In both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights love is restricted by societal expectations. The
autocratic male dominance of the time meant that patriarchal oppression is a
main theme in both books and had a negative effect on love in the male and
female relationships. In the Victorian era, social class and wealth played an
enormous part in relationships, as the rigid class system dictated who you
could date. These rules created by society produce forbidden and therefore
destructive love which can be detrimental for the characters involved. This is
particularly prominent in both Wuthering
Heights with Catherine and Heathcliff and in Jane Eyre between Jane and Mr Rochester. The forbidden
relationships create a strong but lethal love between these characters.  Whilst
strongly sticking to romantic ideals, Wuthering
Heights is filled with patriarchal oppression which transforms Catherine’s
character and constricts her from loving freely. Catherine defies the female
stereotype by having both masculine and feminine traits, beginning in the novel
being adventurous, outgoing and a “haughty, headstrong creature” which were
characteristics traditionally associated with men. When Catherine exhibits
these traits, she can love freely and passionately like she did when she was
child without the interference of patriarchal oppression. The love she
exhibited for Heathcliff shows she is capable of passion and demonstrates a
powerful love that isn’t affected by societal expectations. By Catherine
stating that the world would be a “mighty stranger” without Heathcliff and him
saying that “existence after losing her would be hell” proves that without the
constraints from society they would only need each other, demonstrating their
love to be strong and vital to the existence of both characters. The semantic
field of negative religious imagery when describing their lives without one
another illustrates to the reader just how strong and eternal their love is.
The reader of the time would have been highly religious so a word like “hell”
would have been very powerful at conveying the lengths they would go to for
each other. However, as the novel progresses Catherine’s “wild” personality is
repressed by the Mr Linton and society’s opinion of a what a wife should be. Women
in the Victorian era were not expected to find love but to marry to further
their position or to fulfil a role in society. As wives, they were expected to
be submissive to men due to being property of their husbands; with no rights to
vote they had little to no independence. Gender roles were very harsh with
women expected to fulfil the stereotype of being caring, submissive and pure
and men expected to be strong and independent. After a short stay at Thrush
Cross Grange, Catherine returns “a very dignified person” and “quite a beauty …
a lady now”. By the newly founded relationship between Catherine and Edgar, she
is refined and transformed into a compliant female character who prioritises
her time with her soon to be husband over her infantile friend, Heathcliff. She
is now starting to fulfil her role in the patriarchal society as a quiet
submissive woman whose aim in life is to marry.  Throughout Catherine’s marriage to Edgar,
Catherine becomes less like the “little savage” she once was showing how Edgar
has made her into a woman who is accepted into society by suppressing her true
personality. This demonstrates further that she is fighting her natural
feelings so she can be accepted by society. Catherine says she QUOTE . By
Catherine sticking to societal rules she is giving in to the patriarchal
oppression and therefore ends up unhappily married to someone she isn’t truly
in love with. Plyer- Fisk says, “true child of nature, she prefers to
pursue intellectual knowledge outdoors” showing how naturally she isn’t this
calm respectable lady but is like Heathcliff in her wild ways. It illustrates
that she is fighting all of her natural feelings not only the ones towards Heathcliff.   Similarly,
in Jane Eyre the expectations of
women in society are very visible but perhaps are more prominent as she is not
only a woman but also an orphan. Jane Eyre resists these societal expectations
and stays true to her character. Throughout Jane’s younger years she is
surrounded by male figures such as John Reed and Mr Brocklehurst who demean her
to attempt to make her passive and submissive. When Jane is compared to her male cousin in a
derogatory way she thinks “Women are supposed to be very calm generally:
but women feel just as men feel; they need exercise for their faculties, and a
field for their efforts just as their brothers do…” showing how she
feels irritated about the sexual inequality; that men and women should be able
to express their emotions equally and have equally good jobs. This is continued
further when she begins to work for Mr. Rochester as from the beginning he
speaks down to her enforcing the stereotype that men were superior to women.
