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Hawthorne from Emily Bronte. But their bachelor narrators bear an
¨
uncanny resemblance to each other. Among other traits, Lockwood and
Coverdale share a distinctive combination of self-re¬‚exivity and un-
selfconsciousness; imaginative engagement and emotional distance;
acuteness and obtuseness of perception. One could attribute this para-
doxical combination of traits to a split in these ¬gures™ narrative func-
tion, a disjunction between their powers of observation and their powers
of interpretation. And, indeed such a split has been used to understand
these narrators as quintessentially unreliable.⁴
What has been less fully understood is the gendered dimension of
these narrators™ unreliability. That is to say, there is a constitutive link
between narrative unreliability and the gendered eccentricity or ˜˜ex-
centricity™™ of the narrators. The discrepancies between what these
narrators claim for themselves and what we as readers infer about them
raise questions about the normativity of their performance of bourgeois
manhood. For example, both bachelor narrators portray themselves as
thwarted suitors when neither is anything of the sort.µ While it is easy to
see how self-portrayal as a contender in the arena of courtship could
work as a bid for manly consequence, such an interpretation overlooks
the ways that both ¬gures make the inaccuracy of their self-portrayal as
contenders so conspicuously evident to readers. It is not simply their
failure to succeed in the arena of marital courtship that undercuts these
narrators™ self-presentations. Rather, it is their insistent self-display as
 Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
nonstarters, their patently evident reluctance or inability to enter the
lists, that complicates their self-portrayal. While their self-presentations
as thwarted suitors makes these bachelor narrators into abjected spec-
tacles-in-the-text, this same self-presentation gains each the privileged
position of spectator-in-the-text, a kind of runner-up prize for the suitor
who does not prove himself ¬nally to be the better man. In so obviously
miscasting themselves as thwarted suitors, and thereby assuming the
positions of spectacle and spectator, these bachelor ¬gures visibly di-
verge from ideal or even acceptable manhood.⁶
Consider Coverdale™s last words at the end of Blithedale, his ˜˜confes-
sion™™ to the reader after he describes his confrontation with Priscilla and
her now husband, Hollingsworth: ˜˜I “ I myself “ was in love “ with “
Priscilla!™™ (BR, p. ·). Coverdale™s melodramatically stage-whispered
confession does not, as he claims it will, ˜˜throw a gleam of light over
[his] behavior throughout the foregoing incidents,™™ nor does it satisfac-
torily account for the ensuing ˜˜inactive years of meridian manhood,™™ by
which he means both his permanent ˜˜bachelorship™™ and his idle ˜˜lack
of purpose™™ (BR, p. ·). Rather, his ˜˜foolish little secret™™ con¬rms the
reader™s suspicions that his narration has been marked throughout by
intentional withholdings as well as by unintentional disclosures. Para-
doxically, it corroborates our sense of the narration™s unreliability in the
very moment of the narrator™s avowed full disclosure. It is a self-
asserting last bid for consequence, for the con¬dence of his readers in his
integrity as narrator and in his integral role in the novel™s marriage
plotting. It is also a self-e¬acing display of inconsequentiality: ˜˜It is . . .
an absurd thing ever to have happened, and quite the absurdest for an
old bachelor, like me, to talk about™™ (BR, p. ·). Much like the insu¬-
cient moral to the story that Coverdale draws in the penultimate
chapter, this greatest secret of the bachelor narrator™s heart makes a
conspicuously ¬‚imsy and irrelevant conclusion to the tragic love triangle
that dooms Zenobia, Hollingsworth, and Priscilla.
