literary terms and themes

the “voice” that speaks for tells a story; in Wuthering Heights, Nelly Dean is an unreliable narrator because she always tries to present herself in the best possible light. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the narrator is third person omniscient.

point of view
the way a story gets told and who tells it; in Wuthering Heights, the story is told in the point of view of Nelly Dean, who modifies some of the stories to her favor. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles the point of view is from an all knowing narrator who can see into the minds of all the characters.

frame story
the result of inserting one or more small stories within the body of a larger story that encompasses the smaller ones; in Wuthering Heights, the initial story is of Mr. Lockwood’s stay at Thrushcross Grange but the frame story is the story of the Catherine, Edward, and Heathcliff. In Frankenstein, Walton meets Victor Frankenstein who then proceeds to tell him his tragic story of the monster.

the general locale, historical time, and social circumstances in which the action of a fictional or dramatic work occurs; in Wuthering Heights, the setting is a dark place that reflects the twisted characters. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, the setting changes throughout the stages of Tess’ life; for example, Tess thrives in the lush, fertile setting of Talbothays.

includes the “mental pictures” that readers experience with a passage of literature; in Wuthering Heights, weather imagery is used to foreshadow events; for example, right before Heathcliff leaves, a storm occurs. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, religious imagery is used to compare Tess, Angel, and Alec to the characters in the Garden of Eden bible story.

frequent use of words, places, characters, or objects that mean something beyond what they are on a literal level; in both Wuthering Heights and Tess of the d’Urbervilles, name symbolism is significant. In Wuthering Heights, Young Catherine eventually becomes Catherine Earnshaw, which was her mother’s original name. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, before Tess is impure her name is Tess Durbeyfield, meaning girl of the field; after Alec takes advantage of her in the Chase, she begins going by d’Urberville, which implies the evil city.

a casual reference in literature to a person, place, event, or another passage of literature, often without explicit identification; in Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Hardy refers to the Bible in the Garden of Eden parallel.

The theme of the supernatural refers to dark, mysterious occurrences in literature. For example in Wuthering Heights, Catherine’s ghost haunts Mr. Lockwood. In Frankenstein, Victor brings the monster to life through putting together body parts of the deceased.

The theme of superstition refers to the belief in myths. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess’ mother refers to a book of superstitions for Tess’ fate. Also, when Tess and Angel are leaving Talbothays a crow makes noise, sparking talk that something bad will soon happen.

love and passion
The theme of love and passion signifies that love is a driving force for characters and excess amounts of these feelings can cause a downfall. In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff and Catherine’s passion for each other causes Catherine to go mad. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess’ love for Angel causes her to marry him, even though she swears to herself that she will never marry.

The theme of revenge refers to a character’s need to return the pain inflicted on another character. In Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff seeks revenge on Edward for marrying Catherine by marrying Isabella. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess gets revenge of Alec for taking advantage of her by killing him.

violence and cruelty
Violence and cruelty are savage actions that characters commit as a result of rejection and lack of love. In Wuthering Heights, violence and cruelty is an important theme. For example, Hindley is cruel to Heathcliff because of previous rejection from his father. Heathcliff is abusive to Isabella to seek revenge on Edgar.

class conflict
Class conflict prohibits relationships of characters because of the importance of social status. In Wuthering Heights, Catherine wants to marry Edgar only for superficial reasons and says she could not marry Heathcliff because he would degrade her. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess is forced into a relationship with Alec because he can provide for her family.

love triangle
The theme of love triangles refers to a common feeling towards one character shared by two characters. In Wuthering Heights, Edward and Heathcliff both share a love for Catherine, creating many conflicts in their relationships. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Alec and Angel both vie for Tess’ admiration, and Alec always tries to interfere with Tess’ life.

fate and chance
The theme of fate and chance refers to the idea that all characters are under a force, and they cannot do anything to change their future. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess accidentally causes Prince’s death which leads her to go stay with Alec to help aid her family financially and ultimately leads to her rape. Also, when Tess tries to tell Angel about her sin, the letter happens to get stuck in the carpet and he never reads it.

rural vs. urban
The theme of rural versus urban refers to the idea that the city represents all things evil and the country represents the ideal lifestyle. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Angel’s evil sin takes place in London, a city. Another example is when the reaping machine is described as hellish, endless work.

knowledge and ignorance
The theme of knowledge and ignorance subverts the idea that an education gives a character wisdom. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Angel was the only one in his family who did not go to college, but he was also the only one who questioned what he learned. In Wuthering Heights, Young Catherine taunts Hareton because he has no knowledge, but he still puts for an effort to learn.

natural law
Natural law is the idea that society has a different set of moral rules than nature. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess has not committed an act against natural law, but she is still condemned by society. Also, she believes that she is unworthy to be in nature and attend church because of her sin, even though she did nothing wrong.

god and religion
The theme of God and religion is the struggle between what the Church says and what is morally right. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Alec changes his appearance to be a convert, but he quickly quits his preaching ministry when he sees Tess. Also, Tess attempts to have her child, Sorrow, buried by a priest, but he refuses because the child has not been properly baptized according to the Church standards.

sex and marriage
Sex and Marriage influence decisions and society’s perception of characters. In Tess of the d’Urbervilles, Tess is truly Alec’s wife because of the rape which is a double standard because Alec has no attachment to Tess. On Tess and Angel’s wedding night, they confess their sins to each other, and while Tess readily forgives Angel, he does not reciprocate, even though his sin is as bad if not worse than hers.