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Victorian perspectives on the supernatural


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Victorian perspectives on the supernatural the imaginary versus the real in two Brontë novels
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Sidell, Crystal
University of South Florida
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Tampa, Fla
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Gothic literature
Dissertations, Academic -- English -- Masters -- USF   ( lcsh )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


ABSTRACT: The Victorians obsessed over the supernatural and this fascination with the otherworldly emerges in the literature of the day. With this thesis, I look at two nineteenth century novels that exhibit supernatural phenomena: Charlotte Brontë's Villette (1853) and Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights (1847). Both novels, I propose, utilize this aspect of the gothic tradition to enhance their characters' psychological realism. With Villette, I examine the supernatural as a fabricated experience. First, I study the protagonist's psyche and show how her emotional state directly contributes to the appearance of fantastic material. Specifically, I examine Lucy Snowe's childhood experiences in Bretton and then look at her continuing emotional isolation at the boarding school in Villette. I then illustrate how Lucy compensates for this loneliness by transforming the identities of her acquaintances and by often embellishing her own experiences. Following this, I examine her response to an external phenomenon, the ghostly nun. I argue that as Lucy discovers emotional fulfillment via her relationship with Paul Emanuel, she grows increasingly skeptical of the nun. This skepticism climaxes in a scene of violence, after which Lucy successfully denies the existence of the otherworldly. With Wuthering Heights, I examine the supernatural as a genuine phenomenon. To begin, I analyze two significant scenes which frame the main narrative: Lockwood's dream and Heathcliff's death. Both events, I subsequently demonstrate, are instances of supernatural interaction with the real world. Finally, I examine the spiritual and occult beliefs of the lovers, Catherine and Heathcliff. I then show how their ideology influences their decisions and, ultimately, brings about their reunion in the afterlife.
Thesis (M.A.)--University of South Florida, 2008.
Includes bibliographical references.
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by Crystal Sidell.
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Victorian Perspectives on the Supernatural: The Imaginary Versus the Real in Two Bront Novels by Crystal Sidell A thesis submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Master of Arts Department of English College of Arts and Sciences University of South Florida Major Professor: Pat Rogers, Ph.D. Marty Gould, Ph.D. Nancy Tyson, Ph.D. Date of Approval: April 3, 2008 Keywords: fairies, folklore, ghosts, gothic literature, nineteenth-century, occult phenomena, psychological realism Copyright 2008, Crystal Sidell


i Table of Contents Abstract ii Introduction 1 ‘I scarcely know any one, Miss Lucy, who n eeds a friend more absolutely than you’: Loneliness and the Imagination in Charlotte Bront’s Villette 6 I 7 II 24 III 31 IV 37 Heaven on Earth: The “Other” World of Emily Bront’s Wuthering Heights 39 I 40 II 54 III 60 IV 67 Conclusion 69 References Cited 72 Bibliography 75


ii Victorian Perspectives on the Supernatural: The Imaginary Versus the Real in Two Bront Novels Crystal Sidell ABSTRACT The Victorians obsessed over the supern atural and this fascination with the otherworldly emerges in the literature of the day. With this th esis, I look at two nineteenth century novels that exhibit s upernatural phenomena: Charlotte Bront’s Villette (1853) and Emily Bront’s Wuthering Heights (1847). Both novels, I propose, utilize this aspect of the gothic traditi on to enhance their characters’ psychological realism. With Villette I examine the supernatural as a fa bricated experience. First, I study the protagonist’s psyche and show how her em otional state directly contributes to the appearance of fantastic material. Speci fically, I examine Lucy Snowe’s childhood experiences in Bretton and then look at her continuing emoti onal isolation at the boarding school in Villette. I then illustrate how Lucy compensates for this loneliness by transforming the identities of her acquaintances and by often embellishing her own experiences. Following this, I examine her response to an external phenomenon, the ghostly nun. I argue that as Lucy discovers em otional fulfillment via her relationship with Paul Emanuel, she grows increasingly skeptical of the nun. This skepticism climaxes in a scene of violence, after which Lucy successfully denies the ex istence of the otherworldly.


iii With Wuthering Heights I examine the supernatural as a genuine phenomenon. To begin, I analyze two significant scenes wh ich frame the main narrative: Lockwood’s dream and Heathcliff’s death. Both events, I su bsequently demonstrat e, are instances of supernatural interaction with the real worl d. Finally, I examine the spiritual and occult beliefs of the lovers, Catherin e and Heathcliff. I then show how their ideology influences their decisions and, ultimately, brings about their reunion in the afterlife.


1 Introduction What do Charlotte Bront’s Villette (1853) and Emily Bront’s Wuthering Heights (1847) have in common? At first, glaring dissimilarities appear. Take, for instance, the setting. The civilized city of Villette clashes with the isolated and uncultivated (i.e. uncivilized) landscape of Wuthering Heights Religion also divides these works. While Lucy Snowe subscribes to the Christian faith, the inhabitants of Emily’s novel remain saturated in paganism And what about the question of history? Charlotte’s protagonist remains a mystery. She provides no concrete information about her family background; all the reader knows is that she is an orphan. Yet lineage remains a looming issue in Wuthering Heights : just when will the Earnshaws regain their estate from Heathcliff, the outsider who usurped their rightful property ? Finally, though both novels utilize the first person poi nt of view, the narrative voice differs drastically. With Villette the reader experiences the protagoni st’s mental turmoil firsthand. In Wuthering Heights the central characters’ thoughts and actions spri ng upon the page through a double filter: Lockwood’s renderi ng of Nelly’s tale. In sp ite of these differences, however, Villette and Wuthering Heights exhibit a striking sim ilarity: both rely on the gothic tradition (more specifically, on one of its elements, the supernatural) to evoke psychological realism. What constitutes gothic literature? Jerrold Hogle recognizes setting and “unresolved crimes or conflicts” as the staples of this genre (2). Stories that fall into this


2 category, Hogle asserts, usually boast of scenes which occur “in an antiquated or seemingly antiquated place” such as a “castle” or “graveyard” (2). Lucy Snowe, of Villette works and resides in a building that once housed nuns. In Wuthering Heights the central characters inhabit a medieval structur e filled with “narrow lobbies” and trapdoors ( WH 23). The conflict of the gothi c novel, Hogle continues, emerges in the form of a haunting executed via “ghosts” or “monsters ” (Hogle 2). The spectral nun roams the school grounds of Villette while Catherine’s apparition haunts Wuthering Heights and the adjacent lands. In her discussion of the gothic tradition, Elizabeth MacAndrew suggests the “pathetic fallacy” as another esse ntial element: “The heavens rent by terrible storms contrive to express human torment and rage; sunshine and singing birds convey spiritual peace. And at the most intense mome nt of moral danger, there still appears in this landscape the terrible abyss of damnati on” (49). Key scenes in both novels reveal a parallel between the elements and the centr al characters. Lucy collapses with fever— exposed to extreme weather—after her confession to Pre Silas. Heavy rain falls when Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights, an acti on that prompts Catherine’s initial illness. Also, “there is a downpour on the night of H eathcliff’s death, and when Nelly finds his corpse, it is drenched with water” (Thormhlen 194). However, I intend to focus primarily on one aspect of the gothic mode: the supernatural. The supernatural captivated the Victorians’ imagination: They delighted in ghost stories and fair y tales, and in legends of strange gods, demons and spirits; in pantomimes and extravaganzas full of supernatural machinery; in gothic yarns of reanimated corpses and


3 vampires. Even avowedly realist novel s were full of dreams, premonitions and second sight. (Bown 1) Part of the Victorians’ fascination with the paranormal stemmed from its enigmatic origins. Did phenomena such as apparitions, dreams, and clairvoyance spring from some mysterious, higher power? Or did a rational explanati on—backed with scientific evidence—lurk in the shadows of ignorance, awaiting discovery? Hogle remarks that the conflicts, or “hauntings,” that occur within the go thic novel cause the story itself to “play with and oscillate betw een the earthly laws of conventiona l reality and the possibilities of the supernatural” (2). With Villette and Wuthering Heights Charlotte and Emily advocate opposing views of “reality.” In Charlotte’s nove l, the paranormal occurs as an invention of the mind. Emily, on the other hand, presents it as a genuine and independent force, divorced from human influence. Villette presents the reader with a myriad of references to supernatural phenomena. Ordinary characters, for instance, assume qualities of folkloric creatures. In particular, we shall encounter four othe rworldly personas: The ghost and the witch (negative forces) offset by the fairy and the brownie (positive forces). Places and events, furthermore, transform into arenas of en chantment. In this manner, a rundown house quickly metamorphoses into a magical castle an d a nocturnal fte turns into a night of revelry for fairies and witches. Yet just as Lucy “places herself deliberately in Gothic locales: a forbidden alley said to be haunted by a dead nun, the school attic, and even a Roman Catholic confessional box,” so she also willfully conjures this paranormal phenomena to satisfy her imaginative impulse s (and thereby suppress her emotions as well) (Milbank 154). In addition to these al lusions, Charlotte Bront also includes a


4 physical haunting in the form of a restless nun. This subplot, however, merely serves to reinforce the novel’s non-supernatural foundati on. The unveiling of the nun suggests that paranormal activity exists only in the imagination. Ginevra Fa nshawe’s flippant reaction, in which she calls Lucy and Paul “capital ghost-seers,” reinforces this notion ( Villette 524). Wuthering Heights also exhibits its fair share of the occult. Supernatural allusions, for example, haunt Heathcliff throughout the nove l. More specificall y, various characters perceive him as a monstrous tyrant of satani c origins: “Is Mr. Heathcliff a man?” Isabella wonders. “If so, is he mad? A nd if not, is he a devil?” ( WH 120). Other folkloric imagery surfaces courtesy of Nelly who leaves food out at night to feed “the fairies” and also tags the sickly Linton with th e appellation “pitiful ch angeling” (49, 240). Unlike Villette however, the paranormal tran scends the imaginary. Alison Milbank remarks: “Here the Gothic house and the supernatural it unleashes act vampirishly to drain the real of any vitality and make resistance impossible” (162). In this novel, the supernatural assumes an authentic form. Dreams contain prophetic power, characters e xperience moments of genuine clairvoyance, and the barrier betw een the living and the dead collapses. The “other” world of Wuthering Heights Emily Bront declares, does indeed exist. Moreover, Catherine and Heathcliff’s behavior (as I will later discuss) reflect s their acceptance of this relative reality. The gothic novel originated with Horace Walpole’s The Castle of Otranto published in 1764. With this work, Walpole in tended to blend “the probable and the improbable” (Clery 25). E. J. Clery asserts that the eighteenth century author achieved this melding through the realistic depiction of his subjects. In other words, the “credible


5 emotions of the characters connect us to the incredible phenomena a nd events” of the text (25). As we shall soon discover, Heathcliff and the “Bront heroines sh are an inner life of extraordinary drama, color, and intensity ” (Milbank 153). The physical reality within which these characters exist, however, diffe rs from one novel to the other. As I will attempt to show in the forthcoming chapte rs, how these character s ultimately “connect [their] inner and outer worlds,” depends upon th e status of their resp ective reality (153). For this analysis, I should like to borrow Clery’s statemen t on the blending of “the probable and the improbable,” but apply it in reverse: The fantastic elements that emerge in Charlotte Bront’s Villette and Emily Bront’s Wuthering Heights serve to reveal the “credible” psychology of the central characters : Lucy Snowe, Catherine, and Heathcliff.


6 ‘I scarcely know any one, Miss Lucy, who needs a friend more absolutely than you’: Loneliness and the Imag ination in Charlotte Bront’s Villette Copious references to occult phenomena permeate the narrative of Charlotte Bront’s Villette These supernatural intrusions issue primarily from the novel’s protagonist, Lucy Snowe. Unlike many othe r memorable heroines of the nineteenth century (e.g. Elizabeth Bennet, Catherine Earnshaw, Sue Bridehead), Lucy appears passive and reserved—a “colourless shadow” ( Villette 171). Only Paul Emanuel makes the effort to discover the substance behind the figure. Based on his observations, he concludes that beneath Lucy’s tame demeanor exists “rather a fiery and rash nature— adventurous, indocile, and audaci ous” (334). Initiall y, this declaration sounds contrary to the truth. However, a detailed analysis of Lu cy’s thoughts and actions reveals that despite her outwardly subdued mien, she does ind eed possess such a lively soul. This vivaciousness appears most r eadily through the fantastical creatures and images that compose her fantasy life. Overwhelmed with loneliness and fearful of rejection, Lucy relies on her vivid imagination to animate her otherwise barren ex istence. As a result, various individuals assume supernatural qualities and ordinary events sometimes take a gothic, almost paranormal turn. Through Lucy’s eyes we see the fairy, the ghost, the brownie, and the witch. Guided by her imagination, we experi ence a world both cruel and kind—yet also magical. Though easily overlooked, these surreal components play a significant role in the reading of this te xt. A close study of Villette reveals a direct pa rallel between these


7 supernatural allusions and Lucy’s emotiona l state. As Lucy discovers happiness, therefore, these elements sl owly fade from the text. I Unspecified tragedies strike Lucy at a young age. Emotionally scarred from her experiences, she expects nothing in the way of fortune (of either the purse or heart). “This frozen woman has no hope, no tomorrow, no lif e other than what she experiences through others” (Forsythe 21). In her feminist reading of Villette Beverly Forsythe argues that Lucy’s repression is evidence of masoch istic behavior. Without question, Lucy suppresses her desires throughout most of th e novel. Her burial of Dr. John’s letters provides a classic example of this self-denial. However, I disagree with the assertion that Lucy “receives pleasure from inflicting as we ll as receiving mental anguish” (18). On the contrary, Lucy represses her emotions in an effort to prevent the psychological pain that accompanies rejection or disappointment. As she tells the reader, “it se emed to me a great thing to be without heavy anxi ety, and relieved from intimate trial; the negation of severe suffering was the nearest approach to happiness I expected to know” ( Villette 85). Bereft of friends and family, Lucy relie s on her vivid imagination as a surrogate companion. One consequence of this penc hant for fantasy materializes in the preternatural portrayal of cer tain characters. During the course of the novel, Lucy associates a number of acquain tances with fantastical beings This technique allows her to rationalize her own isolat ion (How can I connect with someone who is made of different “stuff” than I am?) while simultane ously distracting her from the banality of reality. Furthermore, the quality of Lucy’s re lationship with each character influences the nature of his / her alternate identity. (We see this occur, to an extent, in Wuthering


8 Heights as well. Those who suffer from the ma chinations of Heathcliff—primarily Hindley and Isabella—view him as the offspr ing of the devil.) Characters with whom Lucy maintains a positive association exhibit traits of fun and whimsical creatures. On the other hand, individuals who impose themselves upon her in a negative manner represent creatures of darker origins. Polly Home (as fairy) and Paul Emanuel (as brownie) constitute examples of the first group. Madame Beck and Madame Walravens, however, clearly belong to the latter group. C onsumed with self-interest, these women assume the eerie roles of ghost and witch respectively. Contrary to the other characters in the te xt, the supernatural imagery associated with Polly Home changes as the novel progresses. Perceived in childhood as a changeling,1 she metamorphoses into a fairy with the onset of adulthood. This remarkable re-visioning reveals a great deal about how Lucy perceives those about her. As their relationship evolves from one of aloofness to friendship (i.e. from negative association to positive), the fantastical elements that Lucy a ssociates with Polly likewise alter. Polly’s initial appearance as a changeling reflects the state of estrangement that exists between herself and Lucy. In the opening chapter of the novel, Lucy eagerly looks forward to meeting a possible playmate. With the ringing of the bell, she runs into the hall to see Mrs. Bretton’s newcomer: “I w ould have opened the shawl, and tried to get a peep at the face, but it was hastily turned from me” ( Villette 10). In the scenes that follow, Lucy copes with the disappointment of rejection by pretending that her companion is not a child at all, but a supernatural creature in disguise. Captivated by this fantasy, she 1 Carole Silver notes that “changelings—that is children perceived as abnormal surreptitiously substituted for normal ones—were very much part of the Victorian world” (59).


