Compare the ways in which the writers of both 'Wuthering Heights' and 'Mrs Dalloway' portray the relationships between men and women

The two novels seek to show, in conveying their relationship with a man, the deterioration of a woman’s organic persona – one which goes against the archetypal image of the time. In Wuthering Heights, Cathy exemplifies the atypical female. She is described as “wild” and being perpetually “barefoot”, with her “tongue always going”. This description of constant vitality, especially one which sees her at one with nature (“barefoot” in the moors), is one which goes against the Georgian expectation of females to be the ‘Angel in the House’: a passive and submissive figure. However, we see this animation essentially recede into herself upon her marriage with Edgar Linton, a name associated with wealth and status (“he will be rich, and I should be the greatest woman of the neighbourhood”). In her marriage we see that Cathy has regressed from animation into having “seasons of gloom and silence”, a contrast exemplifying the sterility of such a marriage that is necessitated in society. Here we may suggest that Bronte is critiquing the institution of marriage, for, out of its requirement of a relationship between men and women to be not of love but of social concern, it thus creates not the fulfilment of a woman, but rather the dilution of her organic existence.

Woolf portrays a similar notion with the relationship of Clarissa and Richard. Although ‘Mrs Dalloway’ spans across one day, because Woolf employs the stream of consciousness narrative, we are given excerpts of momentary flashbacks, within which we see Clarissa’s past prior to her marriage to Richard. Not unlike Cathy, Clarissa is characterised as having few inhibitions when expressing her emotions, especially in her reactions to the natural world (“[she] cried out at a view or a tree”), and the way she is forever “[discussing] poetry”. The implications of this would show Clarissa to be candid with her emotional attachment to art and the world. However, just as Cathy’s vitality paled due to her relationship with Edgar, so too does Clarissa’s due to her marriage with Richard. This is epitomised in Woolf’s description of Clarissa’s domestic setting, her home with Richard, which is described as “cold as a vault”. The connotations of this simile not only suggest Clarissa’s entrapment in her marriage, but also lifeless emptiness – a stark contrast to her exuberant past – convey the sterilising effect of her relationship with Richard. This is reinforced in the courtly love motif surrounding Clarissa and her home: it is frequently described as a “tower”, wherein Clarissa “retires to the attic” and frequently “looks out of the window”, seemingly casting her in the stereotypical role of the captive maiden. This creates an impression of imprisonment and longing for escape. However, the tradition of a heroic knight character is subverted in Richard, who, despite displaying such distinctive qualities (“handsome”/”respectable”), confines rather than saves Clarissa, and thus we may infer that Woolf is suggesting here that it is a societal, rather than gender, issue; the pedalled rhetoric of women wishing for wealth and status has been satirised as an idyllic courtly love tale, as Richard, a product of these expectations, has only encaged Clarissa rather than enriched her.

Illustration of a video tutorial

Need help with English Literature?

One to one online tuition can be a great way to brush up on your English Literature knowledge.

Have a Free Meeting with one of our hand picked tutors from the UK’s top universities

Find a tutor

Related English Literature A Level answers

All answers ▸

How do I prepare quotes for a closed book exam?


How do I write a good essay introduction?


How do you structure paragraphs in an essay?


What is pathetic fallacy and why is it used ?


We're here to help

contact us iconContact usWhatsapp logoMessage us on Whatsapptelephone icon+44 (0) 203 773 6020
Facebook logoInstagram logoLinkedIn logo

© MyTutorWeb Ltd 2013–2022

Terms & Conditions|Privacy Policy