Irony Essay, Research Paper
Irony, an event or result that is the opposite of what is expected, as defined in Webster s New World Dictionary. Irony is often times used in novels to raise the reader s interest by making the novel more unpredictable. This literary phenomena is employed frequently in many novels, especially frequently in Emily Bront s, Wuthering Heights. Though the novel is full of irony, in fact it seems to be bursting through the cover of the book itself, there are three instances that are particularly important. Those cases include Earnshaw s kindness in bringing Heathcliff to Wuthering Heights and accepting him as one of his own children, Catherine s changing her feelings towards Heathcliff as she matured from an abusive and cruel sister to a kindred spirit, and third and final ironic situation is appeared towards the end of the novel when Hindley s son Hareton became Heathcliff s servant rather than the expected opposite. Those three situations in Wuthering Heights are the ones that show the strongest presence of irony in the novel, and they were all linked together because these ironic situations took Heathcliff from a homeless boy to having the most power in Wuthering Heights.
The first example of irony occurred in the opening pages of Wuthering Heights when, according to Mrs. Dean s side of the tale, Mr. Earnshaw went to Liverpool and promised to return home with presents for his children, much to their surprise he brought home a dirty and ragged little boy. He was named Heathcliff, which was the name of a late son who died at birth. It was in Yorkshire in Earnshaw s mansion, Wuthering Heights, that Heathcliff met his new siblings, Catherine and Hindley. Heathcliff s presence in the home created many problems as he was constantly being plagued by Catherine and Hindley. It is an ironic circumstance because it wasn t expected that a wealthy man like Mr. Earnshaw would bring a poor boy into his mansion and give him shelter, food, and oddest of all, genuine love. It was also odd how Mr. Earnshaw took a great liking to Heathcliff. Nelly stated while telling the story to Lockwood, He took to Heathcliff strangely, believing all he said, and petting him up far above Cathy. (p.40) In the nineteenth century, or any other time, it was infrequent that any man, let alone a wealthy one, would not only take a poor youngster from the streets let alone treat him better than the rest of his own family. That is why this situation was ironic in Bront s novel.
The second instance of irony in Wuthering Heights was Cathy s changing of her feelings for Heathcliff. Nelly, while talking about Heathcliff s arrival at Wuthering Heights, said, Cathy, when she learnt the master had lost her whip in attending on the stranger, showed her humour by grinning and spitting at the stupid little thing. (p.39) That quote shows Catherine s initial attitude towards Heathcliff was a bad one, and she sided with Hindley in an effort to put their new sibling down. It was ironic that Cathy, then a young girl, loathed Heathcliff, but grew to love him more and more as their kinship grew stronger despite the influence of Hindley. Catherine s love for Heathcliff has another ironic side because she married Edgar Linton while Heathcliff was away. The case is ironic because the marriage shouldn t have taken place due to Catherine s love for Heathcliff and not Edgar. However, Heathcliff never had the chance to win back the woman he loved, for Cathy died. It was also ironic that as Catherine had married Edgar, Heathcliff had eloped with Isabella, that is that the true lovers married a brother and sister, while longing to be with each other.
The third and final case of irony in Wuthering Heights is the switch in power between Heathcliff and Hindley. Hindley, being the son of Mr. Earnshaw, would without a doubt become head of Wuthering Heights after the death of his father. However, thanks to irony of the novel, Hindley reduced himself to a gambling drunk after the death of his wife Frances, he finally sank so low that he was deprived of Wuthering Heights and his son would be subjected to the abuse that Heathcliff suffered under Hindley s arm. In this case, one would think that Hindley, who was the abusive one when Heathcliff was first introduced to Wuthering Heights, would become the head while Heathcliff, who was plagued by his siblings, would lose all power. But Mr. Earnshaw s treatment towards Heathcliff put him in a stronger position than Hindley in the family. Hindley s death put Hareton, his son, in a position where he might and did become victim to Heathcliff s vengeance. The result was that Hareton became a servant for Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. What classifies this sequence of events as ironic is that the roles came full circle, first Heathcliff s role as servant boy, then the fall from power of Hindley, and finally Hareton s role as servant in Bront s novel.
Heathcliff s rise of both social class, and economic power was key throughout the entire novel, and was the main goal for the protagonist. This along with his love for Catherine are the forces that drove the plot further. And the final transfer of power from Hindley to Heathcliff complete the irony. These three instances of irony while not being the only ones present in the novel, are the most compelling as the reader progresses through, Emily Bront s Wuthering Heights.