9 perceives Polly as “a mere doll” or “little pers on” who, in distress, places “her elfish hand on her elfish breast” (10,12, 38). Accordingly, the child’s demeanor appears anything but childlike. She haunts, rather than occupies, physical space and her face “seem[s] growing old and unearthly” (15). These uncanny descriptions of Polly s uggest that Lucy equates her with a changeling.2 As Carole Silver notes, the changeling “child had an old, distorted face, a small or wizened body, and dark or sallow ski n, and was often backward in learning to walk or speak” (60). Unlike the change ling, Polly does not suffer from a learning disability. Her adult style in speaking, however, produces an eerie effect. When serving her father coffee, for instan ce, she remarks: “I always did it for you at home, papa: nobody could do it as well, not even your own self” ( Villette 18). Her manner in this scene, as well as in others,3 evokes the image of an ag ed soul in a child’s body.4 This changeling motif strengthens when Po lly attaches herself to Graham (Dr. John). Seeing the young child accept the company of another after refusing her own offer 2 “For Victorians… the changeling phenomenon was a mysterious and frightening occurrence that could… provide explanations for sudden death or disappearance, mysterious illness, and eccentric and bizarre behavior” (Silver 60). 3 Consider Polly’s equally mature response to Grah am when he lifts her into the air. “‘For shame, Mr Graham!’ was her indignant cry, ‘put me down!’—and when again on her feet, ‘I wonder what you would think of me if I were to treat you in that way, lifting you with my hand’ (raising that mighty member) ‘as Warren lifts the little cat?’” ( Villette 21). Lucy also observes the child’s independent nature. The morning after her arrival, for instance, she attempts to dress herself: “It was curious to watch her as she washed and dressed, so small, busy, and noiseless. Evidently she was little accustomed to perform her own toilet; and the buttons, strings, hooks and eyes, of fered difficulties which she encountered with a perseverance good to witness” (12). Though Lucy asso ciates Polly with the characteristics of a changeling, she never labels her as one. Graham, however, does. In speaking to his mother, he says: “Mama, I believe that creature is a changeling: she is a perfect cabinet of oddities; but I should be dull without her: she amuses me a great deal more than you or Lucy Snowe”(31). 4 Some Victorians “believed in the occult thought that changelings might be the souls of the dead returned to inhabit the bodies of mortal children. Their old faces and wizened frames were indications of the fact that they were reincarnations, that such chan ged children were really ‘o ld souls,’ a premise still accepted by occultists today” (Silver 74).


10 of companionship increases Lucy’s sense of rejection. To console herself, she imagines that this new friendship has an unnatural f oundation. She notes, for instance, that Polly appears incredibly dull except when in Grah am’s presence: “One would have thought the child had no mind or life of her own, but must necessarily live, move and have her being in another” ( Villette 29). Thus, Polly appears “like a b it of marble” when she senses a weakness in her bond with Graham (30). Agai n, this imagery suggests Polly’s unnatural origins: “Some changed children were active though monstrous little beings; others were immobile, doll-like wooden creatures who s oon lost all semblance of life, becoming ‘stocks’” (Silver 60). In short, Lucy rati onalizes her exclusion by the playmates through pretending that Polly and, hence, any relationshi p in which she is involved, represents the “other.” This technique—her defense mech anism throughout most of the novel—allows Lucy to suppress the pain she perpetually strives to avoid. Lucy’s close observation of Polly during this time also hints at her continuing desire for friendship. In the following passa ge, Lucy reveals a fondness for Polly cloaked in preternatural imagery. I saw the little thing shiver. “Come to me,” I said, wishing, yet scarcely hoping, that she would comply: for sh e was a most strange, capricious, little creature and especially whimsical with me. She came, however, instantly, like a small ghost gliding over the carpet I took her in. She was chill; I warmed her in my arms. She trembled nervously; I soothed her. Thus tranquillized and cheris hed she at last slumbered. ( Villette 38; my emphasis)


11 In this scene, fear of rejection materializ es in the continued perception of Polly as a “creature” rather than a child. When Polly accepts Lucy’s goodwill, however, the scene loses its supernatural flavor. The “sma ll ghost” vanishes. In its place appears a humanized depiction of Polly, whom Lucy now describes as simply a “very unique child” (38). Lucy’s struggle against lone liness continues into her adul t years. As a foreigner in Villette, for instance, the “shadow-world” of her thoughts appears her only companion ( Villette 130). The extent of her emotional isol ation—and its impact on her psychological state—becomes apparent in the poignant scene that follows her reunion with the Brettons: “Do not let me think of them too often, too much, too fondly,” I implored; “let me be content with a temperate draught of this living stream: let me not run athirst, a nd apply passionately to its welcome waters: let me not imagine in them a sweeter taste than earth’s fountains know. Oh! Would to God! I may be enabled to feel enough sustained by an occasional, amicable intercourse, ra re, brief, unengrossing and tranquil: quite tranquil!” Still repeating this word, I turned to my pillow; and, still repeating it, I steeped that pillow with tears. (199) When Polly appears in Villette, her previous reserve toward Lucy immediately melts into frank affection. Now on friendl y terms, Lucy imagines Polly as a benevolent quasihuman creature. Carol Rose notes: “where the poor, deprived, or unfortunate are concerned, Fairies seem to offer genuine, t hough often partially successful, supernatural intervention” (107). Previously “deprived” of affection, Lucy does not expect good things


12 to happen for her. Her reaction to positive encouragement, therefore, mirrors her psychological response to the negative. By im agining Polly’s reappearance as a form of “supernatural intervention,” Lucy protects he rself from becoming too attached to the young woman. In other words, she cannot take th is new relationship for granted because, as it seems too good to be true, it certainly cannot last. To distance herself emotionally from her newfound friend, Lucy consistently identifies Polly with fairylike qualities. This fairy motif first appears in the text when Lucy encounters Polly at the Bretton residen ce. Momentarily surprise d at discovering the young woman in a room she presumed empty, Lu cy automatically thinks of “spectral illusions” ( Villette 304) Here, her initial observations clearly ally Polly with the otherworldly. Seated at a van ity, “between the candles, and before the glass, appeared something dressing itself—an airy, fairy th ing,—small, slight, white —a winter spirit” (304).5 The description of Polly’s attire reinforces this fairylike image. The “little wreath with an evergreen gloss” entw ined in her hair suggests a natural connection to the earth (305). The “drops of scarlet” on her white dress calls to mind w ild fruit—like berries (305). The coloration of her girdle, also red, further implies occult significance.6 With all of her “tender charm,” Polly appears a produc t of the otherworld—a supernatural being, distinct from humans (306). Expectant that Polly will one day vanish from her life as swiftly and unexpectedly as she entered it Lucy prepares herself for the loss by imagining it as inevitable. As a visitor from fairyland, Polly must one day leave Lucy in order to return to her “people.” 5 The phrase “winter spirit” calls to mind the nature fairies / spirits. These “represent trees, specific localities, streams, wells, vegetation or the weat her and other natural forces” (Franklin 186). 6 Green and red were both associated with fairies during the nineteenth century (Davies 186-87).


13 When Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Hei ghts after a three-year absence, Nelly suspects that he has used diabolical methods to achieve his fina ncial success: “Honest people don’t hide their deed s,” she tells Isabella ( WH 91). Lucy exhibits a similar mentality when contrasting her own past and present hardships with Polly’s incredible good fortune. “Providence,” Lucy remarks, “has protected and cultured you” under a fortunate “star” ( Villette 417). Here, Lucy endures the painfu l dissimilarities in their life experiences by contriving the fa ntasy that Polly’s happiness a nd wealth are the product of supernatural origins. Lucy acknowledges th is system of thought when she comments on the disparate manner of treatment that she a nd Polly receive under Fraulein Anna Braun’s instruction. According to Luc y, the German tutor “half-feared, half-worshipped Paulina, as a sort of dainty nymph—an Undine—[whereas ] she took refuge with me, as a being all mortal, and of easier mood” (336).7 Traditionally, the Undine represents a fairy bride “who gain[s] a soul and a husband but sacrifi ce[s] her life to do so” (Silver 91). This comparison of Polly to a fairy bride seems pa rticularly appropriate given that Lucy (who narrates the novel in retrospect ) imagines that magical fo rces aid in the successful courtship of her fortuna te friend and Dr. John. This is not the first time that Charlotte Br ont utilizes this supernatural theme in one of her novels. In her discussion on fairy brid es in Victorian literature, Carole Silver declares that Bront bestows Jane Eyre w ith characteristics corre sponding to a swan maiden: “In Jane’s otherness and force—as well as the name that li nks her to the sylphs or spirits of the air—in her strong sexual a nd spiritual passions, sh e manifests the nature 7 “The Undines were spirits of water described as looking like humans but could assume the shape of a fish or a snake” (Rose 322). One of the more po pular (Victorian) versions of the Undine appeared in Hans Christian Anderson’s The Little Mermaid translated into English in 1846 (Silver 91).


14 of a formidable fairy bride not yet become a wife” (Silver 107). With Villette the author uses this theme in a different, but equally effective, way. Here, Bront hints at Lucy’s fiery soul by applying this fairy imagery to a character whom Lucy admires and observes. Though equally as passionate as her predece ssor Jane Eyre—and as hungry for love as Polly—Lucy represses her emotions for fear of heartache. Whereas Polly enthusiastically professes her feelings to Dr. John, therefore, Lucy pretends that romantic love does not touch her. Unable to act out her own desires, she subsequen tly perceives the “Undine” in one who can. Visualized as an Undine in Lucy’s fantasy world, Polly harbors powers of enchantment. This enables her to charm Dr. John when Lucy merely elicits a doctor’s sympathy. Thus, throughout the couple’s romance, Lucy attaches elfin imagery with her young friend. In this light, Polly appears as both “a dancing fairy and delicate dame” ( Villette 314).8 When she dances, she resemb les a “little sprite” (310).9 Even when still, she exhibits “a most exquisite and fair y charm” (333). While participating in conversation, her presence creates “a ki nd of gossamer happiness hanging in the air” (333). The Victorians in general, not Lucy al one, feasted on fairy folklore: “Antiquarians of the romantic era had begun the quest for fairies, and throughout Victoria’s reign advocates of fairy existence and investigator s of elf origins include d numerous scientists, social scientists, historians, theologians, ar tists, and writers” (Silver 33). This common interest in the elfin people materializes in Wuthering Heights through the younger Cathy. 8 Fairies are particularly fond of “music and dancing and… often ‘invite’ human musicians and dancers to join them” (Rose 108). 9 A sprite is a “lesser spirit, such as an elf, fairy, or pixy, which usually indicates their unpredictable and mischievous characters” (Rose 299). Put simply, this term is “A general name for FAIRIES and other spirits” (Briggs 381).


15 She wishes to see Peninstone Crags (also re ferred to as “Fairy Cave”) and, upon first meeting Hareton, asks him to show her the fairies ( WH 175). “I want to see where the goblin hunter rises in the marsh, and to hear about the fairishes as you call them” (172). We see this in Villette as well. Mr. Home casually refers to his child as “daughterling” and “Highland fairy” and claims that Polly will leave “a green ring” where she has danced ( Villette 311-12). Unlike Cathy and Mr. Home, however, Lucy refuses to express these “common” thoughts through the spoken word. Her observations of Polly in fairylike terms remain unacknowledged and, thus, unobserved by others. This unnecessary silence (no one would ridi cule her for speaking in such terms) reinforces the importance of Lucy’s inner wo rld. To recognize her thoughts verbally and to share her vision with others suggests that, no longer her own, the power of that vision would fade. And, as we later see, this is a significant vision as Polly’s union with Dr. John represents the culmination of Lucy’s ow n secret fantasy. When she espies Polly during Villette’s fte, the young girl—as th e Undine of Lucy’s imagination—appears most visually striking: “Within reach of my hand – had I ch osen to extend it – sat a figure like a fairy-queen, whose array, lilies and th eir leaves seemed to have suggested; whatever was not spotless white, being forest-green” ( Villette 503). Finally, Polly’s elfin powers enable her to secure her marital ha ppiness forevermore. With her father and fianc at hand, she constructs an “amulet” which contains the hair of both (482).10 Again, Lucy rationalizes Polly’s incredible fortune in life and love by fantasizing that the latter has the magic powers of an immortal. Obse rving this idyllic scene from afar, she surmises that Polly’s necklace casts a spell “which render[s] enmity impossible” (482). 10 An amulet is a device used to ward off “injur y or evil.” Amulets are usually worn as necklaces, though “[t]hey may also appear on ho mes, tombs, and buildings” (Lewis 8).


16 Madame Beck represents yet another indi vidual who plays a di stinctive role in Lucy’s imaginary world. Her part, howeve r, appears an unfavor able one. Though the schoolmistress supplies Lucy with food and shelte r at a time when the latter appears most vulnerable, Lucy never mistakes this deed as an act of charity. From the beginning, Lucy recognizes her employer’s manipulative and sel f-serving character. Of this she remarks, “interest was the master-key of madame’s nature—the mainspring of her motives—the alpha and omega of her life” ( Villette 81). Lucy also acknowledges Madame Beck’s unsympathetic disposition, for “to attempt to touch her heart was the surest way to rouse her antipathy, and to make of her a secret foe” (82). Ruled by such adverse traits, Madame Beck hovers about Lucy as an unpleasan t, even threatening, fi gure. In this light, she assumes the double role of sche ming employer and residential ghost. In describing Madame Beck, Lucy places emphasis on her shoes of silence. This peculiar detail suggests that the matriarch possesses the uncanny ability to navigate through space like a weightless spirit. Lucy introduces th is theme during their first meeting. When Madame Beck suddenly mate rializes without cr eating a sound, Lucy turns, surprised to discover that “[n]o ghos t stood beside me, nor anything of spectral aspect; merely a motherly, dumpy little woman” ( Villette 71-72). This motif continues after Lucy begins her employment at the schoo l. For instance, rather than boldly wander about the premises in the early morning hour s, Lucy avers that schoolmistress creeps about, “haunt[ing] the house in her wrappi ng-gown, shawl and soundless slippers” (79). In short, Madame Beck plays the part of a wraith-like figur e who can penetrate walls and discover—unseen and unheard—the smallest of secrets. Thus she “glide[s] ghost-like


17 through the house, watching and spying ever ywhere, peering through every key-hole, listening behind every door” (81). Lucy enlivens her routine existence by reinventing figures around her. With respect to Madame Beck, however, she also re sorts to the ghostly motif as a means of coping with the personal in trusions she must endure. Like everyone else at the pensionnat, Lucy falls prey to her employer’ s espionage. Her conversations with students travel to invisible ears. Fore ign fingers handle her personal effects. Even her solitary hours spent in the old garden yield to hidde n eyes. Lucy tolerates this meddlesomeness willingly, fully aware that an attempt at obstr uction would leave her jobless. She remarks upon this circumstance when she accidentally discovers Madame Beck sifting through her items one night: “I stood, in short, fascinat ed; but it was necessary to make an effort to break this spell: a retreat must be beat en. The searcher might have turned and caught me…. I should have looked into her eyes, and she into mine—we should have known that we could work together no more, a nd parted in this life forever” ( Villette 131). Unable to avoid the distasteful, Lucy envisions her spy as an omnipresent figure who has the ability to materialize at will: “Madame’s shoes of s ilence brought her continually to my back, as quick, noiseless, and unexpected, as some wa ndering zephyr” (93). Rath er than give way to vexation, Lucy makes light of the situation by pretending that she is in the presence of an apparitional force. This spectral role, in fact, appears so ingrained in Lucy’s imagination that it literally comes out to haunt her. In a scene th at occurs just before Lucy prepares to see Vashti, an ordinary occurrence turns into a spinetingling encounter. Alone in a darkened hallway, Lucy suddenly senses another presen ce on the stairwell behind her: “I own my


18 heart quaked, my pulse leaped, when I suddenly heard breathing and rustling, and turning, saw in the deep shadow of the step s a deeper shadow still—a shape that moved and descended” ( Villette 283). Encouraged by the setting, Lucy’s imagination takes a romantic turn. She focuses on the intruder as a “shadow” rather than a solid, corporeal form. Perceived as a nonentity, the mysteri ous intruder consequently exhibits unnatural movement: “It paused a while at the classe door, and then it glided before me” (283; my emphasis). Only after the sound of the doorbe ll grounds Lucy in reality once more does she realize that the shadow possesses a form “too r ound and low” for the ghostly nun of the garden (283). Madame Beck often executes her snoopi ng and spying in a manner that strikes Lucy as both discreet and unobtrusive. T hough unpleasant, “her system, it did me no harm; she might work me with it to her he art’s content: nothing would come of the operation. Loverless and inexpectant of love, I was as safe from spies in my heartpoverty, as the beggar from thieves in his destitution of purse” ( Villette 131). As Lucy’s affection for Paul deepens, however, the matriarch’s harmless meddling metamorphoses into a physical attempt to sepa rate the lovers. When Madame Beck actively tries to thwart a meeting between Lucy and Paul, Lucy undergoes a startling epiphany: “She was my rival, heart and soul” (494). To her empl oyer she declares, “Oh, Madame! in your hand there is both chill and poison. You envenom and you paralyze” ( 494). Appalled at the schoolmistress’ cruel manipulations, Lucy verba lly likens her to a mischievous spirit that plays with the mind and freezes the body.11 11 Lucy’s experience with the ghostly nun mirrors th is sentiment. The encoun ter thrills her, i.e. “paralyze[s]” her. Yet it also leaves her wondering if its appearance is a “poison[ing]” of the mind, i.e. “only the child of malady” (Villette 280).


