Wuthering Heights Comparative Analysis

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In 1847 Emily Brontë published Wuthering Heights; a novel as eccentric as it is unsettling, its themes including the oppositional natures of horror and beauty, dreams and reality, hate and adoration, fused into one strange and dark novel. This essay is a comparative analysis of two film adaptations of Brontë’s novel; the thesis being the 1939 film adaptation, titled Wuthering Heights and directed by William Wyler, presents the story within the romance genre. By comparison the 2011 adaptation directed by Andrea Arnold, also titled Wuthering Heights presents the story within the realist genre. Using comparative analysis to engage with these two strikingly different genres and adaptations, this essay will seek to understand the ways in which the …show more content…
The Romantic Movement was a revolt against the Age of Enlightenment, peaking between 1800-1850, the time of Brontë’s writing. Its themes and ideals are evident in Wuthering Heights; its emphasis on intense emotion, particularly awe in relation to the wild yet aesthetic qualities of nature. Some of the most iconic romance scenes of the 1939 adaptation are Cathy and Heathcliff frolicking on Penistone Crag, creating the ‘hilltop lovers’ motif not present within the novel. In a childhood scene, Cathy asks Heathcliff to capture the crag, which he does so, vanquishing an imaginary villain before telling her; ‘no matter what happens out there, you will be my queen.’ Melani (2005) identified nature as a ‘living, vitalising force [that] offers a refuge from the constraints of civilisation,’ as a key element of the romance genre. Hence, the moors are the place where the characters are free from class and able to pursue their romance, whereas the houses represent restrictive civilisation. There are efforts throughout the novel to break through the separation between these dualities, such as when Lockwood smashes the window during his nightmare. Nature is also used in characterisation within the film, as the representations of Edgar Linton and Cathy often counterpoint nature and culture. In a scene where Edgar expresses his contempt for Heathcliff’s low social status, he asks; ‘Cathy, how …show more content…
Hollywood is shaped by commercial drives; Maltby (1992) argues that Hollywood uses adaptations; ‘to convert the cultural capital of the novel back into the economic capital of a successful motion picture.’ Therefore, the 1939 adaptation can be seen as a re-interpretation of Brontë’s novel, adapted because romance was integral to the commercial interests of Hollywood. In the final scene, Heathcliff accuses Cathy, saying that she; ‘wandered off like a wanton greedy child to break your heart and mine.’ She renounced the visionary romantic dream expressed on Penistone crag in favour of otherworldly pride, social status but also restrictive lifestyle represented by Edgar. In a heartfelt scene Cathy and Heathcliff reconcile, and she dies in his arms whilst looking out over the crag (appendix 5.) Cathy’s body is no longer adorned with jewels or constraining clothes, her, hair no longer wound in curls, freed from physical fetish and artificiality. As she looks out over the moors she is reconciled with nature and with Heathcliff, once an image of unified

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