unorthodox will fulfill her erotic fantasies of a man who match up the protagonists in the fairy tales. However, her romantic engagement with Heathcliff reality turns to a Gothic nightmare, as the foundling is a cruel villain who subjects her to episodes of psychological and physical torture. Under the guise of reverence, Heathcliff tricks Isabella he is the romantic hero in the books, a conviction that forces to elope with him, hoping he will experience freedom and attention his father had denied him. Nevertheless, the decision to marry Heathcliff turns a trickery influenced by male domination, as she is trapped in a loveless marriage. She becomes an agent of fulfilling egoistic aspirations and narcissistic beliefs, where Heathcliff is executing his revenge on Lintons. The union quickly turns into a prison for Isabella.

While she is willing to walk out of the marriage, she is regarded a property that is confined within the bounds of Heathcliff’s house, where she is continuously subjected to physical and psychosocial abuse. In one instance, Heathcliff says, “Get up, wretched idiot, before I stamp you to death!” The patriarchal autocracy results in Isabella’s demise, as the emotional imprisonment not only culminates to the weakening of her individualism but also the loss of independence where she is unable to express her emotions and think for herself. Despite eloping with him to experience the freedom she has lacked from his possessive father, Heathcliff considers Isabella a fool and spends all his time proving to her she does not love her and he is not a hero of romance. The peak of the awful mistreatment is the hanging of Isabella’s pet dog, a development that only shows misuse of authority but also the reverberates the recurring theme of family violence in the uncivilized male world in the 19th century England, where women were painted as vulnerable and living in trepidation.

Heathcliff also denies Isabella a chance to enjoy freedom, a thematic concept that echoes that Victorian era idea of matrimony, where marriage resulted in the loss of personal and legal identity. For Isabella, the union with Heathcliff means loss of her name and possession, a diminution that is evident when she says, “my name was Isabella Linton”. She suffers physical neglect and emotional scarring, with Heathcliff threatening to wrench off her fingers. Isabella confirms the gender-based violence when she refers to her lover as “sharp cannibal teeth”. While she gets a reprieve after escaping Heights for Grange, her pregnancy marks the permanency of her status on the society, where she has to conform to the gender-stereotyped role of childbearing that was assigned to females. Her death allows Heathcliff to fulfill his quest of punishing Edgar.

Another victim of Heathcliff’s vengeful tactics and chauvinistic judgment is his niece, Catherine Linton. He shows his dominant personage and ability to manipulate his victims by craftily inducing Catherine to Wuthering Heights. Once she settles in, she finds it difficult to walk away from Heathcliff’s dictatorial plan that evidences the constricted space of women in the novel. He tells her “as to your promise to marry Linton, I’ll take care you shall keep it; for you shall not quit the place till that is fulfilled”. She becomes entrapped by her uncle’s expectations, with the situation turning more discomforting when she is subjected to the patriarchal oppression. She has to follow the gender-based allocation of assignments under her uncle’s patriarchal rule, an exposure that makes her lose her former identity. Catherine Linton is remodeled into a Victorian woman who conforms to the societal expectations, where she becomes nurturing, morally upright, and sexually pure. Catherine’s woes are wrought with a hurting purging process, where she is acquitted of covert feminist traits. She appreciates patriarchal values such as homemaking where she accepts to nurse Linton Heathcliff in spite of expressing her antipathy for him. Despite her reluctance, she also brews tea for Heathcliff. Catherine also teaches Hareton to replaces wild berries with flowers from the Grange as well as to read. Heathcliff’s patriarchal rules influence her conduct, where her spirit is domesticated as evidenced by rendering help to Ellen when they prepare vegetables.