19 As with both Polly and Madame Beck, Lucy associates Paul Emanuel with a distinct fantastical characte r—the brownie. Though Bront does not focus much attention on their relationship until the latter half of the novel, Lucy ’s fondness for the instructor soon becomes apparent through the language that she uses to describe him. Whether he amuses or irritates her, Lucy’s reaction to Paul assumes a similar tone. When Paul instructs her to look away from the Cleopa tra painting on display in the art museum, Lucy refers to him as a “despotic little man” ( Villette 226). As a spectator at a concert, she observes Paul directing about the choir a nd, delighted with “his love of display and authority,” fondly considers him “a little ha wk of a man” (237). When Paul unjustly criticizes Lucy’s decision to spend time w ith Polly and to attend German lessons, she responds in the same vein: “Never was a better little man, in some points, than M. Paul: never, in others, a more waspish little despot ” (336). In a later chapte r, Paul lambasts her native home until she shouts out in vexation. When Paul then expresses amusement at her anger, Lucy’s reaction—though fiery—exhibits the same playful character of before: “The professor put up his handkerchief, and fi endishly smiled into its folds. Little monster of malice!” (379). The repeated use of the term “little” in each of these scenes suggests a mark of affection on the narrator’s pa rt. With regard to the Cleopatra incident, for example, Lucy remarks, “It would have b een easy to show anger at the teasing, hostile tone of the little man. I had never been angr y with him yet, however, and had no present disposition to begin” (228).12 At the same time, however, th e word “little” also contains occult significance. 12 The pleasure that Lucy derives from seeing Paul riled up also suggests her affection for him: “I liked, for instance, to see M. Emanuel jealous; it lit up his nature, and woke his spirit; it threw all sorts of queer lights and shadows over his dun f ace, and into his violet-azure eyes” ( Villette 171). As Lucy begins


20 Considering Lucy’s penchant for flavori ng the everyday with the fantastic, this term also suggests a diminutive creature. I ndeed, some aspects of Paul’s physical appearance and behavioral traits resemble the folkloric brownie. Generally, this (usually male) creature appears small in stat ure and brown in complexion (Briggs, Encyclopedia 45). Of its facial characteristic s, the nose seems its most a rresting feature. Sometimes the brownie has “only holes for nos trils” while at other times its nose may appear unnaturally large (47, 48). When Lucy first meets Paul, she reveals that he e xhibits two of these attributes: “He entered: a small, dark and spare man, in spectacles” ( Villette 73). In a subsequent description of his person, Lucy emphasizes these characteristics and more: “A dark little man he certainly was; pungent and austere. Even to me he seemed a harsh apparition, with his thin cheek, his wide a nd quivering nostril, his thorough glance and hurried bearing” (142).13 Later, she draws attention speci fically to his nose stating that “though far from small, [it] was of no particular shape” (375).14 Paul’s actions, furthermore, also ally him with this fairy figure.15 Though often unattractive in appearance, the brownie features an admirable character—as long as those benefiting from hi s services do not offend him. Just as spirits haunt specific locales, these supernatural creatures often “at tach themselves to a human to share her growing feelings for Paul with the reader, this fondness appears more explicit. After her visit to Madame Walravens’ she says, “they [Madame Beck and Pre Silas] made of my dear little man a stainless little hero” (440). 13 By “dark,” Lucy means brown. See her desc ription of Paul’s “dun face” on page 171. 14 Other characteristics of the brownie include ragged “brown clothes” and “shaggy” hair (Briggs 45). Also, sometimes “Brownies had all the fingers attach ed with web, or joined completely together apart from the thumb” (Rose 51). 15 Katharine Briggs classes the brownie with the “solitary fairies.” With the exception of brownies, “solitary fairies are chiefly malignant or ominous cr eatures, though there may be a few nature spirits or dwindled gods among them” ( Encyclopedia 375). As their name suggests they “are solitary, selfsupporting creatures” (Briggs, “English” 271).


21 family, either as omen-bearers or as he lpers” (Briggs, “English” 271). Always a dedicated worker, the brownie holds hi mself duty-bound to performing the chores associated with his establishment. (As an i nhabitant of a farm, for instance, he might “reap, mow, thresh, herd the sheep, prevent the hens from laying away, run errands and give good counsel at need” [Briggs, Encyclopedia 45]). Also, it is not unusual for the brownie to develop a personal attachment to a particular individual for whom he might perform favors (45, 47). Active at night, he tends to retir e during the day. His quarters consist of “dark corner s of the house, or in some cases nearby hollow tree s or ruins” and, capable of invisibility, he may appear or vanish “at will” (Franklin 37). As I have noted previously in my analys is of both Polly and Madame Beck, Lucy often resorts to fantasy as a defense mechanism. This also remains true with regard to her relationship with Paul. Having suffered previ ous afflictions too ha rrowing to name, Lucy feels skeptical that she will ever experience an enduring, reciprocated love. In other words, her “fiery heart lies imprisoned ben eath years of frozen pain,” and so she represses any hope for happiness (Forsythe 18). Paul, with his capricious nature, certainly attracts Lucy. However, at this point in th e novel Lucy retains her passivity. Suppressing her emotions appears safer and, therefore pref erable, to exposing hers elf to rejection. (I will discuss, shortly, how the intrusions of ha rsh reality into her fantasy world eventually force Lucy to acknowledge her feelings for Paul This occurs as she learns of his former ties to the deceased Justine Marie and later wh en she fears his engagement to the nun’s namesake, his godchild. Lucy’s confrontation with Madame Beck occurs after these two events.) To establish the emotional barrier th at her psyche requires, Lucy makes light of


22 their relationship by likening Paul to the s upernatural creature th at may disappear from her life—without warning—at any time. Paul’s similarities to the brownie on a sy mbolic level make this comparison an obvious choice for Lucy. Like the brownie, Pa ul resides at his place of employment. (As Lucy later discovers, he actually owns prope rty in town rendering his stay at the pensionnat unnecessary.) A “school-autocrat,” he strives to undertake as many of the necessary duties as he can ( Villette 170). This appears most notably in his attempts to monopolize the administration of final exams. As Lucy observes, he “gathered all and sundry reins into the hollow of his one hand; he irefully rejected a ny colleague; he would not have help” (170). Furthermore, he takes th e liberties of an atte ntive household spirit by traversing through the facility as he pl eases. According to Lucy, “M. Emanuel took no account of hours nor of claims” (258). This self-appointed freedom from authority, coupled “with his unwarrantably interfering habits” (266), pr ovides him with the means of divining information that otherwise might remain secret. Paul’s mercurial nature, however, appears the most obvious connection. The brownie, when offended, may leave his establishment permanently. By imagining Paul as the unpredictable brownie, Lucy anticipates the fact that he may “van ish immediately” on a whim (Rose 51). In addition to using the suggestive term “little,” Lucy makes numerous observations which directly link Paul to the st udious brownie. When he reacts in a jealous and irrational manner after Dr. John’s first letter arrives, she calls hi m “a mere sprite of caprice and ubiquity: one ne ver knew either his whim or his whereabout” ( Villette 270). Paul, especially fond of Lucy, bestows gifts upon her. These presents appear both overtly (through math lessons) and discretely (through books that mysteriously appear in her


23 desk over night). Whereas the tutoring sessi ons take place with a mere whimsical professor, however, the surprise tomes assume the air of “brownie’s work” or “brownie’s gifts” (380, 384). Indeed, when Lucy finally catches Paul, the “ciga r-loving phantom,” in the midst of rearranging her desk, she watche s his crafty work with pleasure (381). But now at last I had him: there he was—the very brownie himself…. he was smoking into my desk: it might well betray him. Provoked at this particular, and yet pleased to surpri se him—pleased, that is, with the mixed feeling of the housewife who discove rs at last her strange elfin ally busy in the dairy at the untimely churn—I stole softly forward, stood behind him, bent with precaution over his shoulder. (381) In this scene, Lucy fancies Paul as a cr eature of the otherwor ld. She treads lightly, unwilling to suspend the work of her “strange elfin ally.” The sound of her breathing, too natural for the unnatural moment, ultimately breaks the spell. By relying on folkloric terminology, Lucy demonstrates her unwillingness to identify the growing love that she feels for her co-worker. Paul, as an immortal being, exists on a separate plane of existence. Though visible, he remains virtually untouchable. In this vein, Lucy compares herself to a “ housewife.” Thus, instead of fantasizing herself as a young maiden—an image more compatible to her romantic imagination—she chooses the older, married (socially and emo tionally unavailable) woman. In short, this heightened sense of the magical provides ye t another example of Lucy’s psychological need to create an emotional distance between herself and those with whom she interacts on a regular basis. Just as the sweet and fort unate Polly transforms into the fairy and the


24 threatening Madame Beck materializes as th e resident ghost, theref ore, Paul—capricious and meddlesome, but attentive—appears to Lucy as the beneficent brownie. II Despite her proclamation that she does not possess “an overheated and discursive imagination,” Lucy often indulges in fantasy ( Villette 15): “I seemed to hold two lives— the life of thought, and that of reality; a nd, provided the former was nourished with a sufficiency of the strange necromantic joys of fancy, the privileges of the latter might remain limited to daily bread, hourly work, and a roof of shelter” (85). Her vivid imagination often enriches her experien ces so that the mundane seems exciting, dangerous, or even a bit romantic. For inst ance, the old garden at the boarding school— Lucy’s favorite place to relax—becomes a sini ster entity once her peace there is broken. When she discovers an anonymous letter amid st its bushes in whic h the writer describes her as a “dragon,” the garden loses its charm (123): “The eyes of th e flowers had gained vision, and the knots in the tree -boles listened like secret ears” (128). Likewise, Lucy transforms her experience at a concert hall into a magical event. She appears enchanted with the “magic” which makes the doors open an d imagines that the glittering light from a chandelier is “the work of eastern genii: I looked to see if a huge, dark cloudy hand – that of the Slave of the Lamp were not hovering in the lust rous and perfumed atmosphere of the cupola, guarding its wondrous treasure” (234). Here, her rich descriptions, coupled with the reference to ge nii, create an image of an enchanted realm. Combined, these scenes provide a small glim pse into Lucy’s fantasy world. Two events in the novel that best demonstrate Lucy’s fertile imag ination include her sojourn in Madame Walravens’ dwelling and her expe riences at Villette’s nocturnal fte.


25 Dilapidated buildings, elderl y people, a witch, and a cas tle permeate “Malevola,” creating one of the most vivid chapters in the novel. It begi ns in a routine manner, with an ordinary request: Madame Beck asks Lucy to deliver a gift to one of her acquaintances and the latter complies. However, this si mple errand quickly metamorphoses into a fantastical adventure. Inclement weather hove ring over the city inspires Lucy with thoughts of “eastern enchantment” ( Villette 429). This sense of th e magical intensifies when she reaches Madame Walravens’ addre ss. Here, Lucy percei ves the square as a place haunted rather than alive. The neighboring structures, for instance, appear “ancient nests” to mystical figures “o f a dead and dark art” rather than regular houses (430, 431). As the chapter progresses, Lucy readily admits that everything she sees and hears seems “parts of a fairy tale” (431) In the midst of these ench anted ruins, however, Madame Walravens materializes as a fi gure of singular interest. Port rayed as a witch, she appears the most sinister of all the charac ters that Lucy meets in Villette. Self-serving and avaricious by nature, Ma dame Walravens represents a destroyer of hope and happiness. As such, she emerges in the text under the guise of a fierce hag. While Lucy awaits her presence, for example, the old woman’s ominous introduction simulates an act of magic. Sound precedes a physical manifestation. Only after Lucy hears an eerie tapping does she espy the i ndiscriminate form of a “shadow” which gradually transforms into “substance” ( Villette 431). Afterwards, Lucy’s repeated use of the term “it” emphasizes he r unwillingness to recognize the old woman as a human being (431). On the contrary, she perceives her host as a mere “obstruction, partially darkening the arch” (431). This observation also doubl es as a metaphorical statement regarding Madame Walravens’ role in thwarting the happiness of young lovers. When Lucy learns


26 of Paul’s ill-fated relationship with Justin e Marie, she inwardly lashes out at their malefactor: “[T]hat old witch of a grand-da me I had seen, Madame Walravens, opposed the match with all the violence of a temper which deformity made sometimes demoniac” (435). As an individual who year ns for this kind of love in her own life, Lucy perceives the willful despoiler of such bliss as a “sorceress” and “evil fairy” (431). Lucy’s commentary on the physical corre lations between Madame Walravens and the witch, however, transcend the symbolic. Upon her debut, Lucy immediately notes the peculiar traits which suggest Madame Walr avens’ inhuman origins. Her body, dwarfish and hunchbacked, seems unnatural with its abnorma lly large head. Lucy also hints at her preternatural age, remarking that she has “a hundred years in her features, and more perhaps in her eyes” ( Villette 431). These “malign, unfriendly eyes,” moreover, gaze at Lucy “severely… with a sort of dull displeas ure!” (431). In short, she appears elderly, exhibits an obvious physical deformit y, and possesses an uncanny, “evil eye”—all common characteristics of th e nineteenth century archet ypal witch (Davies 174-75). Madame Walravens’ accessories further endorse this supernatural image. The staff that she carries resembles a witch’s scep ter. Its ivory compositi on (one of the main elements recognized in wands) supports this view (Lewis 299). Though skeletal in frame, she also weighs herself down with expensiv e clothing and jewelry. Lustrous diamonds dangle from her ears16 while equally brilliant jewels be dizen the fingers of her “skeleton hands” ( Villette 432). Like the staff, these rings also contain possible occult significance. According to James Lewis, “[r]ings made of precious metals inlaid with a precious stone 16 “According to some occult authors, so great is this stone’s power to heal that it is able to counteract poisons and cure a plethora of diseases and conditions, including infertility, sexual dysfunction, insomnia, physical weakness, and mental illness” (Dunwich 160).


