Explore the varying ways in which Bronte and Hardy present the idea of freedom in the societies they create.

Essay by jspearmintHigh School, 12th gradeB, July 2004

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In 'Wuthering Heights' and 'The Return of the Native', both Emily Bronte and Thomas Hardy create societies that are enclosed by both natural and man made boundaries. In both novels people try to escape these boundaries and breach them with varying success. Freedom within these societies is very much dictated by the morals and social confines of the Victorian age.

One way in which Victorian society affects people's freedom is through marriage. In both novels a female character chooses to marry a man not so much for love but for social reasons. In 'Wuthering Heights', Catherine Earnshaw chooses to marry Edgar Linton even though she is very much in love with Heathcliff. As she says: "It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff", and this choice leads to tragic consequences. Heathcliff can be seen to represent a rebel and interloper within the society as he comes in from outside with ideas opposed to the ideals of society.

A "Marxist Critic" may interpret Heathcliff's rise from working class poverty to riches and ownership of houses and land as one man's revolutionary struggle for freedom against society or something. To Catherine, he is freedom from the oppression of society and oppressors such as Hindley, religion in't form o't Joseph, and their relationship harks back to their childhood when they played freely on the moors. However, so as to appear to be conforming to society's rules, she marries Edgar Linton and this choice leads to tragic consequences. A similar situation occurs in 'The Return of The Native'. Thomasin Yeobright chooses to marry Damon Wildeve for practical purposes, thereby retaining her honour and reputation despite Wildeve's dubious character:

"He wore the pantomimic expression of a lady killing career."

This marriage ends in tragedy too. This suggests that with more freedom away from the...