Yet Coverdale™s suggestion of a possible mismatch in the novel™s
romantic couplings is not utterly implausible since, in contrast to the
superabundance of marriages in Wuthering Heights, The Blithedale Romance
comes up one romance short. Blithedale does not culminate with that
most blissful of endings for a Victorian novel, the double wedding,
despite the romantic possibilities suggested by its two matched sets of
˜˜light™™ and ˜˜dark™™ protagonists, male and female. These symmetrical
pairings have generated, for example, the long-standing critical tradi-
tion of reading Coverdale™s declared love for Priscilla as a displacement

The constitution of the bachelor invalid
from his frighteningly powerful erotic attraction to Zenobia.· A more
recent critical interpretation pairs Coverdale with Hollingsworth, not-
ing the homoerotic charge of Coverdale™s attraction to the man whom
he desires for a ˜˜death-bed companion,™™ and whose sexual ambiguity
Coverdale perceives, or perhaps wishes to perceive: ˜˜There was some-
thing of the woman moulded into the great, stalwart frame of Hollings-
worth™™ (BR, p. ).⁸ A third interpretive take on the novel™s romantic
mismatchings sees Zenobia as the ˜˜right™™ woman for Hollingsworth;
when this ˜˜bad mother™™ is eliminated by her own hand, the ˜˜daughter™s
seduction™™ is consummated, ful¬lling the marriage plot but uniting the
wrong pair of characters.⁹
All these critical understandings of Coverdale™s dramatic avowal of
love for Priscilla acknowledge the centrality of a love triangle in the
novel, whether that triangle consists of two men and one woman, or one
man and two women; whether the competition is between two men, two
women, or a man and a woman; whether the erotic object of this
eroticized rivalry is male or female. They fail, however, to acknowledge
the ways in which the erotics of this novel are crucially quadrangulated, not
merely triangulated. Coverdale adds a fourth to a crowd already made
up of three. In his quadrangulating role, this bachelor narrator plays a
part that is the quintessence of super¬‚uity, yet speaks to his desire for
indispensability, or at least consequentiality. As the spectator of an
already existing erotic triangle, the bachelor narrator exceeds the re-
quirements of mediated desire yet also epitomizes the dynamics of such
desire. The very act of imaginatively participating in this already tri-
angulated relationship reveals Coverdale™s limited purchase on and
relevance to it. He thereby creates the paradoxical e¬ect of simulta-
neously bolstering and undermining his gendered status as a sexual
contender.
A similarly paradoxical e¬ect is produced by the vicarious quadran-
gulations of Wuthering Heights™s Lockwood, who makes a super¬‚uous
fourth to the second-generation love triangle consisting of Cathy II,
Hareton, and Linton, and an even more super¬‚uous ¬fth to the abutting
love triangles in the ¬rst generation composed of Catherine, Edgar,
Heathcli¬, and Isabella. I will, however, refrain from labeling this
˜˜quintangulation,™™ having already coined the egregious ˜˜quadrangula-
tion.™™ When Lockwood vicariously squares the ¬rst-generation triangles
consisting of Heathcli¬, Edgar, and Catherine, and of Heathcli¬,
Catherine, and Isabella, he imaginatively inserts himself into a polymor-
phous variety of subject and object positions. The most insistent of these,
·° Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
however, is his erotic identi¬cation with Heathcli¬, his desire both to be
and to have Heathcli¬. Moreover, Lockwood most vividly enacts his
erotic identi¬cation with Heathcli¬ via his self-portrayal as a thwarted
suitor for the hand of Cathy II, when he imagines himself as Hareton™s
rival after Linton™s death leaves an opening in the erotic triangulation of
the second generation. By envisioning himself as Heathcliªs successor
or heir “ an identi¬cation which also reinforces his resemblance to
Linton, who manages to get the girl despite, or even because, of his
status as an oversensitive invalid¹° “ Lockwood imaginatively occupies
an Oedipalized position that both subordinates him yet also implies his
eventual rise to patriarchal power. He wishfully casts himself as a second
edition of Heathcli¬, for example, in his re¬‚ection at the end of the
novel™s ¬rst volume upon the dangerously seductive ˜˜fascination that
lurks in Catherine Heathcli¬™s eyes™™: ˜˜I should be in a curious taking if I
surrendered my heart to that young person, and the daughter turned
out to be a second edition of the mother™™ (WH, p. ±±). Catherine is thus
not the only character in this novel whom one can imagine passionately
announcing, or at least thinking, ˜˜Nelly, I am Heathcli¬™™!