27 take on the characteristics of the stone. These rings can protect against death and evil doings and promote good health” (245). Indeed, the final words in the novel emphasize the old woman’s longevity. Fina lly, Madame Walravens’ depa rting words coincide with the elements, suggesting that her unnatural voice wields unnatural power: “Just as she turned, a peal of thunder broke, and a flas h of lightning blazed broad over salon and boudoir” ( Villette 432). Then, just as mysteriously as she appears, she “vanish[es]” (432). On a figurative level, this chapter illustrates Lucy’s approach to life in general. Emotionally isolated from others, or “an incongruous figure,” she entertains herself through her lively imagination ( Villette 430). Naturally, therefore, as a stimulant to her fancy, the strange and unusual a ppeals to (rather than repels) her. The ancient priest and dour faced servant fascinate Lucy. The castlelike house, with its stained glass windows, gloomy air, and secret compartments, transpor t her: “Hoar enchantment here prevailed; a spell had opened for me elf-land” (431).17 The arched passageway through which Madame Walravens appears seems otherworldly with its “mystic winding stair” of bare “cold stone” (431). Even Justine Marie’s portra it appears a magical portal. It “moved, fell away with the wall and let in phantoms” (433) Overall, Lucy seems content to continue this motif of magical adventure, perceiving herself as a “wanderer, decoyed into the enchanted castle” and forced to remain with in by “the spell-wakened tempest” (432). Only after Pre Silas speaks of Paul’s lo st love does reality expel the fantastical. Forced to hear of Paul’s ‘constancy’ to a ghost, Lucy must face the truth of her barren 17 “Fairyland is most commonly placed undergroun d, though it is occasionally under water or on an invisible island…. The first appearance of fairyland is beautiful and pleasant, but this is often the effect of glamour, and a magic ointment which enables one to se e things as they are will show it to be a desolate region, with an accumulation of rubbish as its treasure, and its delicious banquets withered toadstools and poisonous food” (Briggs, “English” 273).


28 existence once more ( Villette 438). Consequently, this intrusion of reality also compels her to consider Paul sans his supernatural persona. In doing so, Lucy begins the process of deconstructing the barrier that she has re lied upon to protect herself from unnecessary pain. I had known him jealous, suspicious; I had seen about him certain tendernesses, fitfulnesses—a softness which came like a warm air, and a ruth which passed like early dew, drie d in the heat of his irritabilities: this was all I had seen. And they, Pre Silas and Madame Beck… opened up the adytum of his heart—shewed me one grand love, the child of this southern nature’s youth, born so strong and perfect, that it had laughed at Death himself … and, in victory and faith, had watched beside a tomb twenty years. (440) This revelation of Paul’s past offers Lucy a glimmer of hope. For the first time, she entertains the notion that the instructor might prove a stable figure in her life—someone who will remain a companion and possibly ev en offer her long-lasting affection. After all, he has already proven the “constancy” of his character through de dicating half of his life to a “tomb.” The following observation implies this nascent optimism: “What means had I, before this day, of being certain whethe r he could love at all or not?” (440). With Lucy now rooted in earthly matters, this pha ntasmagoric episode concludes in a style as conventional as its beginning: “And now the sun broke out pallid and waterish; the rain yet fell, but there was no more tempest; that hot firmament had cloven and poured out its lightnings” (438).


29 The scene of Villette’s nocturnal fte shows us that, at this point in the narrative, Lucy still relies (and thrives) on the imag inary. As the scene progresses, however, disagreeable events lure Lucy from this mesmerizing fantasy. At the start of this episode the protagonist swallows an opiate dosage wh ich, ineffectively administered, lowers her reserve and amplifies her cognitive powers: “I magination was roused from her rest, and she came forth impetuous and venturous” ( Villette 497). In this drugged state of excitability, Lucy wanders into the city. She imagines herself a participant in a dream, moving effortlessly toward her destination. Consequently, when she reaches the city park, “a land of enchantment,” she finds herself th rust “with the suddenne ss of magic” into the festivities (500, 499). The fa ntasy excites her and she moves anonymously through the crowd, refusing to reveal her iden tity to those she encounters. Here, a number of Lucy’s acquaintances emer ge as their supernatural counterpart, or other. Polly makes a cameo appearance as a “fairy-queen” in elegant aerial dress ( Villette 503). Later in the scene, Dsire Beck manifests beside her mother on a knoll. As befitting the daughter of a sp ectral figure, Lucy playfully surmises that the child might not be a child at all but actually “an imp in her likeness” (506).18 On this hill she also encounters the formidable Madame Walr avens. Macabre imagery saturates the description that ensues. Ugly and misshape n, the old woman’s “face and features… were so cadaverous and so strangely placed, you c ould almost have fancied a head severed from its trunk, and flung at random on a pile of rich merchandize” (508). The vividness of detail here indicates Lucy’s heightened st ate of mind. It also, however, stresses Lucy’s propensity to associate those whom she str ongly likes or dislikes with emblematic 18 Imps are “mischievous little devil[s] … that [are] often described as being the childlike offspring of the Devils” (Rose 161).


30 imagery. Thus, with the movement of her w itch’s staff, Madame Walravens confirms “that she [is] indeed no corpse or ghost but a harsh and har dy old woman” (508). During this festive episode, Lucy he rself embraces the role of ghost: Her role of spectator is emphasized by the theatrical atmosphere of … the background music, the lighting effects, the pervasive sense that each grouping is composed of actors playi ng their assigned parts in a shadowy drama, all oblivious of the solitary onlooker in the wings. (Johnson 334) Under this cloak of obscurity, she eavesdr ops on Madame Beck, Madame Walravens, and Pre Silas. The scene that follows demonstr ates the extent to which Lucy has become psychologically invested in th is “shadowy drama.” With the opiate in full effect, her active imagination temporarily overrides he r reasoning abilities. During a moment of excruciating suspense, the sorceress of he r fantasy seems capable of resurrecting the dead. When Madame Walravens speaks of Ju stine Marie, therefore, Lucy genuinely believes that “the strange, the dead-dis turbing, the Witch-of-Endor query of the hunchback” refers to the dead nun ( Villette 511). The subsequent unveiling of Justine Marie as Paul’s goddaughter—not the ghost of her fancy—effectively deflates Lucy. With disappointment she notes, “thi s girl is not my nun” (513). As the scene proceeds, Lucy’s fevered im agination continues to misinterpret the goings on about her. The appearance of Paul f ills her with joy. Yet she squelches this emotion with the erroneous conj ecture that he intends to marry his charge. “I saw whom he folded carefully from th e night air, whom he tended, watched, and cherished as the apple of his eye” ( Villette 515). This false realization forces Lucy to confront, once again, the truth about her own lonely existence. At th e same time, it also confirms her fears that


31 to expose her emotions, to allow herself to f eel, will cause heartache. For, as soon as she allows herself to entertain the thought that Paul might one day reci procate her love, the discovery of a rival shatters her hope. “This was an outrage” (517). Th e conclusion to this fantastical episode mirrors that which occurs at Madame Walravens’. Lucy abandons the “strange adventure” when external events suggest the improbability of a future relationship with Paul (518). III So far, the supernatural beings and romantic adventures that emerge in Villette spring entirely from the pr otagonist’s fertile imaginat ion. The ghostly nun of the pensionnat, however, functions outside this c ontext. Its manifestations occur entirely independent of Lucy. For the first time, Lucy forgoes the role of the originator and becomes the spectator. Her bearing in these ep isodes, therefore, offers valuable insight into her psyche. How does she react to the lo cal legend and, later, to sightings of the ghost itself? Why does fascination give way to uncertainty? Why doe s uncertainty then translate into skepticism and, ultimately, tota l doubt? I propose that Lucy’s interactions with the ghostly nun record a significan t transformation within her character. E. D. H. Johnson points out the importan ce of the spectral nun in his article, “‘Daring the Dread Glance’: Charlotte Bront ’s Treatment of the Supernatural in Villette .” He argues that the physical manifestations of this ap parition serve as “a device for marking the successive stages by whic h Lucy Snowe moves toward self-realization and the eventual reconciliation of conflicting elements in her being” (325-26). I heartily agree. I do, however, have some complain ts. First, though Johnson discusses Lucy’s battle between “reason and emotion” he does not offer a detailed analysis of how her


32 early encounters with the nun impact her ps ychologically (329). On the contrary, he provides a mere catalogue of these confrontations. Second, Johnson perceives a correlation be tween the time that each manifestation occurs and the man currently at the forefront in Lucy’s life. He suggests that the identity of her current love interest affects how she perceives the nun. I see the inclusion of Dr. John as a flawed part of this argument. T hough Lucy may harbor a slight infatuation for the doctor after she arrives in Vi llette, he does not touch her as deeply as other characters in the text clearly do. She perceives him at face value, never once resorting to the fantastical imagery that she typically us es to distance herself from emotion: A god could not have the cruel vanity of Dr. John, nor his sometime levity. No immortal could have resemb led him in his occasional temporary oblivion of all but the present; s hown not coarsely, by devoting it to material indulgence, but selfishly, by extracting from it whatever it could yield of nutriment to his masculine se lf-love: his delight was to feed that ravenous sentiment, without thought of the price of provender, or care for the cost of keeping it sleek and high-pampered. ( Villette 220-21) Furthermore, Dr. John exhibits skepticism more steadfast in nature than even that of Lockwood from Wuthering Heights His presence does indeed cause Lucy to consider the possibility of “spectral illusions ,” but that remains the extent of his influence (304). As I will soon demonstrate, her interest in th e paranormal does not wane until later. Despite these shortcomings, Johnson’s thesis proves invaluable in this analysis of Lucy. One cannot properly trace Lucy’s jour ney toward “self-realization” without considering the ghostly nun and how its inclusion in the novel fits into the larger picture.


33 I intend to strengthen Johnson’s argument by focusing primarily on how Lucy’s perception of the nun changes as her feelings fo r Paul intensify. This, in turn, reflects her battle between fantasy and reality. (In this respect, I suggest the opposite of Johnson. In my analysis, Lucy relies on fantasy to suppr ess her feelings; Johnson argues that this suppression occurs via her reliance on “reason. ” To achieve “self-realization,” I propose that Lucy must expel fantasy in favor of r eality. Johnson perceives th is as “reason” giving way to “emotion.”) In other words, I will show that as her affection for the instructor progresses from one of cordiality to love, Lucy no longer requires the vividness of her imagination as a source of comfort. As th e subplot of the ghostly nun concludes, Lucy makes the conscious choice to lower her defe nses. She expels her life of fantasy in a courageous attempt to shar e her heart with another. While she and Paul maintain a mere wo rking acquaintanceshi p, the notion of a haunting spirit enlivens Lucy’s imaginary worl d. Her inherent lone liness attracts her to this “romantic rubbish” ( Villette 118). At this point in th e novel, her thoughts often wander to this legendary figure—whether she is strolling through the garden, memorizing acting lines in the attic, or walking th rough the pensionnat’s darkened halls. Subsequently, Lucy’s first encounter with the nun resonates a heightened level of excitement. Having escaped to the attic to peru se a letter in privacy, Lucy suddenly marks the intrusion of another presence. Casting as ide the rational, she automatically wonders “what”—rather than “who”—has disrupted he r “sweet bubble” of happiness (272). “Are there wicked things, not human, which envy human bliss? Are th ere evil influences haunting the air, and poisoning it for man? What was near me?” (273; my emphasis).


34 Expectations of the otherworldly amplify Lu cy’s reaction in this scene. When the nun finally appears in the light, she flees the room in fear. As her friendship with Paul develops however, Lucy’s attitude towards the nun begins to fluctuate. This ambiguousness appe ars most readily in a conversation that occurs between these two characters in chap ter 31. Here, Paul questions Lucy on whether or not she believes in the supernatural. Luc y, without hesitation, responds in the negative. When the dialogue shifts over to the nun, however, she contradicts her previous statement. Thrilled by the t opic she inquires, “Monsieur, what if [the nun] comes and goes here still?” ( Villette 407). With the passage of time, Lucy’s emotional investment in Paul deepens. Amorous affections replace he r genial sentiments. Thus, she expresses a willingness to adopt the role of “sister” to Pa ul “on condition” that he marries no one else (453). Though she still represses the full extent of her emotional attachment (she hints at her feelings instead of explicitly identifying th em), Lucy begins to reject the imaginary as an essential component to her well-being. At this point, she st rips away the romantic and considers the ghostly sightings with the detached rationale of a skepti c. “I believe,” she asserts, “a perfectly natural solution of this seeming mystery will one day be arrived at” (452). Lucy’s propensity for fantasy flares up on ce again at Villette’s nocturnal fte. At the height of this “strange adventure” Lucy ultimately discovers the strength within herself to overcome her fear of rejection (i.e. abandonment) ( Villette 518). Her true feelings for Paul—previously implied through her jealous tone—erupt in a passionate confession. The possibility that her beloved will marry Jus tine Marie forces Lucy to


35 acknowledge the emotions that she has expe rienced but left unnamed. After suffering from isolation for so long, she declares: love venturing diffidently into life after long acquaintan ce, furnace-tried by pain, stamped by constancy, conso lidated by affection’s pure and durable alloy, submitted by intellect to intellect’s own tests, and finally wrought up, by his own process, to hi s own unflawed completeness, this Love that laughed at Passion, his fast frenzies and his hot and hurried extinction, in this Love I had a vested interest ; and whatever tended either to its culture or its destruction, I could not view impassibly. (517) This declaration indicates the moment when Lucy consciously steps out of her dreamlike world. By embracing her love for Paul, sh e rejects the romantic umbrella which previously sheltered her from her loneliness. In the scene that follows, Lucy confronts the nun for the last time. This moment reveals our protagonist in her most vitali zed state. No longer subdued by self-imposed barriers, she exhibits the fiery soul that she has always posse ssed but kept safely locked within. This final encounter, th erefore, represents a direct a ttack against the fantasy world that she has just forfeited. Fu rious with her (misconceived) disappointment in love, she charges violently at the ghostly figure. In a moment, without exclamation, I had rushed on the haunted couch; nothing leaped out, or sprung, or stirre d; all the movement was mine, so was all the life, the reality, the subs tance … I tore he r up—the incubus! I held her on high—the goblin! I shoo k her loose—the mystery! And down


36 she fell—down all round me—down in shreds and fragments—and I trode upon her. (519) Here, Lucy’s fixation on the nun as a symbolic figure manifests in the various terms she associates with it: “incubus,”19 “goblin,”20 and “mystery.” By contrasting these references to the immaterial with “substance,” she also emphasizes the significan ce of the concrete (i.e. tangible). The act of stamping out these fanciful qualities, th erefore, effectually cements Lucy in the world of “reality.”21 From this point onward, Lucy tackles he r ordeals without retreating into the imaginary. Passive acceptance transforms into positive action. Unwilling to “tamely [submit] to Madame Beck’s tyranny” any longer (Johnson 327), she exposes her true sentiments to Paul when the schoolmistress a ttempts to thwart their farewell meeting: I thought he receded; I thought he would go. Pierced deeper than I could endure, made now to feel what defied suppression, I cried— “My heart will break!” What I felt seemed literal heart-break; but the seal of another fountain yielded under the strain: on e breath from M. Paul, the whisper, “Trust me!” lifted a load, opened an outlet. With many a deep sob, with 19 “Technically, an ‘Incubus’ was a devil which as sumed the appearance or a man and lay with a woman, as a succubus… assumed the appearan ce of a woman… to corrupt a man” (Briggs Encyclopedia 232). 20 The Goblin “is a grotesque, diminutive, and generally malicious earth spirit or sprite” (Rose 128). 21 In the words of E. D. H. Johnson, “she is rending the whole fabric of make-believe that has swathed her private world of fantasy” (335).