When he talks about Mr. Brocklehurst the teacher saying, “And you girls
probably worshiped him, as a covenant full of religieuses would worship their
director.” we can see that even he holds this idea that women are to worship
men. By grouping them into “you girls” takes away any individualism of the
young women as if they are all the same. This constant oppression from
misogynistic characters should make Jane love less passionately, like
Catherine, however, she does the opposite. She loves more intensely as she is
adamant to see a change in society and its expectations. Catherine is very
passive and does not protest to the way she is made to feel as she can remain
comfortable in her forced life. Contrastingly, Jane notices the unfair divide
between men and women, so makes a concerted effort to love stronger to defy the
expectation society has of her. She defies these social norms by loving Mr.
Rochester, her employer, which would be forbidden. By loving him despite these
restrictions it shows how strong her feelings are, and her defiance of
patriarchy and class restrictions. On the other hand, Catherine stops a natural
and powerful love from blossoming due to the social expectations thrust upon
her.  Social class also created this forbidden love
which was the strong enough to defy social norms and either thrive in Jane
Eyre’s case or perish like with Heathcliff and Catherine. In Wuthering Heights, social status has a
negative impact on the love between Catherine and Heathcliff.  Catherine has been raised to look for a
husband who can further her place in society, so falling in love with an orphan
contradicts everything she has been taught and produces a very strong yet
destructive love between her and Heathcliff. The social hierarchy created by
wealth and status meant that love across social classes was forbidden. In the
Victorian era, society expected individuals to marry within their social sphere
and it was very rare for someone in the lower class to marry above them
socially, meaning the love between Catherine and Heathcliff and Jane and Mr.
Rochester was forbidden. When Catherine says, “whatever
our souls are made of, his and mine are the same” and “I am Heathcliff”, it
demonstrates that they are so similar that the love between them is completely
natural, like an uncontrollable reflex. Catherine carries on this idea of
eternal love between her and Heathcliff by using lots of natural imagery in the
simile “my love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods; time will change
it. I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees. My love for Heathcliff
resembles the eternal rocks beneath; a source of little visible delight but
necessary.”  By comparing the love she
feels for Linton to “foliage” we can see that it is temporary, only there
because of circumstance like society forcing her to marry a wealthy man who in
reality means very little to her. Heathcliff being the “eternal rocks” shows
that their love is stronger and more resilient; it is the foundations upon
which everything else exists. Although less exciting and beautiful, it is what
she needs to grow and prosper as a character.   However, due to society’s harsh rules Catherine
must marry the rich Mr. Linton who can offer her social security, although she
will never love him like she does Heathcliff. Society’s influence changes
Catherine, as she says it would “degrade” her to marry Heathcliff showing how
she abandoned her emotions and childhood values to fit in. She is constantly
contradicting her childhood values by calling Heathcliff “dirty” and that he
needs to “wash your face, and brush your hair”. This demonstrates how her
personality has been suppressed and altered, changing from individualistic to
social compliance. This change is highlighted further as after marrying Edgar
she is ready to move from “a disorderly comfortless home into a wealthy
respectable one” illustrating her change in values. However, when Heathcliff became
rich and therefore more respectable, Catherine’s loyalty to Edgar
faltered.  Edgar says to her “will
you give up Heathcliff hereafter, or will you give up me? It is impossible for
you to be my friend and his at the same time, and I absolutely require to know
which one you choose.” This demonstrates Catherine’s requirement to pick
between the wild, free yet unconventional emotions or the correct social values
that Edgar represents. Using the word “impossible” emphasizes how difficult the
situation and decision is for Catherine. 
By choosing Edgar she yet again gives in to the oppression of societal
expectations. Although she is elevated in society, she is miserable.   Conversely, in Jane
Eyre although the problem of social hierarchy is still obvious, the
resolution is much better. Mr. Rochester is condescending to Jane, due to her
being of a lower class. Jane unlike Catherine argues back for equality as she
can see that despite her class they are both human beings. By saying, “I do not
think, sir, you have any right to command me, merely because you are older than
I, or because you have seen more of the world than I have; your claim to
superiority depends on the use you have made of your time and experience” Jane
makes it clear that she will not be devalued and constructs an equal love
between her and Mr. Rochester as she won’t accept how society portrays her.
Like Heathcliff she does not belong to a certain class. She has the manners and
education of an aristocrat, but because of her job as a governess she is
treated as a servant. Despite intellectually being on the same level as Mr.