Lockwood again tries to pass himself o¬ as a second-generation
Heathcli¬ when he returns to Wuthering Heights in the fall of ±° and
is surprised to ¬nd Cathy and Hareton united. This ˜˜epilogue™™ re-
sembles Coverdale™s unexpected encounter with Priscilla and Hollings-
worth several years after the action of the story. Within Bronte™s novel, it
¨
also recalls Heathcliªs own belated return to Wuthering Heights after
Catherine has married Edgar:

[T]hey had stationed themselves not far from one of the windows. I could both
see them and hear them talk before I entered, and looked and listened in
consequence, being moved thereto by a mingled sense of curiosity and envy
that grew as I lingered . . . [Having witnessed them kissing and preparing for a
walk on the moors,] I supposed I should be condemned in Hareton Earnshaw™s
heart, if not by his mouth, to the lowest pit in the infernal regions if I showed my
unfortunate person in his neighbourhood then, and feeling very mean and
malignant, I skulked round to seek refuge in the kitchen. (WH, pp. “)

The language and imagery of the passage “ Lockwood™s reference to
˜˜infernal regions™™; the animal metaphor (˜˜Skulker™™ is the name of the
dog that bites Catherine™s ankle early in the novel [WH, p. °]); seeking
refuge in or being banished to the servants™ quarters “ all these recall
Heathcli¬ and his thwarted striving for the ¬rst Catherine. Lockwood™s
representation of this domestic scene from outside looking in through a
·±
The constitution of the bachelor invalid
window also evokes the scene in which the young Heathcli¬ peers in
through the window at Thrushcross Grange, giving the narrative an
outsider™s perspective upon the enticing warmth and luxury into which
Catherine has been accepted and from which he has been forcibly
excluded.
In the penultimate scene of the novel, Lockwood once again peeps at
the young lovers and then sneaks away once more, though this time he is
on the inside looking out: ˜˜As they stepped onto the door-stones, and
halted to take a last look at the moon, or, more correctly, at each other,
by her light, I felt irresistibly impelled to escape them again; and,
pressing a remembrance into the hand of Mrs Dean, and disregarding
her expostulations at my rudeness, I vanished through the kitchen, as
they opened the house-door™™ (WH, p. ·). Lockwood™s vanishing act
here evokes an earlier show of peeping and disappearing: his retrospec-
tive disclosure to the reader of his e¬orts to avoid the returned gaze of
the seaside ˜˜goddess.™™ That earlier withdrawal had culminated in his
retreat to the country which sets the scene for the telling of the story. It is
that withdrawal, moreover, which Lockwood narrates as evidence of the
˜˜peculiarity™™ of his ˜˜constitution™™ (WH, p. ·).¹¹ However, in the ¬nal
manifestation of Lockwood™s peep-and-run tendency, when he ˜˜es-
cape[s]™™ from Cathy and Hareton, he seems to be avoiding something
far less inviting than a reciprocating gaze. Well might Lockwood imag-
ine Cathy and Hareton sending his way a pitying or scornful gaze, is
even worse, they might utterly fail to reciprocate this gaze, so mutually
trans¬xed are these young lovers in looking at the moon and at each
other. The scopophilic pleasure of satis¬ed curiosity outweighs the pain
of frustrating if titillating, envy only when Lockwood watches unseen,
from a distance, and preferably through a window.
Watching through windows and abrupt departure are motifs also
associated with Coverdale. Appearing in his city clothes at the commu-
nal Blithedale dinner table, Coverdale announces his intention of taking
˜˜a short visit to the seaside™™ (BR, p. ±·), a ˜˜leave-taking™™ occasioned by
his falling out with Hollingsworth, and thus with Hollingsworth™s devo-
tees, Zenobia and Priscilla. Coverdale does not withdraw from the
arena because he has lost the contest, as we might assume about
Lockwood™s hasty retreat; Coverdale is merely changing seats to regain
a view of the show. Installing himself in an urban hotel room, Coverdale
reimmerses himself in the dreamy pleasures of solitary bachelor life:
¬replace, rocking chair, cigar, novel, and especially the unobstructed
view from his window directly onto the windows at the back of a ˜˜stylish
· Bachelors, manhood, and the novel
boarding-house.™™ The boarders at whom he peeps “ including Priscilla
and Zenobia who unexpectedly materialize in the city just a few days
later “ are ˜˜actors in a drama™™; Coverdale™s mind is a ˜˜mental stage™™
(BR, p. ±µ); and when Zenobia draws the window curtain to obscure his
view, it falls ˜˜like the drop-curtain of a theatre, in the interval between
the acts™™ (BR, p. ±µ).
