Wuthering Heights: Landscape

Professor John Bowen discusses the harshness of the landscape around Haworth and the central part it plays in the writings of the Brontë sisters. Filmed on location on the moors around Haworth.

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So, landscape is so important for the Brontës. You know, they live in this house and in one way it looks down onto this working, everyday town and then back to this absolutely unique landscape and it's a landscape that is pretty harsh – it's not one that easily takes on human life. It's not one that is pastoral or ideal in any way – it's harsh and it's wintry. And it so structures the book – it's a world of contrasts is Wuthering Heights, between the Heights at the top and then Thrushcross Grange below. Very different places, very different societies and living in and part of very different landscapes. But it's also that it matters for the characters too in that Heathcliff is – he's constantly compared to the landscape – he's like a wind stone – he's like something harsh and stony, not something which anything can grow, so part of his destructiveness is related to the destructiveness or the coldness, or the difficulty of the landscape.

Well, it's not a pastoral landscape this, it's not one that's easy for human beings to live in, but it's one that matters a lot to the Brontës and they love it very much, so that Charlotte, when she's a young woman, she goes to work at Roe Head School and still, even when she's there, she's thinking about the landscape, so she writes at one point about the wind at Roe Head, ‘The wind pouring in impetuous current through the air, sounding wildly, unremittingly from hour to hour, deepening its tone as the night advances, coming not in gusts, but with a rapid gathering stormy swell. That wind I know is heard at this moment far away on the moors at Haworth. Branwell and Emily hear it, as it sweeps over our house, down the Churchyard and round the old church, they think perhaps of me and Anne.’ So, Charlotte takes the landscape with her and when she hears the wind, she thinks of it as the same wind that sweeps over this landscape here and it connects her back – both to this land that she knows and loves so much and to the people, to Branwell and to Emily, that are there in the house at Haworth.

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