Saturday, 16 May 2015

Love in Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights was published in 1847, and since then has been analysed by hundreds of critics in attempts to draw meaning from a disordered and frenzied story. When originally published, it was rejected by society because of its unapologetic disregard for all things proper. Its transgression of love, and crucially religion forbade Victorian readers the chance to emerge themselves in the story, and take part in the roller-coaster of Heathcliff and Catherine’s tempestuous love affair. 168 years later, is it still shocking, if yes, why?

From an ethical view point, there are countless questions to be raised concerning Heathcliff, and why history has made him a romantic figure.  He’s violent, merciless and abusive to all who encounter him. Even Catherine, the soul he most loves and desires is hurt by him. To me, it is a work of unintentional genius on behalf of Bronte. Her depiction of torment, and then a love so overwhelming is what the reader clings on to as a means of redemption for Heathcliff.  Modern and contemporary readers will differ in what shocks them. To a contemporary reader, it is the senseless love affair itself that is abhorrent. Heathcliff is a victim in their society because he is illegitimate, and Catherine a victim as she is a woman.  To a modern reader, Catherine’s betrayal of herself and love for Heathcliff is what becomes most shocking. Wuthering Heights explores different ideas within morality, one being authenticity- that of being true to one’s self. Catherine’s marriage to Edgar therefore is an act of bad faith, which in turn precipitates all subsequent tragedy and evil. The power of love and its destructive nature is epitomised through their relationship. Not only do they destroy and kill one another, their love ruins the lives of all people surrounding them in its wake. This is not romantic. In fact, there is nothing romantic about Heathcliff and Catherine. Bronte’s intention may have been to create an epic tale of self-destruction; to explore the power and force of love as a human emotion, but their relationship cannot be one we strive to emulate. So why are we attracted to the story?

It is undeniable that as individuals, Catherine and Heathcliff are not good people. However as a pair, they become something else entirely.

 “Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same.”  

What makes Wuthering Heights the greatest love story in literature is exactly why it was disliked.  In Catherine and Heathcliff’s world religion cannot stop them, society cannot stop them, they have nothing but their love and they need nothing else. Their love transcends earth, heaven and hell, Heathcliff confirms this himself.

Nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us”. 

The largest and most heart-wrenching irony of the novel is that it is Catherine who causes their separation. It is Catherine who causes the torment and years of misery for Heathcliff (and the reader) in marrying Linton and preventing their souls from being one. For when Catherine has died and Heathcliff remains on earth, his life is empty.

The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her”. 

  Alas, once dead they are finally free of society and can be with each other as spirits. Do these same restrictions on love exist today? Perhaps not the same, but love is, nevertheless restricted. Whether through law, religion, or simply geographical means it seems that love does not always find a way. In light of this, perhaps what the reader takes from Bronte’s creation is that love is only what you make of it.

Sunday, 10 May 2015

The Election

Like many others, I was devastated with the result of the general election. I can see why the Conservatives appeal to the rich, and even the aspiring middle class. However, what astounds me is the number of working class people who will continually vote for people who cannot, and will not ever represent them or attempt to help them.  The fact that David Cameron, George Osborne and Boris Johnson were a part of the Bullingdon club is surely the biggest insult to every hard working person in the UK. It is the perfect illustration of British class privilege, initiations into the said club included burning a £50 note in front of a homeless man.  Do the less privileged voters of the UK know this? And if so, why vote Conservative?

The only response I have to this is that politics is about unification. The Conservative election campaign emphasised the glory of Britain, working together and a ‘brighter future’ for all.  Aware that after five years his record has not borne out the promise to the people, Cameron spent many interviews talking in grand generalisations about the economy and keeping on the same path; even abstaining from some of the leader’s debates. However, people are always more inclined to find comfort in a simplistic message. In comparison, Labour was tackling education, the NHS, social housing, tuition fees, and the huge inequality that has increased over the last 5 years. Unfortunately for Labour, the details and complexity of the issues they were tackling in the elections never got through.  In addition, the press has a biased coverage. Many people were influenced by the right wing newspapers that strive to shape public opinion rather than reflect it. The impression is created that the Conservatives can offer the working man or woman a way out in life but what is not disputed is that under this last government, Britain’s billionaires have seen their net worth more than double since the recession, with the richest 1,000 families now controlling a total of £547bn. Since the Conservatives won their unexpected narrow majority, it is widely believed, even among their right wing media friends that a new Cameron government will waste no time in implementing massive benefits cuts. Who will bear the brunt of that?

One particular fear for the next 5 years is the Tory promise to repeal the Human Rights Act. It was announced that Michael Gove, with no legal experience or training is to become Justice Secretary. The same man who advocated the return of hanging, and the death penalty. Mr Gove wrote that abolishing the death penalty “has led to a corruption of our criminal justice system, the erosion of all our freedoms and has made the punishment of the innocent more likely”.

He further argued that “Hanging may seem barbarous, but the greater barbarity lies in the slow abandonment of our common law traditions. Were I ever alone in the dock I would not want to be arraigned before our flawed tribunals, knowing my freedom could be forfeit as a result of political pressures. I would prefer a fair trial, under the shadow of the noose”.

Mr Gove quickly became a controversial figure after his reckless handling of the education reforms. He was eventually removed after the National Union of Teachers (NUT), unanimously passed a vote of no confidence in him. The future is bleak if Mr Cameron plans to repeal the Human Rights Act. The rights protected by this Act are listed below. Which of these would any right thinking person want to be rid of?

1)      Right to life
2)      Freedom from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
3)      Right to liberty and security
4)      Freedom from slavery and forced labour
5)      Right to a fair trial
6)      No punishment without law
7)      Respect for your private and family life, home and correspondence
8)      Freedom of thought, belief and religion
9)      Freedom of expression
10)   Freedom of assembly and association
11)   Right to marry and start a family
12)   Protection from discrimination in respect of these rights and freedoms
13)   Right to peaceful enjoyment  of your property
14)   Right to education
15)   Right to participate in free elections