Paul McFerran is an LJMU English and Creative Writing student at Level 4.
I did not know what to expect when we arrived in Haworth. I suppose I had envisioned a dark and dreary village that had not left the 1800s similar to the landscape of the novel Wuthering Heights. Despite these wild imaginings, Haworth had actually progressed with the rest of the world and I was honestly surprised to feel a familiarity with the place, not because I had been before, but because it was somewhat reminiscent of the countryside I had become accustomed to back home in Ireland. From the bus that brought us to our destination, we were guided towards the local church where we were offered some background to the Brontë family and the lives they led. Emily’s mother had died of cancer when she was only three, and her younger sisters Maria and Elizabeth died not long after. To learn that Emily had lost so many family members at a very young saddened me greatly, but it also let me comprehend her inspiration to write the novel Wuthering Heights, as she was met with horrible circumstances that certainly influenced her writing, as well as the peculiar perspective on love that we find in the novel.
Now having a further insight into the mind of Emily Brontë, we walked from the church towards her home, the Brontë Parsonage. The building presented itself with an intimidating Victorian grandeur, but upon entering the home the interior was much more welcoming, having only a handful of quaint, small rooms. Being able to wander the home of the Brontës gave us an understanding of Emily’s environment, and we were able to see a collection of Emily Brontë’s notebooks. They were only slightly larger than a 50p coin, and it was humbling to see how Emily was able to write so eloquently in such a small space. A tour took place after our visit to the house, and began in the graveyard below the Parsonage. The tour guide opened with a tale of Patrick Brontë, Emily and Catherine’s father, waking every morning, taking his loaded pistol, and shooting at the chapel that stood close by: we saw potential evidence of this in the bullet holes on the church walls. People have been sceptical of this rumour. However I choose to believe it, because life’s just more fun that way, and Patrick didn’t seem the most sane of individuals. The tour guide moved from this whimsical story to one much more bleak, about the graveyard that lay between the chapel and the Parsonage. Due to the horizontal positioning of the graves, the bodies within were less exposed to the elements around them leading to the bodies taking longer to decompose. Normally this wouldn’t be an issue, however, the local river passed through the graveyard, leading to contamination of the water supply, which likely led to the death of many in the village.
With this uplifting tale our tour had concluded, and we were given time to visit the town. Whilst most pursued the joys of food and ale at the local Blackbull Pub (following in the footsteps of the Brontë bad boy Branwell, Emily’s brother) , I stumbled across a record store which peaked my curiosity. Looking through the records I found Kate Bush’s “Lionheart”, and thought that the fact she had written the song “Wuthering Heights” (which unfortunately is not on this record!) made it a great souvenir to bring home to my family. Upon purchasing the record the elderly man informed me that Kate Bush and Emily Brontë shared the same birthday – July 30th – and Kate Bush wrote the song being inspired by the Lawrence Olivier film in particular.
Research completed, I returned to the church we first entered and we were taken through alternate perspectives on Wuthering Heights, from feminist and Marxist points of views, however an idea I found most peculiar was related to Heathcliff’s ethnicity. He had ended up an orphan in Liverpool speaking “gibberish”, which is very likely another language altogether from English. He is often described as dark and black. Therefore it may have been Emily Brontë’s intention to make the character black, but in describing this in an obvious way would have distracted from the complexities of her story, making it a piece about race and nothing more. So Brontë may have decided to reveal Heathcliffe’s identity this way, so as not to distract from the other themes of the novel. I personally had not finished the book when arriving in Haworth, but I felt the trip had made the remainder of the novel a more enjoyable and rewarding experience, as I felt I had entered into Emily’s environment and inspirations and understood the life events that would come to shape the novel itself.