Heathcliff : The Black Dog that Became a Bourgeois Gentleman - the Combined Issue of Race and Social Class in Wuthering Heights

University essay from Linnéuniversitetet/Institutionen för språk (SPR)

Abstract: This thesis will illustrate how the issues of race and social class in Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights are main focuses for how Heathcliff is perceived and how they influence his actions. The importance lies in how both issues are main reasons for how Heathcliff is treated. He is not treated primarily because of his social class nor his race, but a mixture of both. The analysis will be done by analysing the text with a postcolonial theorization of imperialism. It will also include the study by Terry Eagleton Myths of Power: A Marxist study on Wuthering Heights and Maja-Lisa von Sneidern’s article “Wuthering Heights and the Liverpool Slave Trade”. Eagleton states that because of Heathcliff’s unknown origin he has no natural social or biological standing and it is these factors that lead to the conflicts in the novel. Eagleton bases his study on a Marxist and capitalistic perspective. He does not consider the racial aspect of Heathcliff’s situation as a main factor. By contrast, von Sneidern’s study focuses on Heathcliff’s undisputed racial otherness and states that the relationship between Catherine and Heathcliff is a mistress-bondsman one. In her analysis, Von Sneidern treats Heathcliff like a slave and only mentions the racial aspects of every situation and conflict in the novel. She does not consider social class as a main factor for the situations and conflicts. This thesis will show how and why both social class and race are important to consider when analysing this novel, with Eagleton’s and von Sneidern’s studies representing some of the studies that have been made on these issues.

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