#268714 SOCIETY AND ITS EFFECT ON THE MALE Victorian novelists often create a world which mirrors their own with a society controlled by repression. Thomas Hardy and Charlotte and Emily Bronte take this oppressive society and have it affect the characters of their novels. The male characters in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, Charlotte Bronte's Jane Eyre, and Thomas Hardy's Tess of the Durbervilles all represent characters striving to rebel against repression. These novelists show that in a community full of oppression and control, the male characters will do anything to better their appearance and acquire the women they love.
All three novels present a controlling society in which male characters long to gain acceptance. Heathcliff, an orphaned child, was raised in the lowest level of society until being adopted by Mr. Earnshaw. A ravenous and disheveled youth, he cannot gain Catherine's love. "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now(81)."
Emily Bronte demonstrates Heathcliff's desire to fit in so that he will be acceptable to Catherine's standards. After hearing Catherine say this, Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights, to return as a sophisticated grown man. "Now fully revealed by the fire and candlelight, I was amazed more than ever to behold the transformation of Heathcliff. He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man(98)". As a man of power and refinement, Heathcliff attempts to obtain Catherine's love. He believes that now, because of his gentleman stature, Catherine will not be able to resist him. Heathcliff's desire to impress Catherine shows the oppressive society in which they live. Similarly Alec, Hardy's manipulative male character, longs for the respect and status of the Durberville name. Once he purchases the Durberville name, he feels that he can use the power that the society, gives to a wealthy landowner. Now, Alec can carry on his life as an accepted member of society and can control those around him, including Tess. Finally Rochester, Charlotte Bronte's brooding male protagonist, yearns for the acceptance that he would gain through marrying Jane. He also wants to forget and erase his past in a time where society frowned upon divorce. Rochester uses his money to shower Jane with gifts to make her conform to the ideals of society. Additionally, after his previous wife is revealed he continues to use money and status to convince her that she would be better off as his mistress than without him at all.
The main contrasting element throughout the three novels, centers in the male characters' diverse upbringings, which lead them down different paths. Although Alec and Heathcliff appear to have similar backgrounds they are, in fact, quite different. Heathcliff, a bastard child, grew up loveless until adopted by Mr. Earnshaw. Alec, a wealthy child, had parents, but was exiled most of his life by them. Because of this, Heathcliff is lead down a path where he thinks he can gain acceptance but finds he cannot, and he self-destructs. Alec, on the other hand, craves the power he never had in his family. This leads to his violent attempt to control Tess, and ultimately, his own murder. Heathcliff, due to harsh younger years, needs to prove to Catherine that he is worthy of her love. Where as Alec, already wealthy, just desires physical love over true love.
Mr. Rochester presents a different background altogether. Contrasting from Alec and Heathcilff, Rochester was bought up as a refined gentleman who was to carry on his family name. Because of his status, Rochester is used to being able to control the people around him. Also, through his money tricks Jane into jealousy which presents his manipulative character. Bronte, in throwing a twist into her novel by ending with the matrimony of Jane and Rochester, contrasts greatly form Hardy the naturalist, where horrible endings are common.
These novelists are showing the reader that unhappy obsessions lead to unhappy conclusions and only over years may these wounds mend. Through these male characters, Charlotte and Emily Bronte and Thomas Hardy exemplify a controlled society where men, required to be normal, crave for the acceptability of their peers. Tess of the Durbervilles, Jane Eyre and Wuthering Heights delve into the past lives of Victorian characters. Even though the times have changed, the ideals of the male have not and a reader has no struggle in finding a connection with these characters. These timeless novels share with their readers a wonderful account of the past which makes them read with readers today as well now as they did in the Victorian Era.