The use of flashback in “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte

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The use of flashback in “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte

Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" is a masterpiece of literature that has captured the imaginations of readers for generations. One of the most striking and effective techniques that Bronte employs in this novel is the use of flashback. Through these glimpses into the past, the reader is able to gain a deeper understanding of the characters, their motivations, and the forces that drive the narrative.

The first flashback in the novel occurs in chapter three, when Lockwood, the narrator, falls asleep and dreams of being visited by Catherine Earnshaw's ghost. When he awakens, he is frightened and seeks solace in the room that had been Catherine's. It is here that he discovers her diary and begins to read her account of her childhood and the events that led up to her eventual marriage to Edgar Linton.

Through Catherine's diary, we are transported back to the early days of her relationship with Heathcliff, and we see how their intense and passionate connection was forged. We learn of their secret meetings in the moors, their shared love of nature, and the deep bond that developed between them. Catherine's own words reveal her conflicted feelings about Heathcliff, and we come to understand that she was torn between her love for him and her desire for social status and security.

Another significant flashback occurs in chapter twelve, when Nelly, the housekeeper at Thrushcross Grange, tells Lockwood about the events that took place after Catherine's marriage to Edgar. We see the destructive effects of Catherine's internal conflict as she becomes increasingly ill and unhinged, and we witness the ways in which her actions impact those around her, including Heathcliff and Edgar.

Bronte's use of flashback is masterful in its ability to reveal the complexities of her characters and their relationships. The reader is able to see how past events continue to shape the present, and how the actions of one character can have far-reaching consequences for others. Through the use of vivid imagery and poetic language, Bronte brings these past events to life, immersing the reader in the world of the novel and deepening their emotional investment in the story.

One particularly striking example of this is in chapter sixteen, when Catherine describes her vision of the afterlife to Nelly. In this vision, she sees herself wandering the moors, seeking a way back to the people and places she loved in life. This image of the moors as a place of liminality and transition is a recurring motif in the novel, and is closely tied to the themes of love, loss, and longing that permeate the story.

Overall, Bronte's use of flashback in "Wuthering Heights" is a powerful and effective narrative device that enriches the reader's understanding of the characters and their motivations. By transporting the reader to the past, Bronte is able to reveal the complex web of relationships that underpins the story, and to create a sense of depth and richness that draws the reader in and holds them captivated until the final page.