The unrestrained patriarchal dominance leaves Catherine exposed to its fury, where she becomes etherized of her individualism. The “terrific slaps to both sides of the head” force her to conform to the gender stereotyping of the society, while the verbal assaults weather down her rejection of the patriarchal constraints placed upon her. The submission arises from Heathcliff’s dominance, where the oppression wears out her emotional and physical resilience, rendering her to part of the hopeless predicament stemming from abuse of her individualism. She consents to marry Linton, a decision that marks the loss of emotional autonomy. Like Catherine, her mother Catherine Earnshaw-Linton also suffers from the pernicious effects of the patriarchal domination under the hands of Edgar Linton. The construction is exhibited in the tyrannical conduct of Edgar Linton. Unlike Heathcliff who exposes violence to women through anger, Edgar expression is passive. His social context represents his noveau riche upbringing that ascertained to be a massive impact on his values and behavior.

Male-instigated violence is also evident in Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. Stevenson writes, “One little man who was stumping along eastward at a good walk, and the other girl of maybe eight or ten who was running as hard as she was able down a cross street. …the two ran into another naturally enough…the man trampled calmly over the child’s body and left her screaming on the ground”. Sociocultural and bibliographical interpretations also highlight the position of women in the writer’s time. Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde is a male-centered story, where feminine elements are expressed ambiguously. The subtleness is an undertone patriarchal oppression, where none of the celibates in the book has a relationship with a woman, as they do not share equal social standing. Despite their transitory role, the female characters are painted as monstrous, as the case of the “wild as harpies” women who attack Hyde and the geriatric woman with “an evil face, smoothed by hypocrisy”. Male characters are associated with desirable professions and reputation, as the case of Utterson who is a lawyer, and Mr. Richard Enfield, the “well-known man about the town”. On their part, women are described using derogatory remarks, as the analogy of Hyde “weeping like a woman or a lost soul”

Besides the characterization of men, females in the play also exemplify the theme of women vulnerability and social disadvantage. In Wuthering Heights, Cathy rejects erotic urges for her childhood friend Heathcliff, a self-denial that is founded mainly on his economic status. Instead, Cathy marries a person from a wealthy background, a decision that becomes a self-destruction button, as the weak Edgar Linton cannot guarantee her the gentility and tenderness she is craving for. Cathy’s attempts to suppress her admiration for Heathcliff and enter a loveless marriage are influenced by the 19th-century belief system, where the English society held that women should not express their sensuality. Female desire was interpreted as a taboo, with individuals who overlooked the cultural value being considered sinners. Like in Wuthering Heights, the Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde also reveal how the Victorian woman was isolated from sexuality, as wives were considered pure and pious. According to the gothic novella, women were devoted and submissive mothers that lacked sexual appetite. While the desires of males were recognized, their female counterparts were considered exceptional, where sexual feeling did not trouble them.

Freedman echoes the views, where he notes that the Victorian ideal of womanhood justified violent practices, including female genital mutilation, where the focus was subduing sexual interest in women, as they did not need it. A perfect example of suppression is Cathy’s evolution. In her childhood years, she is an unconventional woman who represents individualism, and her character profile is a product of personal desires and emotions and not social conformity. She is untamed, with her passion for nature serving the Romantic tenets of emotional and spiritual liberation. Nevertheless, her feministic expressions are significantly curtailed by patriarchal society. Cathy’s confinement at the Thrushcross Grange marks the beginning of her restraint to the traditional female role. According to Nelly, she returns to Wuthering Heights a “very dignified person”, where she has converted “from a wild, hatless little savage” to “quite a beauty ῀ a lady now””. The description does elude not only physical attributes but also a symbolic arrival into the adult world following patriarchal influence at the hands of Edgar Linton. The transformation from her wild nature to a conforming female character is because of unrelenting hostility she experiences from his bullying husband, where Edgar Linton employs cultural capital to deprive Cathy of her desirous self.

In conclusion, both Wuthering Heights and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde explore the subject of patriarchy, where the two Victorian-era novels highlight norms and sociocultural aspects that were adopted to sustain male power. For instance, Stevenson’s story exemplifies maleness, where the Fin de siècle writer hints on the norms of the English society during the 1880s. On the other hand, Bronte’s female protagonists suffer from overarching paternalism and physical oppression at the hands of Edgar Linton and Heathcliff. The hostile and domineering actions produce a devastating outcome on the physical, emotional, and social wellbeing of Cathy, Isabella, and Catherine, including their retrogression from feminism to gender role conformity.


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