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Feminism in Wuthering heights

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Katie Swim

on 27 October 2014

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Transcript of Feminism in Wuthering heights

What is Feminism?
Current Roles of Women
As women's rights began to progress, more opportunities came up for them. Prior to the 19th century, women were not thought to be suitable for most jobs. As time went on, however, women soon took on various jobs. For example, women became teachers and nurses, and later society became more welcoming to women's changing position in more occupations. Along with new access to jobs came the suffrage movement, and soon after, voting rights. Currently, women make up 60-90% of positions from accountants and tax examiners, to teachers and nurses. And yet Women today are still confronted by many challenges akin to those faced by their presecessores, discrimination still runs rampant and payment is still in favor of men.
Satirical Chauvinism
Throughout the book Wuthering Heights women are forced into a docile submissive role by their aggressive power hungry male counter parts. Strong personalities such as Heathcliff and Edgar overshadow fragile women such as Catherine and Isabella. Women have no power in the book, for example when the younger Catherine is forced to confine herself to the Grange by Heathcliff. Women are regarded more as property and objectified into being dependent on social status as a basis for a relationship or in the context of matrimony (Catherine's marriage to Edgar and not Heathcliff). The author uses these facts to show just how ridiculous the degradation of women was and how it called for drastic, radical, and immediate change. Much like Jonathan Swift suggested that we eat children, Emily Bronte asks that we disrespect women to show them their place.
Female Characters in Wuthering Heights
Emily Bronte demonstrates anti-feminism in her four main women characters:
Catherine
Nelly
Isabella
Cathy
Roles of Women in the Past
Wuthering Heights takes place in the early 19th century. During this time, women were considered second-class citizens. They had the responsibility for the care of their family, as a wife and a mother, and the household. Outside of the home setting, women had no real significance as they were only expected to have a minimum education and were not encouraged to pursue a professional career. Men were highly relied on by women to be the "power force." Women did not have the right to own property and rarely ever were allowed to inherit land, as the family tried to marry them off before then. Women were simply expected to become a wife in their society.
Feminism in Wuthering heights
"The advocacy of women's rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men." (Google)
A feminist approach permits the audience to see how the lack of women's rights affects the story, concerning the influence of women's role in societies.
Feminism is also shown in Bronte's writing of the male dominance of characters over the women.
Catherine
Nelly
Isabella
Cathy
Isabella, at first, illustrates the proper lady like behavior. However, her life is completely dominated by a male presence. As a young girl, Isabella is taken care of by her father. After his death, she highly relies on her brother, Edgar Linton, as she stays at Thrushcross Grange. Isabella only leaves Thrushcross Grange to move to Wuthering Heights when she marries Heathcliff. Isabella intended to shift her reliance from her brother to her husband after she was married. She was naive and stubborn in her decision to marry Heathcliff despite countless warnings. Throughout her life, she is submissive as she is treated like a child and accepts it. This demonstrated how she is insecure and not in control due to her lack of independence. However, she quickly learns that life at the Heights is neither what she expected nor what she wanted. Isabella's character drastically to a more dramatic and wild personality. Isabella's character is an example of impact male dominance in a women's life.
Young Cathy depicts the feminism perspective in two main ways. First, she is almost is treated as a puppet by Heathcliff in his plan of revenge on her father. She is not seen as an individual but as precious property of Edgar to Heathcliff. Also, Cathy has no voice in the matter of her father's property that should have been hers. Linton, whom she was forced to marry, inherits the Grange after Edgar's death due that women did not have the right to own property and only the voice of a man was able to make decisions regarding the land ownership.

Although Cathy shows more independence and courage to speak up (as she defends herself in talking back to Heathcliff), she is still belittled by the male figures. These male characters overshadow her as they tease, talk down to, and also expect her to fill the women role of acting as a care taker when one is sick.
Feminism is depicted in both the higher class and lower class, as in Nelly's case of being a servant. Nelly is talked down to by her masters and by other servants who are male. In two distinct situations Nelly wishes to stay at her home (at first the Heights then, later the Grange) but her opinion is seen as not significant or valued and her suggestion is not even considered. Nelly is given the task of caring to the children, Heathcliff and Catherine, despite the small gap in age. She, also, automatically becomes the motherly figure to all mother-less children, such as Hareton and Cathy. This demonstrates society's view point that a woman's main responsibility was tending to the children.


The character Catherine demonstrates feminism in several of her dominant character traits. She is wild spirited and rebellious; these traits suggest a strong will beneath the repressed emotions. She marries for social class and rarely expresses her true feelings. She is both moody and overly-emotional; in keeping with the morals and values of that time, Catherine rarely speaks her truth. She is romantic and driven by societal forces that prevent her from being conscious of her own deepest feelings and love. She represents the female as victim - the feminine energy that is being repressed. Catherine is in this sense the reason for the rise of feminism and the revolution for women's rights.
"My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath: a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He's always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myslef, but as my own being."
"The latter was speechless; his cousin replied 'You couldn't grudge a few yards of earth for me to ornament, when you have taken all my land!'
'Your land, insolent slut! You never had any,' said Heathcliff.
'And my money,' she continued; returning his angry glare, and meantime biting a piece of crust, the remnant of her breakfast.
'Silence!' he exclaimed. 'Get done, and begone!"
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