37 thrilling, with icy shiver, with str ong trembling, and yet with relief—I wept. ( Villette 530) Lucy proves that she has indeed “defied s uppression.” The transformation is complete. IV Lucy’s perception of individuals, and of the world in which she operates, suggests that she suffers from repression. Wary of disappointment, she buries her emotions through fantasy. In this manner, a genteel gi rl becomes a fairy, while a kindly teacher dons the qualities of a brownie. A spying schoolmistress assumes the identity of a troublesome spirit, and a self-indulgent old woman appears an evil sorceress. Even mundane events sport a touch of the surre al. A rundown old house transforms into an enchanted castle as Lucy steps over the th reshold. The annual cele bration of Villette’s struggle for freedom metamorphoses into a night of revelry for fairies and witches. These intrusions of the imaginary provide a fairytale-like element to an otherwise realistic novel. At the same time, however, this supern atural undertone also adds to its realism. A close examination of the work reveals a correlation betwee n Lucy’s emotional state and the occult phenomena that appear in the text. Perpetually isolated from those around her, Lucy seeks happiness through escapis m. This allows her to function in the emotionally unfulfilling life that she suspects th at she is destined to live. However, as Lucy spends more time with Paul—both as st udent and friend—her ability to conceal her emotions weakens. This gradual breakdown of self-imposed dispassion gains notice following her outing in “Malevola.” Its dest ruction appears nearly complete at the nocturnal fte. Yet these lapses of psychol ogical restraint do not occur as suddenly as


38 they at first appear. A study of Lucy’s attitude towards the resident ghost reveals a steady decline of her investme nt in the imaginary. Lucy’s interactions with the mysterio us apparition reflect her struggle to relinquish “romantic rubbish” in exchange for something substantial ( Villette 118). Her changing attitude towards the nun illustrates this gradual disengagement “from all sense of the spectral and unearthly” (520). As Lucy unve ils the spectral figure, she also discards the fantastical. Paul’s declarati on of love after this event u ltimately provides her with the “deep spell of peace” she has longed for sin ce the novel’s opening chapter (541). Finally content, Lucy recognizes that in the years to come, memories of her time with Paul—not fantasies about chimerical creatures and romantic quests—will “be comfort [to her] in the last strait of loneliness” (530) By releasing her grip on the fantastical, therefore, Lucy extricates herself from the safe realm of non-feeling that she has hidden behind since childhood.


39 Heaven on Earth: The “Other” World of Emily Bront’s Wuthering Heights The supernatural does not exist in the world of Villette Preternatural elements materialize only through the eyes of the prot agonist, and the one spectacle that does manifest on a physical level—the ghostly nun— turns out to be a hoax. The existence of the supernatural, in other wo rds, remains contingent on the imagination’s desire to resurrect and sustain its presence. Lucy Snow e’s decision to surrender her fantasy life for hard reality ultimately expels all vestiges of the paranormal from the text. (This erasure, in other words, signifies the nonexistence of the otherworldly.) In Emily Bront’s Wuthering Heights however, the supernatural emerges as a formidable force independent of human thought and action. As the characte rs of these novels inhabit two distinct realities, therefore, the me thod required to achieve their similar objective (emotional fulfillment) likewise differs. Lucy Snowe must reject the fantastical to acquire the love and companionship she craves. Catherine22 and Heathcliff face the opposite task. They must embrace the otherworldly, effectively reje cting the rational, in order to effectuate their togetherness. Catherine and Heathcliff’s struggle to unite (in sp ectral form) underlines the central conflict of Wuthering Heights To achieve their goal, they must repudiate the material in favor of the invisible, intangi ble realm of the otherworldly. The author emphasizes this aim by placing the characters in a world where the supernatural co-exists 22 When referring to the elder Catherine, I will us e to this form; I will use the shortened version, “Cathy”, to designate her daughter.


40 with the natural. Ghosts, “devils, witchcra ft, wraiths, omens, dreams and fairy-lore” comprise an essential part of the charact ers’ ideology at Wuthering Heights (Simpson 51). Instances of the paranormal, furthermore, occur as “a constant and accepted element of life” (Smith 499). I intend to do two things w ith this chapter. Firs t, I will discuss how the novel’s central love story is actually contained within a ghostly framework. To do this, I will analyze two ke y scenes: Lockwood’s nightmare and Heathcliff’s death. Following this, I will turn to Catherine and Heathcliff themselves and, by analyzing their supernatural beliefs, demonstrate how their appa rently extreme decisions (hers to die; his to abuse, murder, and manipulate) actually refl ect their inherent need to reunite in spirit form. I From its opening pages, Emily Bront inti mates that reality within the walls of Wuthering Heights (and, hence, the novel itsel f) does not adhere to the rational world of science. Engravings of “crumbling griffins and shameless little boys” that decorate the structure’s main entrance s uggest this pagan view ( WH 2). Subsequently, two events that occur in the story (Lockwood’s nightmare and Heathcliff’s death) reinforce this notion. The unnatural qualities that characterize both of these episodes reveal that the realm of the seen and the unseen co-exist. In order to fu lly appreciate the nature of its love story, therefore, Wuthering Heights requires a suspension of disbelief. The reader must exhibit the willingness to believe that anything is possible and also accept that the novel’s two heroes trust in this same doctrine. To achie ve this effect, the author both begins and concludes Catherine and Heathcliff’s story w ith supernatural events. If Emily Bront merely suggests otherworldly possibilities throug h her characters’ vocabulary and


41 behavior (I will discuss this at a later point), therefore, she insists upon its existence through the method in which she structures the lovers’ tale Lockwood’s dream, the first paranormal incident in the novel, holds much significance in the text. Not only does this scene introduce Catherin e Earnshaw (in her present ghostly form), but it also provides the impetus for Nelly’s narrative. Critics offer various theori es regarding the nightmare scene in chapter three. Jacqueline Simpson suggests that Lockwood experiences an actual ghostly encounter, “no mere dream, for it contains elements that cannot come from Lockwood’s subconscious” (54). According to Peter Grudi n, Lockwood does in fact dream this event. However, he interprets the dream as a distinct entity that invades, rather than springs from, Lockwood’s mind: “The dream is not the product of Lockwood’s subconscious, but a quality of the room in which he dreams. The cynical, rational, unimaginative visitor from the city has intercepted a dream intended for Heathcliff” (393). Lockwood’s nocturnal incident—whether it occurs while he lies aw ake or dozing—retains its supernatural qualities. Does Catherine rea lly appear in spirit form? Or does Lockwood merely envision the encounter during a tr oubled sleep? Emily Bront, writing during a time in which the nature of dreams inspired fervent debate, chooses an apt method for introducing Catherine and Heathcliff’s story. Nicola Bown discusses the opposing Victor ian views on dreams in her article, “What is the stuff that dreams are made of?” To summarize briefly, dreams “became an important issue in debates over the nature of consciousness and the relationship between the mind and the external world” (159). The question, in short, was this: Were dreams physiological in nature or supernatural? Thos e who adopted the scientific theory argued


42 that dreams resulted from external, or physic al, causes. Those who sided with the occult explanation believed “that dreams are message s from the immaterial spirit which travels outside the body, meeting with other spirits in supernatural communication” (161). Lewis Carroll’s Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (1865) provides a famous example of an instance in nineteenth century literature wher e the dream occurs as a product of external stimuli. Alice, directly upon awakening from her afternoon nap, elaborates on her wonderful adventures. Her sister—the older, “rational” figure who attends to Alice— ponders the fabulous tale from a prac tical, though envious, perspective: So she sat on, with closed eyes, and half believed herself in Wonderland, though she knew she had but to open them again, and all would change to dull reality—the grass w ould be only rustling in the wind, and the pool rippling to the waving of the reeds—th e rattling teacups would change to tinkling sheep-bells, and the Queen’s shrill cries to the voice of the shepherd boy—and the sneeze of the baby, the shriek of the Gryphon, and all the other queer noises, would ch ange (she knew) to the confused clamour of the busy farmyard—while the lowing of the cattle in the distance would take the place of th e Mock Turtle’s heavy sobs. (Carroll 112-13) Here, the author concludes his amazing stor y by—quite deliberately—asserting to his audience that, though incredible and vividly detailed, Alice’s dream contains nothing of the unnatural. The goings on about her sleepi ng frame, not any paranormal intervention,


43 influence the content of her dream. In Wuthering Heights however, Emily Bront constructs a dream sequence that defies rational explanation. Lockwood’s nightmare stands out for several reasons. Of the most obvious, Bront exploits a popular con cept to its fullest advantag e. The reader, having once encountered Catherine’s desp erate spirit, cannot set the story aside. Beyond that, however, this episode deserves recognition fo r its clever construction. From the onset, Bront exhibits a keen unders tanding of the Victorian dr eam debate. Even more, she plays with it and molds it to suit her purpose. The nightmare itself, for instance, does not surprise the reader. Lockwood foreshadows the event to come with the declaration that his sour mood provokes it: “Alas, for the effect s of bad tea and bad temper! what else could it be that made me pass such a terrible night?” ( WH 18). Not only does Bront choose a skeptic for the victim of this encounter but also she also pr efaces this incident with the skeptic’s argument a nd then methodically breaks do wn his rationalization by inserting details that oppose e xplanation. In the analysis that follows, I will show that what Lockwood attempts to write off as a “ridiculous nightmare” actually reflects a genuine paranormal encounter (24). Snowed in at Wuthering Heights, Lock wood finds refuge in Catherine’s room where he does (contrary to Simpson’s opinion) actually dream. Towards the end of his ordeal with Catherine’s ghost, for instance, he remarks: “I tried to jump up, but could not stir a limb” ( WH 21). This statement suggests that Lockwood is suffering from sleep paralysis, a “frightening form of paralysis that occurs when a person suddenly finds himself or herself unable to move for a fe w minutes, most often upon falling asleep or waking up…. The symptoms of sleep paralysis include sensations of noises, smells,


44 levitation, paralysis, terror, and images of frightening intruders ” (“Definition”). His dream-like state, however, contains an unca nny level of reality. For example, Lockwood appears oddly conscious of his surroundings as he sleeps: “I remembered I was lying in the oak closet, and I heard distinctly the gus ty wind, and the driving of the snow; I heard, also, the fir-bough repeat its teasing sound, and ascribed it to the right cause” ( WH 20). Although the reader knows that Lockw ood dreams, these details emphasize the authenticity of his unconscious experience. This quality, Sheila Smith asserts, applies most significantly to Catherine’s spirit, whic h appears “entirely credible largely because Lockwood’s terror is dramatized by mundane, physical details, objectively described” (501). Ironically, Catherine’s spectral presence proves the very evidence needed to validate this nocturnal encounter. Grudin correct ly identifies Catherin e as a force external to Lockwood’s subconscious. However, hi s suggestion—that she functions as Heathcliff’s “dream”—detracts from her indivi duality and saps her of power. In actuality, the nightmare scene of chapter three shows us something quite different. Catherine, first of all, exhibits autonomous control. She choos es to materialize before a perfect stranger, an outsider who scoffs at superstitious “folly” ( WH 24). Moreover, she penetrates his unconscious, skeptical mind to do so. Yet she refuses to manifest for Heathcliff, who passionately tries to invoke her presence throughout the text (Patsy Stoneman interprets this noncompliance as Heathcliff’s doing. Hi s “obsession with revenge,” she states, “effectively shuts her out of his consci ousness, even though she seems to be its motivation” (532). I propose that Catherine’s invisibility occurs because she chooses to remain unseen, not because Heathcliff’s mate rial preoccupation induces a mental block.


45 As I will discuss later in th e chapter, Catherine willingly—and regularly—appears to Heathcliff after he looks into her coffin the second time. Heathcliff abandons his revenge once he begins to see her appa rition—not the other way around.) Second, Catherine emphasizes her ex istence through her potent words and actions. The depth of character that she e xhibits during this dramatic confrontation appears incongruous with an imagined fiend. Pu t differently, the child ghost insists on the validity of her presen ce; her words suggest genuine sorrow and, hence, an actual past. Thus she bewails her plight, the details of which Lockwood remains presently ignorant: “‘It’s twenty years,’ mourned the voice, ‘twenty years, I’ve been a waif for twenty years!’” ( WH 21). The repetition of the phrase “twe nty years” emphasizes her plight. Catherine cannot rest; her need to connect with Heathcliff, her soul mate, plagues her spirit years after her physical death. As Jac queline Simpson astutely observes, twenty years marks the amount of time that has elap sed since Catherine ag reed to marry Edgar and thus “made herself ‘an exile, an outcas t’ from her true world” (54). Finally, Catherine’s actions reinforce that she ex ists as a genuine entity, independent of Lockwood’s imagination. She shivers with cold like an “exile” banished out into the snow. The blood that pours from her body (and why would Lockwood imagine a ghost bleeding?), symbolizes the passion that keep s her soul alive on th e grounds surrounding Wuthering Heights. The emotions that Lockwood undergoes duri ng this episode heighten the sense of the real. Even in sleep, for instance, Lockw ood maintains his “man of science” persona. When he realizes that the window (the sour ce of the vexatious tappi ng) remains soldered shut, he determines to solv e the annoyance in the most efficient way possible. Taking


46 charge of the situation, he br eaks his “knuckles through the gl ass, and stretch[es] an arm out to seize the importunate branch” ( WH 20). The “horror of nightmare” strikes the sleeper so profoundly, however, that it quickly spurs the meek vis itor to cruelty (20). Lockwood’s barbaric reaction to the mournful spirit indicates the extent of his fear: “I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and r ubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bed-clothes” (21). Throughout this scene, Lockwood main tains the stance that the encounter occurs in real time. He even plugs his ears to block out the wailing and “seemed to keep them closed above a quarter of an hour” (21). Similarly, the transition from unconsciousness to consciousness occurs so subtly that, without a careful reading of the passage, one might miscons true the dream as no dream at all. (Lockwood rouses somewhere between the onset of sleep paralysi s and his scream “of fright” (21). Bront does not indicate the exact moment of awakeni ng.) This (conceivable) confusion elevates the dream’s power. For the reader who mistakes this encounter as an occurrence in the material realm, Lockwood’s spectral visita tion appears undeniable. Either way, the author achieves the same effect: Catherine’s ghost is real. Lockwood’s ambivalent response in the afte rmath of this nightmare reinforces its significance in the text. The “r ational” mind of Lockwood suffe rs from this supernatural encounter. As time passes, he attempts to disguise his unease with sarcasm. When Catherine fails to materialize for Heathcliff, he remarks: “The spect re showed a spectre’s ordinary caprice; it ga ve no sign of being” ( WH 24). Yet his initial re sponse belies this mocking stance. While hurrying to dress, with the shock of seeing Catherine’s spirit still fresh in his memory, Lockwood declares to Heathcliff: “I’m not going to endure the persecutions of your hospitable ancestors ag ain…. And that minx, Ca therine Linton, or


47 Earnshaw, or however she was called—she must have been a changeling—wicked little soul. She told me she had been walking the earth these twenty years” (22). Soon afterwards, Lockwood dubs a cat “Grimalkin” (24) which, as Jacqueline Simpson points out, represents “a stock name for a witch’s ca t” (54). In short, though Lockwood tries to suppress this paranormal encounter, we see that the foundation of his “conventional and orthodox attitude towards the supernatural” has, however temporarily, been shaken (Grudin 403). The remarkable manner in which Heathcliff responds to Lockwood’s experience further stresses the dream’s authenticity. Heat hcliff seems more surprised, for instance, to discover a guest in the room than to hear a bout the supernatural encounter. His whispered words (“Is anyone here?”) are surely meant for Catherine ( WH 21). Thus, he expresses “rage” (excited, perhaps, by disappointment?) after his te nant reveals himself (23). Heathcliff’s attitude towards Lockwood pr ovides more compelling evidence that the incident holds deeper significance. From the beginning of the story, Heathcliff shows nothing but contempt for his unw elcome guest. For example, after suffering an encounter with Heathcliff’s “four-footed fiends,” Lock wood observes: “I felt loath to yield the fellow further amusement, at my expense; si nce [Heathcliff’s] humour took that turn” (4, 5). This incident provides Heathcliff with ample opportunity to further deride his despised guest. Yet he does not ridicule Lockwood’s “frightful nightmare” as the ranting of a madman (22). On the contrary, he accepts Lockwood’s experience as genuine. The “violent emotion” that he suffers from th is account appears through “his irregular and intercepted breathing” (23). Wholeheartedly convinced that Catherine has actually appeared, he implores her to materialize yet again.


