Violence, madness and desire are significant themes within this novel. What methods does the writer use to explore these issues?
Even to a modern readership, Wuthering Heights remains a difficult yet profound novel. Between scenes of brutal violence, feral madness, and consuming desire much is revealed about the characters and their importance. Emily Bronte makes a point of refusing to shy away from these three difficult themes, and explores them thoughtfully and thoroughly within the first part of this novel, and the rest of the narrative beyond that.
Violence is established even before our recount of the events at Wuthering Heights begins, through a disturbing dream sequence involving Lockwood, a naïve yet relatively innocent visitor to the house. The ghost of young Catherine Earnshaw is present at his window, and he states that "Terror made me cruel...I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bed-clothes." This image of cruelty is heightened by the vivid description of the blood itself, and the image of it soaking the bed clothes is both gratuitous and shocking. Bronte dwells on this particular act of violence to show the cruelty that cowardice can provoke,
"It confronts us with the potential brutality that lurks in the unconscious of even the most innocuous character and, indeed, in one whose position as an outsider and an auditor links him most closely with the reader." (Nestor 1995)
Bronte is not showing that Lockwood is a violent man, but she is suggesting that violent instincts can exist within our psyche, and we are all capable of the cruelest inclinations when brought to our most basic instincts.
However, not all acts of cruelty in this novel remain on a subconscious level , an act of violence with Isabella is recounted by Heathcliff;
"The first thing she saw me do...was to hang up her little dog, and when she pleaded for it, the first words I uttered were a wish that I had...