Rochester, Jane is not socially his equal, which causes Jane some distress when
they plan to marry for the first time in the novel.QUOTE. Jane’s anguish may be
Bronte criticizing society’s hierarchical expectations in the Victorian era.  However, throughout the novel Jane does continue to defy the
social class prejudices, such as when she says  “Do you think, because
I am poor, obscure, plain, and little, I am soulless and heartless? You think
wrong!—I have as much soul as you—and full as much heart! And if God had gifted
me with some beauty and much wealth, I should have made it as hard for you to
leave me, as it is now for me to leave you.” Jane here is demonstrating to
Mr. Rochester that, although she is not in his social class, she understands
how the social class works. The use of dashes and exclamative sentences shows
that this is stream of consciousness and
she is very passionate about not being treated worse just because of her place
in society. Also, the asyndetic list of her physical attributes shows that she
has a realistic image of herself but will not be devalued because of it. By
standing up against class restrictions, she and Mr. Rochester can love more
freely and equally without pressure from society.   Nevertheless,
even though Jane Eyre overcomes societal constraints by marrying Mr Rochester,
it is at the expense of another female character- the entire text cannot
overcome the idea of patriarchal oppression. Mr Rochester’s wife Bertha or the
“madwoman in the attic” is the prime example. Janes personal happiness by
marring Mr Rochester is dependant on the death of Bertha showing how society
could not truly escape the patriarchal oppression. In Gilbert and Gubar’s “The
Madwoman In The Attic” Bertha is shown to symbolise the silenced or at least
muffled voice of women in the nineteenth centaury. It further highlights that Bertha
is the character that reminds Mr Rochester of realities he does not want to
accept so she is locked away in an attempt to hide his past. She is described
as “fearful and ghastly” with “a savage face” and “bloodshot eyes”. This vivid
animalistic imagery shows that her humanity has been stripped from her by her
husband who has the right to control her how he sees fit. In Luce Irigaray’s
essay “When The Goods Get Together” she explains that women in the Victorian
era were more economic possessions than human beings. They did not have voices
as they were merely objects. This is very clear with Bertha as she does not
have a voice throughout. She is “cunning” which illustrates her intelligence
and intellect but as a woman who is mentally ill she will be controlled
completely by her husband. Not only does this show how dominant the patriarchal
society was but also the ignorance towards mental disabilities. The limited
independence she once had was completely taken away due to this mental illness;
she then becomes trapped not just physically but is now powerless in the grasp
of the patriarchal society. Therefore, Jane’s triumph against the patriarchy is
not truly a victory as even though she rises another woman falls. 

To conclude,
romantic love in both Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights is limited by social
expectations.  The expectations of women
in society were very high; they were supposed to be calm, polite and submissive
to their husbands. The way women could feel was oppressed by the patriarchal
society so characters like Jane Eyre and Catherine struggled to express their
true emotions. Women rarely married for love but instead to further their place
in society so the fact Heathcliff was an orphan in a low class meant he could
not offer Catherine economic security so their relationship was automatically
doomed in the Victorian society. Jane Eyre also faced pressure from societal
expectations but unlike Catherine she wasn’t meant to marry, instead she was to
be a governess so falling in love with Mr Rochester went against her role in
society. The harsh class system meant the love between both Jane and Mr
Rochester and Catherine and Heathcliff was condemned from the beginning. In Wuthering Heights social convention
prevented love and lead to the death of Heathcliff but in Jane Eyre, Jane and Mr Rochester end up getting married and living
happily showing that their love overcame social convention. However, even
though Jane overcomes social constraints by marrying Mr Rochester it does not
mean the entire novel can overcome the patriarchal oppression. Bertha Mason kills
herself due to her mental illness which was not made any better by being
imprisoned by Mr Rochester. Due to the ignorance surrounding mental illness and
women being property of men, Bertha is locked in the attic which takes away all
her humanity. Therefore, even though Jane can escape the patraichal society, it
is still a major issue that leads to the demise of another character. All of
these social expectations cause the failed love in Wuthering Heights but in Jane
Eyre love overcomes social convention.

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