48 Lockwood’s nightmare serves a significant f unction in the novel. For one thing, it reveals Heathcliff as a man in agony. His misanthropic demeanor arises, not from devilish origins, but from pain and loss. (W e also see this, to a much lesser extent, in Lucy Snowe. However, she affects an air of indifference—as oppos ed to Heathcliff’s active cruelness—to avoid experiencing additional suffering.) The extent of Heathcliff’s anguish surfaces in his passionate su pplication to the departed ghost: He got onto the bed, and wrenched op en the lattice, bursting, as he pulled at it, into an uncontrollable passion of tears. “Come in! Come in!” he sobbed. “Cathy, do come. Oh do— once more! Oh! my heart’s darling, hear me this time—Catherine, at last!” ( WH 24) More significantly, this event also establishes that Wuthering Heights operates in a fluid world where the natural and the supernatural co-exist. Because we see Catherine’s ghost emerge in the early stages of the novel, we understand right away that this love story defies the laws of time and space. Lockwood’ s nightmare, therefore, in all its brevity, reveals the novel’s central conflict. Cath erine and Heathcliff, though divided by the boundaries that separate the li ving from the dead, desire toge therness. The story cannot end until the main charac ters achieve this union. Heathcliff’s death at the end of the novel demands as much critical attention as does Lockwood’s nightmare at the beginni ng. Its unifying purpose is obvious: The lovers’ story commences with Catherine’s ghos tly intrusion upon the material realm, and it concludes with Heathcliff’s departure fo r the spirit world. This event, however, transcends its function as a seemingly c onvenient narrative device. It also, via the


49 paranormal qualities that it exhibits, reinforc es Catherine and Heathcliff’s unnatural (and therefore unbreakable) connection. Unlike Lockw ood’s dream sequence, nobody witnesses Heathcliff’s passing firsthand. Noneth eless, the aftermath of his death exudes an intensity on par with the nocturnal visita tion scene in chapter three. Several factors contribute to its supernatural undertones. Nelly’s demeanor, Heathcliff’s physical state, and evidence of a ghostly encounter a ll point to a paranormal occurrence. As with Lockwood’s dream sequence, Bront emphasizes the supernatural significance of this event by utilizing a skeptical witne ss whose logical perspective breaks down in the face of the irrational. Ne lly, like Lockwood, strives to reject the paranormal. Throughout the text, however, she remains inconsistent in her beliefs: “by nature she is superstitious, and even has a capacity for psychic experiences which she resolutely rationalizes away, but the whole conscious effort of her mind is towards conventional morality and religion” (Simpson 52). Evidence of her clairvoyance manifests when she witnesses “Hindley’s wrai th” at the crossroads between Thrushcross Grange, Wuthering Heights, and Gimmerton (56). Jacqueline Simpson observes the “genuine psychic experience” of this event: “The appari tion does forebode Hindley’s doom; it comes at a time when Heathcliff has se t him irrevocably on the road to ruin and death, even if death itself only occurs a year later” (56). Nelly exhibits her prophetic powers once again when she dreams of Heathc liff’s funeral shortly before his untimely demise. As a character who desires to convey “conventional morality and religion,” however, Nelly does not embrace her second sight (52). During a conversation with Lockwood, Ne lly expresses her admiration of the rational, learned mind when she describes hers elf as a “reasonable kind of body”: “I have


50 undergone sharp discipline which has taught me wisdom; and then, I have read more than you would fancy, Mr. Lockwood. You could not open a book in this library that I have not looked into, and got so mething out of also” ( WH 55). Acknowledgement of paranormal activity, she unders tands, clashes with the “wisdom” of the skeptic. Nonetheless, Nelly cannot quell her inherent ability to see into the “other” world. As a psychic in denial, therefore, her response to Heathcliff’s death proves as strikingly effective as does Lockwood’s reaction to hi s dream. When she first discovers the cadaver, Nelly mistakes the appearance of death for life. Only the logi cal part of her mind forces her to consider otherwis e: “I could not think him dead— but his face and throat were washed with rain; the bed-clothes dri pped, and he was perfectly still” (298; my emphasis). The servant’s extrasensory instinct s refute what common sense dictates. Thus, she touches his skin for confirmation: “I could doubt no more—he was dead and stark!” (298). Still, however, Nelly remains unconvin ced. Her actions contradict her words. Despite the physical facts, she does “doubt” Heathcliff’s death. Though she wants to believe that “the dead are at peace,” her attitude towards the cadaver suggests otherwise (300). Stirred by the intuitive impulse that Heathcliff somehow exists beyond the physical form placed before her, she experi ences a “fit of cowardice” and does not want to remain alone with the body (298). The state of Heathcliff’s remains, and the uncanny factors surrounding his death, further indicates otherworldly intervention. Wh en Nelly espies his corpse, she relates its unnatural appearance: “His eyes met mine so keen and fierce…; and then, he seemed to smile” ( WH 298). This macabre image, enhanced by the “life-like gaze of exultation” stamped upon his features, questions (rather than affirms) Heathcliff’s extermination


51 (298). This episode lacks the sense of finality so readily evident in many other nineteenth century death scenes. (Consider, for instance, Jude’s miserable and lonely end or Giles Winterborne’s last incoherent moments w ith the woman he loves—seen in Thomas Hardy’s Jude the Obscure and The Woodlanders respectively). To provide a better understanding of how this aff ects our reading of Heathcliff’s demise, perhaps we should consider the death of another “villainous” ch aracter from Victorian literature: Quilp, the evil dwarf. Quilp, of Charles Dickens’ The Old Curiosity Shop (1841), equals (perhaps even surpasses) Heathcliff in malevolence. He subjects his wife to psychological abuse, physically accosts whomever he chooses, and expresses the ominous desire to make Nell his ‘number two’ ( OCS 48). His manipulative tact ics—“cunning, trickery, and evasion”—serve to satiate his greedy nature (370). In other wo rds, he enacts cruelty for cruelty’s sake. The violent manner in which he dies evokes a sens e of poetic justice: The strong tide filled his throat, and bore him on, upon its rapid current. Another mortal struggle, and he was up again, beating the water with his hands, and looking out, with wild and glaring ey es that showed him some black object, he was driftin g close upon. The hull of a ship! He could touch its smooth and slippery surface with his hand. One loud cry, now—but the resistless water bore him down before he could give it utterance, and, driving him under it, carried away a corpse. (525) Here, Dickens reveals the “mortal struggle” between life and death. These vivid details allow the reader to experience the vitality ebbing from the victim. The reader does not


52 have that luxury in Wuthering Heights By orchestrating Heathc liff’s demise offstage, Bront robs the event of closure. Since, we do not see the transition from life to death occur, we cannot say with authority that H eathcliff ceases “to be.” Furthermore, Quilp degenerates into an object the instant he expires. Dick ens emphasizes his state of nothingness by describing the “deserted carca ss” as the “ugly plaything” of its environment; no longer of the living, the villa in becomes an “it” (525). Heathcliff, however, maintains his identity even in deat h. Thus, his body refuses to adopt a peaceful countenance despite Nelly’s well-intentione d effort. His eyes “would not shut—they seemed to sneer at my attempts, and his part ed lips and sharp, white teeth sneered too!” ( WH 298). Finally, Quilp’s drowning reflects the ca llous and emotionally isolated life he chose to live. The aftermath of Heathcliff’ s mysterious passing, however, suggests the opposite. Recalling Heathcliff’s heartfelt appeal in chapter three, his “gaze of exultation” also suggests the ultimate triumph—reunion wi th Catherine. Severa l circumstances in this scene echo that of Lockwood’s nightmare. These similarities in timate that Catherine has finally acquiesced to Heathc liff’s plea and materialized in spirit form once more. The setting, for instance, remains the same. Both Heathcliff’s death and Lockwood’s nocturnal meeting occur in Catherine’s room The state of Heathcliff’s body, furthermore, recalls Lockwood’s brutal treatment of Catherine’s spirit. The window, opened by Lockwood in dream, is found “flapping to and fro” by Heathcliff’s body ( WH 298). Furthermore, his hand rests—lacerate d—on the very windowsill where the ghostly


53 Catherine bleeds on the bed sheets and begs for admittance.23 The implication is clear: “Heathcliff’s spirit has fled, with its compan ion, out of the window to freedom” (Grudin 401).24 Lockwood’s nightmare and Heathcliff’s d eath frame the novel’s central conflict. Their significance, however, transcends this simple narrative function. They also establish the supernatural foundation of Wuthering Heights Both scenes, with their paranormal imagery, insist on the endurance of life beyond death (or the coexistence of the spiritual and material realms). Cather ine, who enters the text through Lockwood’s dream world, truly does exist. Heathcliff dies only to be reborn on another level of reality. Nelly’s announcement that the some of the locals, including Joseph, have seen Catherine and Heathcliff wandering the area re inforces this notion: “[T]hat old man by the kitchen fire affirms he has seen two on ’em, looking out of his chamber window, on every rainy night since his death” ( WH 299). Finally, the author brilliantly reasserts Wuthering Heights’ otherworldly foundation through th e novel’s concluding paragraph. Emily Bront, subtly exercising her k nowledge of folklore, forms Lockwood’s “final denial” of the supernatur al in a way that actually en courages contradiction (Grudin 404): Moths, especially when they appear in the early evening, have a strong folkloric association with the soul s of the dead. Harebells are fairy 23 Jacqueline Simpson, who acknowle dges this similarity as well, also notes parallels between Catherine’s death and Heathcliff’s. “His restlessness becomes acute towards the end of March, the season of Catherine’s death; he refuses food for four days, as she did at the onset of her illness; he dies in the bed he had shared with her in childhood, by the window where her ghost had appeared, and with his hand grazed by the flapping lattice, just as her wrist had been gashed by the pane in Lockwood’s vision” (59-60). 24 According to Grudin, the window “represents the boundary between this world and the next” (398).


54 flowers, and, since the fairies themselv es are often indistinguishable from the dead, suggest another connection with the very beliefs Lockwood is attempting to discredit. (404) This authorial insistence th at reality encompasses both the seen and the unseen ties directly into Catherine and Heathcliff’s paga n beliefs, as they “s how themselves in the crises of their lives to be passionate and wholehearted be lievers in ghosts and omens” (Simpson 51). The two events discussed above reveal two things: First, the world in which Catherine and Heathcliff live also inco rporates the world of “ghosts and goblins” ( WH 22). Second, the heart of this novel revolves on these lo vers striving for reunion in this spiritual realm. In the following section, therefore, I will show how Catherine and Heathcliff’s belief in this other world in fluences their actions throughout the text. II Why do Catherine and Heathcliff behave th e way they do? Monica German, in her article entitled “The Ghost and the Brow nie: Scottish Influences on Emily Bront,” outlines the Bront family’s knowledge of Sco ttish folklore and literature. She provides compelling evidence to support her thesis, s upplemented with examples of Scottish influences apparent in Emily’s work. Given that this culture impacted Emily’s writing, German’s observation regarding the portrayal of the paranormal in Scottish literature deserves some consideration. Common preternatural beings include brownies, “ghosts, fairies and changelings” (Ger man 96). She continues: The frequency and copiousness of su ch supernatural manifestations— typically associated with the haunt ed glens and castles of Scotland— suggests the lack of definitive boundari es between supernatural and ‘real’


55 worlds. The realm of the unseen, possi bly derived from the notion of a Celtic immanent Otherworld—in place of a transcendent Christian Heaven—bears a seamless con tinuity with the ordinary, palpable world of the seen. (96) Emily Bront’s fictional world (as I have illu strated through my analysis of Lockwood’s dream and Heathcliff’s death) reflec ts this sense of fluidity. With Villette Charlotte Bront portrays the supernatural as a fictiona l construct of the prot agonist’s mind. In both cases, however, the author relies on her c onception of “reality” to emphasize that her characters relate to the world in a psychologically consistent way. Lucy Snowe trusts in the traditional concept of heaven. The soul does not continue to exist on earth afte r the body expires. Thus, when she realizes th at she cannot live without love, she discards the fantastical (which perpet uates her loneliness) in an effort to discover happiness in the material world. Emily Bront provides a different scenario. She creates two char acters who, like Lucy, lead di scontented lives. In a world where two realms co-exist, however, the road to happiness leads in a dissimilar direction. Catherine and Heathcliff whol eheartedly believe in the “realm of the unseen.” Upon death, they expect to enter th is “immanent Otherworld” where they may exist freely for all eternity—with no “Christi an” judgments cast upon them—on the moors they dearly love. Catherine and Heathcliff’s actions may baffle the reader. However, if we understand the characters’ central philosophy and apply it to their behavior in various scenes, we uncover consistencies where inc onsistencies first appear. In short, Emily Bront “use[s] the supernatural, as Charlotte Bront does, to su stain the narrative’s psychological insights” (Smith 499).


56 As a teenager, Catherine forsakes heaven in favor of the supernatural, unseen realm of Wuthering Heights. In the following passage, she details a dream to Nelly in which she ascends to the Christian hereafter following her death: “[H]eaven did not seem to be my home; and I broke my heart with weep ing to come back to earth; and the angels were so angry that they flung me out, into the middle of the heath on the top of Wuthering Heights; where I woke sobbing for joy” ( WH 71). (As we have already witnessed her ghost in chapter th ree, this episode suggests that she willfully chooses to haunt Wuthering Heights and its grounds.) During the same scene, she also articulates her belief in the power of soul mates. She a nd Heathcliff share “a dark, occult communion between kindred spirits” which neither marriage nor death may shatter (MacAndrew 184): [S]urely you and every body have a notion that there is, or should be, an existence of yours beyond you…. Nelly, I am Heathcliff—he’s always, always in my mind—not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself—but, as my ow n being—so, don’t talk of our separation again—it is impracticable. ( WH 72-73) Catherine’s feelings for Heathcliff transce nd love and, as she implies, time and space. Thus, though she would prefer to wed him, she recognizes that this is not essential—and certainly not practical since Hindley has “br ought Heathcliff so low” (71). Viewed from this perspective, her marriage to Edgar has “nothing to do with her natural, permanent, and unbreakable attachment to Heathcliff” (M acAndrew 184). This event represents an ephemeral affair, whereas reunion with Heat hcliff in the afterlif e—as ghosts haunting Wuthering Heights together—rep resents an eternal utopia.


