Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte was first published in 1847, during the Victorian Era. Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad was first published as a complete novel in 1902, beginning what is referred to as the Modernist Era in literature. Each of these compelling stories is narrated by an uninvolved character who is quoting a story told to them by a character who actually participated in the story being told. There are both differences and similarities in these effective methods of narration that reflect the styles and expectations of those times.
In Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, the character of Lockwood begins the tale, and then moves into recounting the oration of the history of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange as seen through the eyes of Nelly Dean. Lockwood’s additions to the story are limited to the beginning of the novel and to the end, and to one occasion when he pleads with Nelly Dean, “Draw your knitting out of your pocket-that will do-now continue the history of Mr. Heathcliff, from where you left off, to the present day”(WH 70). Nelly Dean, who was an active participant in some of the episodes she tells of (but not all of them) tells the bulk of the story to the reader.
In Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, an unnamed seaman is recounting a tale told to him by Captain Marlow. The unnamed narrator’s appearance is interspersed throughout the story, reminding the reader that it is a story being told to a group of sailors. “I listened, I listened on the watch for the sentence, for the word, that would give me the clue to the faint uneasiness inspired by this narrative that seemed to shape itself without human lips in the he…
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…the same type of narrative frame, each is indicative of the time when it was written.
Emily Bronte wrote Nelly Dean’s narrative to fit with the times and the audience of 1847. Fifty-five years later Joseph Conrad began the Modernist Era with his narrative by Marlow, and captured the attention of a new audience. As things changed and time moved on, so did the audiences for British Literature.
Works Cited and Consulted
Bressler, Charles E. Literary Criticism. New Jersey. Prentice Hall, 1999.
Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. W.W. Norton: New York, 1990.
Conrad, Joseph. “Heart of Darkness” The Longman Anthology British Literature. Ed. David Damrosch. Longman. New York. 2000. 2190-2246.
Damrosch, David, et al., ed. The Longman Anthology of British Literature: Vol. B. Compact ed. New York: Longman – Addison Wesley Longman, 2000.
Comparing Wuthering Heights and A Room of One’s Own
Wuthering Heights and A Room of One’s Own
From the time that Emily Bronte penned Wuthering Heights in 1847 to the time that Virginia Woolf wrote A Room of One’s Own in 1929, the 80 plus year period brought tremendous change to literature and for women authors.
In the early Victorian era when women writers were not accepted as legitimate, Emily Bronte found it necessary to pen her novel under the name “Mr. Ellis Bell” according to a newspaper review from 1848 (WH 301). According to The Longman Anthology of British Literature, “Women had few opportunities for higher education or satisfying employment” (1794) and the “ideal Victorian woman was supposed to be domestic and pure, selflessly motivated by the desire to serve others…” (1794). The Bronte sisters partook of many of the typical duties of the Victorian age such as taking on governess duties and teaching jobs (Bradbury p. 106). The Victorian era must have dictated the pen names that the Bronte sisters found it necessary to use though.
80 years later, Virginia Woolf did not have to hide behind a masculine pen name. She is considered “a major author, of whatever gender” (Longman, p. 2445). Woolf, not only was accepted as a female author, but the subjects which she wrote about would never have been touched in the time of the Bronte sisters. In her career, Woolf wrote about subjects such as “sexual politics, society and war” (Longman p. 2445) and was instrumental in establishing and running the Hogarth Press for years (2447). In “A Room of One’s Own”, Woolf candidly examines the role of women in literature and literature about women and concludes that a woman needs “money and a room of her own” in order to write fiction (2457). In this piece, she examines the role of women in history with much contempt especially regarding the difficulty in raising funds to build a women’s college. “What had our mothers been doing then that they had not wealth to leave us? Powdering their noses? Looking in at shop windows?” (Longman, 2466). Woolf w as dissatisfied that women were left behind in the literary world and she did much to change this by advancing educational opportunities for women. “The sense of having been deliberately shut out of education by virtue of her sex, was to inflect all of Woolf’s writing and thinking” (2446).