The theatrical connotations of Coverdale™s spectatorship forge un-
mistakable links to the urban performance of spiritualist mediumship,
which itself forms a counterpart to the rural performance of utopian
communal life. Thus, the ˜˜white linen curtain™™ (BR, p. ±µ) that both
frustrates and stimulates Coverdale™s desire to watch conspicuously
recalls the veil that covers Priscilla in her starring role as ˜˜The Veiled
Lady.™™ Coverdale sees the performance of ˜˜The Veiled Lady™™ in the
city the night before he departs for the simpler pastoral life at the
utopian community of Blithedale, modelled, as is well known, on Haw-
thorne™s own experience at Brook Farm. What these two cultural
discourses “ utopian communalism and spiritualist mediumship “ have
in common is the rhetoric of the permeability of boundaries between self
and other, between self and world, and between this world and the next.
Thus Westervelt, the sinister impresario and Svengali-prototype, ex-
plains the phenomenon of his mesmerical control over the Veiled
Lady/Priscilla in terms that could describe equally well the visionary
project of utopian Blithedale: ˜˜He spoke of a new era that was dawning
upon the world; an era that would link soul to soul, and the present life
to what we call futurity, with a closeness that should ¬nally convert both
worlds into one great, mutually conscious brotherhood™™ (BR, p. °°).
The ˜˜new era™™ of closeness that Westervelt claims to herald is unadul-
terated by hierarchy. Even more crucially, this new era is distinguished
by the crossing or even the removal of boundaries which separate this
world from the other world, the private from the public, and ultimately
self from other, fundamentally destabilizing or dissolving conventional
notions of bourgeois individuality.¹²
The mingling or dissolution of discrete identities associated with
spiritualist mediumship and utopian communalism in Blithedale has a
correlative in Wuthering Heights™s discourse of erotic, romantic, and/or
supernatural merger.¹³ This merging of individuals and spheres is most
famously summed up by Catherine when she explains her plan to aid
Heathcli¬ with Edgar Linton™s money after marrying him. When Nelly
condemns this as ˜˜the worst motive you™ve given yet for being the wife
of young Linton,™™ Catherine explodes:
·
The constitution of the bachelor invalid
It is not . . . it is the best! The others were the satisfaction of my whims; and for
Edgar™s sake, too, to satisfy him. This is for the sake of one who comprehends in
his person my feelings to [sic] Edgar and myself. I cannot express it; but surely
you and everybody have a notion that there is, or should be an existence of
yours beyond you. What were the use of my creation if I were entirely
contained here? . . . If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue
to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn
to a mighty stranger . . . Nelly, I am Heathcli¬ “ he™s always, always in my mind
“ not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself “ but as my
own being[.] (WH, p. ±)

This merging of self and other in Wuthering Heights, as in Blithedale, is
described in terms of enchantment, suggesting the discourse of the
supernatural and the romantic, or in terms of possession, suggesting the
discourse of madness and also of private property. Both of these meta-
phors for merger, moreover, suggest the tension between competing
models of Victorian bourgeois marriage: the cultural fantasy of two
halves forming one whole versus the mid-nineteenth-century legal real-
ity of the husband™s ownership of his wife™s goods and body.¹⁴ As many
feminist historians and critics have noted, when Victorian ˜˜man and
wife™™ are joined as one, that one is legally the man.¹µ To the extent that
Victorian marriage legally reorganizes the boundaries of individual
identity, that reorganization is fundamentally hierarchical and possess-
ive.
While Blithedale may be more self-conscious about the sexual politics
of spiritualist mediumship and utopian communalism than Wuthering
Heights is about the gendered asymmetries of the merging of Catherine
and Heathcli¬, the e¬ects of such gendered asymmetries and their
sexual politics are palpable in both texts. Both novels o¬er these radical
interminglings of self and other as potential, if not ultimately viable,
alternatives to the culturally hegemonic institutions of bourgeois mar-
riage, family life, and private property, and to more conventional
understandings of the relation of the world of the living to the world that
lies on the ˜˜other side™™ of the veil. The damaging e¬ects of conventional
gender and sexual relations, particularly for female characters, are

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