57 Catherine’s inveterate belief in the otherw orldly appears at its most potent during the delirium scene in chapter twelve. Here, her “feverish bewilderment” escalates to the point of “madness” as she perceives herself to be a child once agai n at Wuthering Heights ( WH 108). In this altered state of mind, she divulges the full extent of her beliefs in “omens, folk-beliefs and ghostlore” (Simpson 57). She seems convinced that “the room is haunted,” declares that her dreams disturb her, and believes that a spirit has taken the place of her reflection in the mirror ( WH 109). Indeed, Catherine’s fearful reaction to her own image suggests that “[s]he thinks that she has seen her ‘fet ch,’ a kind of double whose appearance at midnight predicts the death of the beholder” (Grudin 390). Her peculiar behavior also reveals her familiarity with witchcraft. Thus, she watches Nelly picking up feathers and her subconscious distrust of her expresses itself by imagining her an old woman “gathering elf-bolts to hurt our heifers” near “the fairy cave under Peninstone Crag.” Later, discovering that Nelly has indeed “pla yed traitor” and been her “hidden enemy,” she tries to attack her phys ically, crying “You witch! So you do seek elf-bolts to hurt us!” … Clearly Catherine shares the belief that to assault a witch will force her to ta ke off her spell. (Simpson 57-58)25 During this episode Catherine also foresees her own haunting. In addressing the absent Heathcliff, she implores him to join her in the grave: “Heathcliff, if I dare you now, will you venture?… I’ll not lie there by myself; th ey may bury me twelve feet deep… but I won’t rest till you are with me” ( WH 111-12). Prophetic as these words are, they also 25 Elf Bolts are arrowheads supposedly “manufactur ed by fairies and WITCHES for use in causing harm, shot at humans or livestock” (Franklin 76). Acco rding to Carole Silver, the aftereffects were severe: “The wound inflicted by an elf arrow could result in excruciating pain or put on e in a deathlike trance or cause apparent death” (169).


58 emphasize the novel’s central conflict. Neither Catherine nor Heathcliff will “rest” until their spirits reunite on the moors. The follo wing excerpt touches on this theme: “She paused, and resumed with a strange smile, ‘He’ s considering… he’d rather I’d come to him! Find a way then! not through that Kirkya rd… You are slow! Be content, you always followed me!” (112). According to Peter Grud in, “[t]his passage c ontains … a prophecy of Heachliff’s ‘slow’ and agonizing quest for reunion with his lost love…. the Kirk stands for a condition prior to this reunion: Heathcli ff’s death” (395). Even during her final moments, Catherin e’s otherworldly perspective does not waiver: She perceives mortality as a mere re st stop on the way to her destination—the afterlife. True happiness awaits her on the moors in the spir it dimension. With this eternal paradise to look forward to, she accepts the “prison” which comprises her physical existence only as long as it gives her pleasure ( WH 141). In childhood, this happiness amounts to outdoor excursions with Heathcliff: “But it was one of their chief amusements to run away to the moors in the morni ng and remain there all day, and the after punishment grew a mere thing to laugh at” (4 0). As an adult, Catherine finds material contentment in her marriage to Edgar and experiences joy in the time she spends with Heathcliff at Thrushcross Grange. The desire to quit her material body arises only when Edgar forces her to choose between himself and Heathcliff. Unwilling to “live divided,” she chooses death (MacAndrew 184). Catherine’s seemingly incomprehensible d ecisions—first to marry Edgar and then to die—relate directly to he r faith in spirits and the afte rlife. When the physical world loses its worth, Bront’s heroine looks to regain the happiness of her youth by reconnecting with nature, he r ultimate “home” with Heathcliff. ‘Oh, I’m burning!’ she


59 tells Nelly. ‘I wish I were out of doors—I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free… and laughing at injuries, not madde ning under them! … I’m sure I should be myself were I once among the heather on those hills’ ( WH 111). To achieve the profound happiness of her childhood, however, Catherin e recognizes that she must sever her present social and material bonds. Only death will provide her with the absolute freedom she requires. Her declaration to Edgar, th erefore, boasts a victorious tone: ‘What you touch at present, you may have; but my soul will be on that hill-top before you lay hands on me again’ (113). For Catherine, the “Otherworld” promises the kind of rapturous liberation that she and Heathcliff experienced as children “among the heather on those hills.” Her demeanor at this time reflects that of an individual who has thought long and deeply on a subject and feels no doubts or regrets. Consequently, her longing for death pe rsists even as her health fails. During her final hours, for instan ce, she speaks to Nelly and Heathcliff of her imminent demise as a celebratory event: I’m wearying to escape into that glori ous world, and to be always there; not seeing it dimly through tears, an d yearning for it through the walls of an aching heart; but really with it, and in it. Nelly, you think you are better and more fortunate than I; in full health and strength—you are sorry for me—very soon that will be altered. I shall be sorry for you I shall be incomparably beyond and above you all. ( WH 141) The evidence in the text suggests that Cather ine does indeed approach her heaven as her physical body loses its vitality. Nelly, with her psychic intuition, unwittingly acknowledges the palpable pres ence of this “glorious worl d” as her patient’s health


60 declines. For Catherine’s eyes she explains, “appeared always to gaze beyond, and far beyond—you would have said out of this worl d” (137-38). Thus, we see the heroine’s “unearthly beauty” shine through as she quick ly approaches her c onversion to ethereal form (137). III Heathcliff, at first, seems a walking c ontradiction. If he loves Catherine as strongly as he professes, then why does he consciously strive to destroy those whom she cares for after her death? Why, when he then has the power to en act the most damage, does he suddenly forfeit his revenge? What appears incongruous on the surface, however, actually reflects the consistent —though complex—rationale of a man in grief. As we see throughout the novel, Heathcliff sh ares Catherine’s faith in gh osts and the afterlife. He also, in a sense, shares her “soul.” Yet Wuthering Heights’ “villain” does not discard the material realm as easily as Catherine. He re mains rooted in earthly pleasures such as physical love and revenge. When his lover dies, therefore, Heathcliff focuses on the tangibles. His retaliatory tactics against Hindley and Edgar reflect his desire for personal gratification. There remains, however, a gr eater underlying cause for these actions (and this very cause paradoxically serves to reconcile his acti ons to his love): His desire to rouse Catherine’s ghost. In short, Heathc liff’s callous and venge ful behavior against Catherine’s loved ones springs primarily fr om two sources—his passion for Catherine and his belief in the supernatural. Heathcliff’s entire existence centers on Catherine. As Elizabeth MacAndrew observes: “When Cathy says she is Heathcliff, she states that she is his very soul, the force that orients him” (184; my emphasis). We ther efore see “two sides of the same


61 ambivalent character”—the lover (of Catherine) and the hater (of his opposition) (German 111). Crude manners and repeated acts of violence alienate Heathcliff from the other characters in the text His appearance alone evokes re ferences to the devil from Hindley; his barbaric nature leads Isabella to view him as a monster. Even the mild tempered Edgar feels compelled to call his rival “a most diabolical man” ( WH 196). Fiendish as he appears, how ever, Heathcliff loves as strongly (and arguably more than) those who condemn him. One of the most poi gnant scenes in the novel, for instance, involves “the black v illain” himself (99). You loved me—then what right had you to leave me? What right—answer me—for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery, and degradation, and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart— you have broken it—and in breaking it, you have broken mine. So much the worse for me, that I am str ong. Do I want to live? What kind of living will it be when you—oh God! would you like to live with your soul in the grave? (142) This passage, which occurs shortly before Ca therine’s death, indicate s the extent of the central characters’ spiritual and emotional inte rdependence. It also reveals that Heathcliff shares Catherine’s view of the afterlife. By declaring that “God” and “Satan” wield no power over their union, he effectively cements himself in the pagan world which Bront has created. This quotation, however, also une arths a striking difference between the lovers with regard to their emphasis on th e material (present) versus the hereafter (future).


62 Whereas Catherine looks fondly on her eventual happiness with Heathcliff, Heathcliff focuses only on the here and now. His obsession with the immediate moment (i.e. the earthly experience) explains why, as a boy, he tolerates Hindley’s abuse without flinching, yet vows revenge the instant that he perceives th e elder Earnshaw obstructing his chance to wed Catherine: “I’m trying to se ttle how I shall pay Hindley back,” he tells Nelly. “I don’t care how long I wait, if I can only do it, at last. I hope he will not die before I do!” ( WH 53). Consequently, Catherine’s marriage to Edgar evokes the same wrathful feelings. Heathcliff’ s regard for Catherine, however, curbs him from acting on his vindictive impulses. Indee d, Catherine appears aware of the influence she exercises over her childhood companion. When Nelly expresses concern upon learning that Heathcliff resides with Hindley at Wuthering Heights, therefore, Catherine seems almost indifferent. Her brother, she declares, “can’t be made morally worse than he is; and I stand between him and bodily harm” (88). In a later scene Heathcliff, notorious for his indulgence in violence, exhibits an impressi ve (and rare) stroke of self-command when he speaks to Nelly of Edgar: “I wish you had sincerity enough to tell me whether Catherine would suffer greatly from his loss. The fear that she would restrains me” (131; my emphasis). Even after Catherine’s body expires, her spirit continue s to influence Heathcliff. Consumed with his passion for her, “ his en tire life [becomes] a search for reunion with her, a tormented wait for her to call him” (MacAndrew 184). The early stages of this “search” reveal the straightforward approach. Wh en Nelly states that her mistress’s spirit rests quietly in heaven, Heathc liff staunchly asserts the cont rary. “Where is she? Not there —not in heaven—not perished—where?” ( WH 147). Heathcliff’s conviction that she


63 continues to exist despite her physical death manifests in his animated plea for her to appear in spectral form: “Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest, as long as I am living! You said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe—I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be w ith me always—take any form—drive me mad!” (147-48). Initially, his re quest meets with success. On the night of her burial, as Heathcliff unearths her grave, Catherine reassures him with her invisible presence. I was on the point of attaining my obj ect, when it seemed that I heard a sigh from some one above, close at the edge of the grave…. There was another sigh, close at my ear. I appe ared to feel the warm breath of it displacing the sleet-laden wind. I knew no living thing in flesh and blood was by—but as certainly as you perceive the approach to some substantial body in the dark, though it cannot be di scerned, so certainly I felt that Cathy was there, not under me, but on the earth. (256) Catherine’s presence at this moment should soothe Heathcliff’s torment. However, Heathcliff obsesses over the corporeal. His insa tiable need to have Catherine by his side leaves him dissatisfied with this transitory slippage between these two worlds. Thus he spends the remainder of his life attempting to break down th e barrier between the living and the dead. When he cannot find Catherine in Wuthering Heights or on the moors, therefore, he attempts to provoke her spirit into materialization by lashing out at those closest to her heart. Heathcliff’s determination to crus h Hindley and Edgar crescendos after Catherine’s death. However, in underhandedl y obtaining his foes’ property, Heathcliff


64 aims at more than personal gratification. Fo r, “however complicated his revenge, it is she [Catherine] who is still the center of his tempestuous world” (MacAndrew 183). Angered by her abandonment and desperate to feel he r presence, Heathcliff attempts to rouse Catherine’s spirit the only way that he knows how—by consciously injuring those whom she would protect while alive. When Hindley attempts to injure him on the night of Catherine’s funeral, therefore, Heathcliff’s re sponse transcends that of self-preservation. In an instant, he reverses their positions With Hindley lying unconscious from a knife wound, Heathcliff swiftly undertak es the role of attacker: “The ruffian kicked and trampled on him, and dashed his head repeatedly against the flags” ( WH 157). Consumed with fury and desperation,26 Heathcliff appears here at his most villainous. Isabella, perhaps subconsciously, recognizes her husband ’s underlying motive in this scene when she later remarks to Hindley: “Catherine us ed to boast that she stood between you and bodily harm—she meant that certain persons would not hurt you, for fear of offending her. It’s well people don’t really rise from their grave, or last night, she might have witnessed a repulsive scene!” (159). Eventuall y, Heathcliff’s anger culminates in drastic results. Hindley’s suspicious demise a few m onths later appears the direct result of his violent temper. Found in a drunken stupor, Cath erine’s brother quickly “change[s] into carrion” under Heathcli ff’s supervision (165). The desire to rouse Catherine’s spirit also shapes his revenge against Edgar. Uninterested in physically attacking “the sl avering, shivering thi ng” Catherine married, 26 Heathcliff reflects on this scene later in the novel. Having just felt Catherine’s presence at the graveyard, he hastens to Wuthering Heights in search of her. “‘I remember, that accursed Earnshaw and my wife opposed my entrance. I remember stopping to kick the breath out of him, and then hurrying upstairs, to my room, and hers—I looked round impatiently—I felt her by me—I could almost see her, and yet I could not I ought to have sweat blood then, from the anguish of my yearning, from the fervour of my supplications to have but one glimpse! I had not one. She showed herself, as she often was in life, a devil to me!’” (256-57).


65 Heathcliff steadfastly schemes to injure Edgar through his most prized possession—his daughter ( WH 102). When he finally traps Cathy in side Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff appears almost exultant in vi ctory. Indeed, Cathy’s impassione d supplications to visit her father increase his determination to keep th e two separated: “Miss Linton, I shall enjoy myself remarkably in thinking your father will be miserable; I shall not sleep for satisfaction” (242). By forci ng her to marry Linton, furthe rmore, Heathcliff effectively robs Edgar of both child and property. Ca thy, a mere pawn in Heathcliff’s plans, shrewdly discerns the true origin of his ru thlessness when she remarks: “Mr. Heathcliff … your cruelty rises from your greater misery! You are miserable, are you not?” (254). Heathcliff’s “greater misery” arises from Catherine’s refusal to materialize in spirit form. When she finally does appear before Heathcliff, the latter no longer experiences the need to seek revenge. On the contrary, the disgust he feels for his enemies’ children dwindles into a state of indifference: “My old enemies have not beaten me—now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives—I could do it; and none could hinder me—But where is the use? I don’ t care for striking, I can’t take the trouble to raise my hand! … I have lo st the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing .” ( WH 287; my emphasis) Catherine’s appearance (which commences a nd then gradually incr eases in frequency after he opens her coffin for the second time) al so forces Heathcliff to recognize that he has erred in focusing on earthly matters. The sight of Catherine reminds him that the happiness which he seeks exists, not in the physical realm, but in the world beyond. On


66 perceiving Catherine’s spectral fo rm before him, he tells Nelly: “To-day, I am in sight of my heaven—I have my eyes on it—h ardly three feet to sever me!” ( WH 292). In addition to abandoning his revenge, H eathcliff also forfeits the fundamental necessities for sustaining life—food and slee p. As he explains to Nelly, the physical realm no longer holds any interest for him: “I have to remind myself to breathe— almost to remind my heart to beat! And it is like bending back a stiff sp ring … it is by compulsion that I do the slightest act not prompted by one thought, and by compulsion, that I notice anything alive or dead, which is not associated with one universal idea … I have a single wish, and my whole being and faculties are yearning to attain it. They have yearned towards it so long, and so unwaveringly, that I’m convinced it will be reached—and soon —because it has devoured my existence—I am swallowed in the anticipation of its fulfilment.” (289) Heathcliff’s “single wish,” to reunite with his dead love, results in a physical decline which mirrors Catherine’s demise earlier in the novel. Nelly, as with Catherine, observes Heathcliff’s sixth sense strengthen as his body weakens. Thus, the servant notes Heathcliff’s attraction to an object invisible to all but hi mself which “was not fixed, either; his eyes pursued it with unwearied vi gilance, and, even in speaking to me, were never weaned away” (295). Heathcliff, confid ent in the existence of his heaven on earth, and completely absorbed in his passion for Cath erine, gradually allows the latter to draw him into the “spirit world” (MacAndrew 184).


