Social and cultural capital in Wuthering Heights

It didn’t escape my notice that Emily Bronte saw the value in social and cultural capital. And here is a spoiler alert. If you don’t want to know what happens to Hareton and little Cathy, don’t read any further.

“His honest, warm and intelligent nature shook off rapidly the clouds of ignorance and degradation in which it had been bred..His brightening mind brightened his features, and added spirit and nobility to their aspect (286).”

Heathcliff was well aware that economic poverty was not enough to hobble poor Hareton. It seems that in the last fifty years or so free-market economics has allowed many members of our society to become similarly hobbled, as success and liberty are measured in dollars alone. It’s an area of educational neglect. It’s interesting that Cathy, a woman, was Hareton’s ‘knight in shining armour’, liberating him from ignorance and social isolation. And several times in the novel, books and the escapism literacy can provide, were given powerful significance, with the to-and-fro of volumes smuggled to Linton, stolen by Hareton, and confiscated from Cathy. In the end, Hareton’s happiness and confidence came not from the re-acquisition of property, but from education. Perhaps it took a female writer to acknowledge the power of what men may have taken for granted? Here’s hoping that social and cultural entrepreneurship come back into vogue.

Image: Unhappy (Bordieuan) Hipsters. I think of this image as a modern-day Cathy teaching Hareton. The book of the blog can be purchased here. Buy it for an ironic – mais oui – take on cultural capital and where it has led us in an imperfect world!

Bronte, Emily. 2009. Wuthering Heights. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

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