What is in a Name?

First, let’s get this out of the way, Lockwood is an unreliable person to be narrating the story. This is not the first unreliable narrator I have seen in a Bronte, novel and I am beginning to think that this is a style that the family itself liked to work with. Beyond that he is unreliable, I think that it serves a purpose, to add more exploration to the story. What I mean by this is that the audience will interpret the characters from a variety of angles. Take for example Mr. Heathcliff, we get the impression from Lockwood that he is your typical nobleman sitting on a plot of land, while in reality he is more than just a little rough around the edges. This writing style does well to offset our expectations.

Speaking of expectations, do you all know Catherine? There seems to be a Catherine everywhere you turn in the history and present events of the Wuthering Heights Estate. This shows off a long lineage of ownership that goes into this place. However, the past of heathcliff seems to derail this long history. He shows up almost out of the blue, is adopted and then the trouble starts. Of course Heathcliff’s circumstances are not his own doing at first, but appears to be more of a natural twist of fate to upset the delicate balance of a noble house. Insert your stereotypical intrusion of new blood into an established family tropes here.

The interesting part about this particular intrusion to the estate is the fact that young Heathcliff is an orphan. The present Mr. Heathcliff is considered the lord, so there are no spoilers about what happens to him. But his figure as an imposing and perhaps abusive man are a far cry from what you would expect. Not having a name in the first place, allowed Heathcliff to eventually adopt a name with power for himself. This is an opportunity that someone with a lower class lineage would almost never have the chance to do. The problem with this power, is that Heathcliff had to struggle with himself and others to do it, from a bitter rivalry to being driven out of the house in despair, which only caused further despair to Catherine. Even his love life has been filled with the question whether he truly belongs, and it shows on his character.

When Heathcliff finds the answer out of his own spite and feelings of betrayal to claim revenge, it shows how twisted this struggle has made him. Flash forward to the present issues of a fully vengeful ghost apparently haunting Lockwood, and the audience get’s the picture that this is not a happy household. While Heathcliff holds the name of Wuthering Heights as his own, the events that surround the estate have left a negative impact that matches Heathcliff in more than just a title. The original name of the estate is tainted, and once again this plays with the expectations that Lockwood originally had. A name can hold two separate meanings, the one that you hold to yourself, and the one the reputation that a name has out in the world at large.

One thought on “What is in a Name?

  1. The narrative structure of Wuthering Heights, more particularly the narrators, is one of the most discussed aspects of the novel. Lockwood begins; Nelly takes over; they have tiffs about their different ways of telling. (He peppers her with questions, laying out a framework for her tale; she tells him “I’ll proceed in my own fashion” [95]). Of course, they bring their own preoccupations, as characters, to their accounts, but while we know a lot about Nelly, we have much more to infer from the stranger Lockwood. It would be worth looking at the chapters he does relate to learn about his background, ideas about himself, reasons for coming North, and observations he makes there. On that point, he gives a lot of attention to Heathcliff’s roughness. Me may begin by imagining or drawing similarities between himself and Heathcliff, but he quickly disavows them, too. Janelle raised a great question in her blog when she asks about the attraction Heathcliff has for them all, roughness notwithstanding. What do you think?

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