67 IV Reality in the world of Wuthering Heights encompasses both the seen and the unseen. In fact, “the novel’s power lies in Emily Bront’s perception of the supernatural as an essential dimension of the actual” (Smith 516; my emphasis). These two realms collide during Lockwood’s nightma re and Heathcliff’s death: Both instances reveal the dead interacting with the living. Yet what does this achieve? On one level (the most obvious), these fantastic events promote the ul timate love story: Tw o lovers, separated by material circumstances, reunite in the afterlif e. On a deeper level, however, the author also presents us with a compelling psychological study. “Psychology, which had preoccupied the eighteenth century, was beco ming increasingly a subject of general and scientific interest” dur ing the Victorian era (MacAndrew 152). With Wuthering Heights we see that Bront grasps the complexity of the psyche and portray s it in a unique, yet psychologically realistic way. Though Catherin e and Heathcliff may act bizarrely, their words and decisions remain consistent with their central belief system. These characters understand the dual reality in whic h they live, and embrace it. Though Bront frames Wuthering Heights as a ghost story, her tale is not about ghosts per se. Rather it functions as a commentary on the power of the soul: “What it [the novel] reveals is not a social picture of nineteenth-century life on the Yorkshire moors, but the restless human spirit that cannot be content with the respectable humdrum of everyday” (MacAndrew 206). For Catherine and Heathcliff, apparitions and prescience (among others) represent an authen tic facet of th e everyday. With Villette we see the exact opposite. Lucy Snowe struggles to overcome her emotional investment in the fantastic which, in terms of the reality that Charlotte Bront constr ucts, represents the


68 imaginary. Although these characters indulge in an ideology which contrasts with Lucy’s, Catherine and Heathcliff achieve the same em otional fulfillment as Charlotte’s heroine. When circumstances in the physical realm do not satisfy their expectations, Catherine and Heathcliff seek contentment elsewhere. Fo r Emily Bront’s lovers, first separated by marriage and then by death, “only a supernatur al otherworld can resolve the conflicts they experience” (Grudin 391). Unhappily cons tricted in the corporeal world by social and material conventions, they relinquish their bodies so that their spirits may roam free together on the moors.


69 Conclusion Villette both commences and ends in a ma tter-of-fact style. Its simple, straightforward opening senten ce describes a place of Lucy Snowe’s childhood: “My godmother lived in a handsome house in th e clean and ancient town of Bretton” ( Villette 7). Its succinct, concluding lin es refer to the material successes of three of Lucy’s acquaintances: “Madame Beck prospered all th e days of her life; so did Pre Silas; Madame Walravens fulfilled he r ninetieth year before sh e died. Farewell” (546). The bulk of the novel retains this r ealistic flavor, particularly with regard to the protagonist’s psychological complexity. Supernatural im agery does, however, periodically intrude upon the narrative. And, at other times, th e paranormal assumes a physical presence— namely in the form of a ghostly nun. Yet, w ith this novel, Charlotte Bront refuses to base the fantastic in reality. Elements of the surreal originate from the combined loneliness and overactive imagin ation of the protagonist. Huma n actions (not mysterious powers) produce the appearance of the supposed resident ghost. While Charlotte Bront’s work may or may not speak for her own set of beliefs, it certainly offers a vivid portrayal of one system of Victorian thought—that of the supernatural as Imaginary. In Wuthering Heights the preternatural requires no explanation. Apparitions materialize as genuine phenomena, dream s contain prophetic power, and second sight seems plausible. Even folkloric creatures make regular appearances through character discourse. Though characters like Nelly and Lo ckwood attempt to rationalize firsthand


70 experiences and secondhand accounts, the text it self does not promote this skeptical view. When Heathcliff dies at the end of the novel, therefore, he does not disappear from the narrative like Paul Emanuel in Villette On the contrary, he co ntinues to inhabit both Wuthering Heights and the surr ounding countryside with his soul mate Catherine. As Nelly informs Lockwood, “the country folks, if you asked them, would swear on their Bible that he walks There are those who speak to havi ng met him near the church, and on the moor, and even within this house” ( WH 299). Emily Bront’s complex novel of love, death, and revenge advocates a nineteenth century viewpoint opposite to that expressed in Villette This work clearly represents the Victor ian perspective of th e supernatural as Real. Charlotte and Emily Bront, in the nove ls mentioned above, create contrasting versions of reality. Even so, the supernatur al permeates both of these narratives. To reconcile this apparent cont radiction, we must recogni ze that the Bronts include otherworldly manifest ations which conform specifically to the rules that govern their respective realities. Whereas the paranormal surfaces via the imagination (and physically, in the form of a hoax) in Villette therefore, ghosts litera lly haunt the moors of Wuthering Heights Moreover, despite these fundamental diffe rences, the supernatural performs the same function in both novels. Whether Imag inary or Real, it contributes to the psychological realism of the novels’ protagon ists: Lucy, Catherine, and Heathcliff. Lucy Snowe, suffering from continual is olation, suppresses her emotions through her vivid imagination. Her response to th e ghostly nun—a force outside of her control— demonstrates this internal struggle. As sh e discovers the courage to acknowledge her feelings (symbolized by the attack agains t the nun) and express them to Paul, the


71 supernatural phenomena subsequently fade fr om the text. Unlike Lucy, Catherine and Heathcliff do not restrain their feelings. On the contrary, they parade their emotions before the world—unconcerned with how thei r behavior may affect those around them. Their attitude toward spirits and the unseen realm mirrors the nature of their eternal devotion to one another. Accordingly, their thoughts and actions reflect their ultimate desire: reunion in the afterlif e. Thus we see that, in Villette Lucy requires an earthly event—an engagement to Paul—to aid in her discovery of true happiness. On the other hand, Catherine and Heathcliff require an otherworldly solution—death. In both instances, the Bronts draw on aspects of the su pernatural to illuminate the credibility of their characters’ psychology. The manner in which Lucy, Catherine, and Heathcliff respond to the supernatural in their respective realities plays an integral role in their individual journey toward emotional fulfillment.


72 References Cited Bown, Nicola, Carolyn Burdett, and Pamela Thurschwell. Introduction. The Victorian Supernatural Ed. Nicola Bown, Carolyn Burdet t, and Pamela Thurschwell. New York: Cambridge UP, 2004. 1-19. Bown, Nicola. “What is the stuff that dreams are made of?” The Victorian Supernatural Ed. Nicola Bown, Carolyn Burdett, a nd Pamela Thurschwell. New York: Cambridge UP, 2004. 151-72. Briggs, Katharine. An Encyclopedia of Fairies: Hobgoblins, Brownies, Bogies, And Other Supernatural Creatures. New York: Pantheon, 1976. Briggs, Katharine. “The English Fairies.” Folklore 68.1 (1957): 270-87. Bront Charlotte. Villette Ed. Helen M. Cooper. New York: Penguin, 2004. Bront, Emily. Wuthering Heights Ed. Ian Jack. New York: Oxford UP, 1998. Carroll, Lewis. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland. The Complete Illustrated Lewis Carroll. Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Editions, 1996. 15-113. Clery, E. J. “The Genesi s of ‘Gothic’ Fiction.” The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction Ed. Jerrold E. Hogle. New York: Cambridge UP, 2002. 21-39. Davies, Owen. Witchcraft, Magic and Culture : 1736-1951 New York: Manchester UP, 1999. “Definition of Sleep paralysis.” 7 January 2007. .


73 Dickens, Charles. The Old Curiosity Shop. Ed. Paul Schlicke. Rutland, VT: J. M. Dent, 2000. Dunwich, Gerina. Dunwich’s Guide to Gemstone Sorcery: Using Stones for Spells, Amulets,Rituals, and Divination. Franklin Lakes, NJ: New Page Career, 2003. Forsythe, Beverly. “The Two Faces of Lucy Snowe: A Study in Deviant Behavior.” Studies in the Novel 29.1 (1997): 17-25. Franklin, Anna. The Illustrated Encycl opaedia of Fairies. Vega: London, 2002. German, Monica. “The Ghost and the Brow nie: Scottish Influences on Emily Bront.” Women’s Writing 14.1 (2007): 91-116. Grudin, Peter D. “ Wuthering Heights : The Question of Unquiet Slumbers.” Studies in the Novel 6.4 (1974): 389-405. Hogle, Jerrold E. “Introduction: The Gothic in Western Culture.” The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction Ed. Jerrold E. Hogle. New York: Cambridge UP, 2002. 1-20. Johnson, E. D. H. “‘Daring the Dread Glan ce’: Charlotte Bront’s Treatment of the Supernatural in Villette .” Nineteenth Century Fiction 20.4 (1966): 325-36. Lewis, James R. Witchcraft Today: An Encyclopedia of Wiccan and Neopagan Traditions Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 1999. MacAndrew, Elizabeth. The Gothic Tradition in Fiction New York: Columbia UP, 1979.


74 Milbank, Alison. “The Victorian Gothic in English Novels and Stories, 1830-1880.” The Cambridge Companion to Gothic Fiction Ed. Jerrold E. Hogle. New York: Cambridge UP, 2002. 145-65. Rose, Carol. Spirits, Fairies, Leprechauns, and Goblin s: An Encyclopedia of the Little People. Santa Barbara, California: ABC-CLIO, 1996. Silver, Carole G. Strange and Secret Peoples: Fair ies and Victorian Consciousness. New York: Oxford UP, 1999. Simpson, Jacqueline. “The Function of Folklore in Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights .” Folklore 85.1 (1974): 47-61. Smith, Sheila. “‘At Once Strong a nd Eerie’: The Supernatural in Wuthering Heights and Its Debt to the Traditional Ballad.” Review of English Studies 43.172 (1992): 498-517. Stoneman, Patsy. “Catherine Earnshaw’s Journey to Her Home among the Dead: Fresh Thoughts on Wuthering Heights and “Epipsychidion .” Review of English Studies 47.188 (1996): 521-33. Thormhlen, Marianne. “The Lunatic and the Devil’s Disciple: The ‘Lovers’ in Wuthering Heights .” Review of English Studies 48.190 (1997): 183-97.


75 Bibliography Armitt, Lucie. “Haunted Childhood in Charlotte Bront’s Villette .” The Yearbook of English Studies 32 (2002): 217-228. Baldridge, Cates. "Voyeuristic rebellion: Lockwood's dream and the reader in Wuthering Heights ." Studies in the Novel 20:4 (1988): 274-87. Brennan, Matthew C. The Gothic Psyche: Disintegration and Growth in NineteenthCentury English Literature Columbia, SC: Camden House, Inc., 1997. Buchen, Irving H. “Emily Bront and th e Metaphysics of Childhood and Love.” Nineteenth Century Fiction 22.1 (1967): 63-70. Carcache, Marian. “Heathcliff and Catherin e: No Coward Souls: A Study of Wuthering Heights as Mystical Journey.” Bront Society Transactions 19.3 (1987): 119-23. Cottom, Daniel. “I Think; Therefore, I am Heathcliff.” ELH 70.4 (2003): 1067-88. Crosby, Christina. “Charlotte Bronte’s Haunted Text.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 24.4 (1984): 701-15. Di Bernardo, Linda. “‘…the li fe of thought and that of r eality’: Love and Death in Charlotte Bront’s Villette .” Rivista Di Studi Vittoriani 15.8 (2003): 67-75. Dickerson, Vanessa. Victorian Ghosts in the No ontide: Women Writers and the Supernatural. Columbia, Missouri: Univers ity of Missouri Press, 1996.


76 Fine, Ronald E. “Lockwood’s Dreams and the Key to Wuthering Heights .” Nineteenth Century Fiction 24.1 (1969): 16-30. Gargano, Elizabeth. “The Intersection of Te xt and Dream: A Palimpsestic Reading of Lockwood’s Nightmare Visions in Wuthering Heights .” Topic 50 (2000): 77-90. Gorsky, Susan Rubinow. “‘I’ll Cry Myself Sick’: Illness in Wuthering Heights .” Literature and Medicine 18.2 (1999): 173-91. Grove, Allen W. “Rntgen’s Ghosts: P hotography, X-Rays, and the Victorian Imagination.” Literature and Medicine 16.2 (1997): 141-73. Heywood, Christopher. “‘The Helks La dy’ and other legends surrounding Wuthering Heights .” Lore and Language 11.2 (1992-93): 127-42. Homans, Margaret. “Repression an d Sublimation of Nature in Wuthering Heights .” PMLA 93.1 (1978): 9-19. Hughes, John. “The Affective World of Charlotte Bront’s Villette .” Studies in English Literature 40.4 (2000): 711-26. Kegler, Adelheid. “Silent House: MacDonal d, Bront and Silence Within the Soul.” The Victorian Fantasists: Essays on Culture, Society and Belief in the Mythopoeic Fiction of the Victorian Age Ed. Kath Filmer. New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1991: 104-32. Lawrence, Karen. “The Cypher: Disclosure and Reticence in Villette .” Nineteenth-Century Literature 42.4 (1988): 448-66. Levy, Eric P. “The Psychology of Loneliness in Wuthering Heights .” Studies in the Novel 28.2 (1996): 158-177.


77 McInerney, Peter. “Satanic Conceits in Frankenstein and Wuthering Heights .” Milton and the Romantics 4 (1980): 1-15. Noakes, Richard. “Spiritualism, Science, and the Supernatural in Mid-Victorian Britain.” The Victorian Supernatural Ed. Nicola Bown, Carolyn Burdett, and PamelaThurschwell. New York: Cambridge UP, 2004. 23-43. O’Dea, Gregory S. “Narrator and Reader in Charlotte Bront’s Villette .” South Atlantic Review 53.1 (1988): 41-57. Rose, Carol. Giants, Monsters, and Dragons: An Encyclopedia of Folklore, Legend, and Myth. Santa Barbara, CA: ABC-CLIO, 2000. Schwartz, Roberta C. “The Ambiguities of Villette .” The North Dakota Quarterly 42.2 (1974): 40-52. Smajic, Srdjan. “The Trouble With GhostSeeing: Vision, Ideology, and Genre in the Victorian Ghost Story.” ELH 70 (2003): 1107-35. Spencer, Luke. “The Voices of Wuthering Heights .” Bront Society Transactions 24.1 (1999): 82-93. Trickett, Rachel. “‘ Wuthering Heights ’: The Story of a Haunting.” Bront Society Transactions 16 (1975): 338-47. Twitchell, James. “Heathcliff as Vampire.” Southern Humanities Review 11 (1977): 355-62. Vrankova, Kamila. “Mystery and Misundersta nding: The Ambiguity of Images, Ideas and Intimations in Emily Bront’s Wuthering Heights .” Litteraria Pragensia 14.27 (2004): 62-73.


78 Wein, Toni. “Gothic Desire in Charlotte Bront’s Villette .” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 39.4 (1999): 733-46. Wolfreys, Julian. Victorian Hauntings: Spectrality, Go thic, the Uncanny and Literature. New York: Palgrave, 2002.

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Victorian perspectives on the supernatural :
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by Crystal Sidell.
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ABSTRACT: The Victorians obsessed over the supernatural and this fascination with the otherworldly emerges in the literature of the day. With this thesis, I look at two nineteenth century novels that exhibit supernatural phenomena: Charlotte Bront¥'s Villette (1853) and Emily Bront¥'s Wuthering Heights (1847). Both novels, I propose, utilize this aspect of the gothic tradition to enhance their characters' psychological realism. With Villette, I examine the supernatural as a fabricated experience. First, I study the protagonist's psyche and show how her emotional state directly contributes to the appearance of fantastic material. Specifically, I examine Lucy Snowe's childhood experiences in Bretton and then look at her continuing emotional isolation at the boarding school in Villette. I then illustrate how Lucy compensates for this loneliness by transforming the identities of her acquaintances and by often embellishing her own experiences. Following this, I examine her response to an external phenomenon, the ghostly nun. I argue that as Lucy discovers emotional fulfillment via her relationship with Paul Emanuel, she grows increasingly skeptical of the nun. This skepticism climaxes in a scene of violence, after which Lucy successfully denies the existence of the otherworldly. With Wuthering Heights, I examine the supernatural as a genuine phenomenon. To begin, I analyze two significant scenes which frame the main narrative: Lockwood's dream and Heathcliff's death. Both events, I subsequently demonstrate, are instances of supernatural interaction with the real world. Finally, I examine the spiritual and occult beliefs of the lovers, Catherine and Heathcliff. I then show how their ideology influences their decisions and, ultimately, brings about their reunion in the afterlife.
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