Introduction of Wuthering Heights
Written by Emily Bronte, a great name in Bronte sisters, this masterpiece of English Literature first appeared in 1847 but under her pen name “Ellis Bell.” However, the book did not receive acclaim because of the challenge that it posed to the Victorian ideas about class, morality, and religion. Within a few years, the novel, though, won the much-desired praise. The novel presents a multigenerational story of passionate love and extreme revenge, revolving around the inhabitants of a farmhouse, Wuthering Heights, and its scornful honor, Heathcliff. The story has been used for various films as well as plays.
Summary of Wuthering Heights
The novel begins when Lockwood, a new tenant of Heathcliff, visits his landlord’s home in the remote area called Wuthering Heights. Instead of getting warm treatment, he notices a strange group of people. To him, Mr. Heathcliff looks like a nice man, but he shares contrasting etiquette and manners; the young mistress appears a reserved yet rude lady, and there is a boy who seems to be a family member but behaves like a servant. Due to heavy snow, Lockwood is forced to at Wuthering Heights where a curious supernatural encounter adds more to his perturbation. Disturbed, he gets back at Thrushcross Grange but stays desperate to know more about the mysterious place. As soon as he recuperates from his illness, he revisits the site and begs Nelly Dean, a servant at Wuthering Heights, to inquire of him the history of that haunted place.
The story begins thirty years back when Mr. Earnshaw, the Wuthering Heights’ owner, brings home an orphan, gypsy boy, intending to adopt him as his son. The boy, Heathcliff, was raised with the Earnshaw children, Catherine and Hindley. Catherine adores the company of a new member, while his brother hates him, thinking the boy has shared his special rank in the house. After his father’s death, Hindley left no stone unturned to destroy Heathcliff. Still, Catherine and Heathcliff love to spend hours in the moors, oblivious of anything until Lintons steal their precious joy.
One day, Catherine and Heathcliff visit Thrushcross Grange where Lintons lives with their children, Isabella and Edgar. Mischievous, Catherine and Heathcliff tease the children and try to escape when a bulldog chases Catherine. Seeing her in trouble, Lintons brings Catherine and Heathcliff inside. However, when they discover the truth about Catherine’s identity, they take good care of the girl but shun Heathcliff. Soon, Catherine shares great affection with Edgar, and begins to divide her time between Edgar and Heathcliff which eventually troubles Heathcliff. One day, Heathcliff overhears Catherine that she will never marry him. Feeling much disappointed, he leaves the farmhouse.
In his absence, Catherine gets closer to Edgar and ends up marrying him. Unfortunately, they fail to develop a happy union, and their relationship gets more strained when Heathcliff returns as stronger and richer than before. On the one hand, Heathcliff takes control of the Wuthering Heights by paying Hindley’s gambling debts, while on the other hand, his relationship with Lintons starting worsening as Edgar hates Catherine’s affection toward Heathcliff, leading them to have a violent quarrel. The situation reaches a boiling point when Heathcliff marries Isabella to avenge maltreatment. Meanwhile, Catherine gets pregnant that causes her health to deteriorate. After a few months, Isabella and Heathcliff return to Wuthering Heights where Heathcliff comes to know about Catherine’s illness and visits her in Edgar’s absence.
Their passionate reunion provides them a chance to seek forgiveness which they do. After this memorable meeting, Catherine dies during childbirth, leaving Edgar’s daughter alive. Aggrieved, Heathcliff begs Catherine’s ghost to haunt him and becomes somewhat revengeful against others without any specific excuses. He, in fact, desires to gain full control of both Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, destroying every possession of Edgar Linton. To live to see these desires fulfilled, however, he has had to endure a long wait of years.
During the intervening years, Catharine’s daughter, Cathy grew up into a beautiful girl in Grange, while Heathcliff raises Hareton, Hindley’s son, at Wuthering Heights, to be an uneducated servant. One day, Cathy meets Hareton on the moors and likes him until she discovers his identity. When Cathy turns thirteen, Isabella dies, and Heathcliff brings Linton to Wuthering Heights. Filled with the fire of revenge, Heathcliff decides to use his son to control Thrushcross Grange by forcing Linton to marry Cathy. Soon after their marriage, Linton dies, and Cathy befriends Hareton whom she has always despised. Haunted by Catherine’s memories for eight years, Heathcliff, too, dies in his room, letting Cathy and Heraton restore their status and properties. The novel ends when Mr. Lockdown discovers that Cathy and Heraton are now free and have decided to marry on New Year’s Day.
Major Themes in Wuthering Heights
- Good and Evil: Good versus evil is the central theme of the novel, Wuthering Heights. The writer has presented this theological conception, using emotions like love, revenge, and obsession. At first, the story shows the varied nature of the character, either good or evil. Later, the narrator provides reasons for their indifferent behavior. For example, the mistreatment Heathcliff faces in his childhood transforms him into a revengeful person. Similarly, jealousy of Edgar and Hindley toward Heathcliff leads them to develop negative character traits. Although the novel revolves around the battle of good and evil, some characters remain good and kind such as Mrs. Dean, Catherine, and Heraton.
- Violence and Revenge: Violence and revenge go hand in hand in the story. At first, the author narrates the abuse Heathcliff suffers that eventually leads him to abuse and torture others. First, he gets revengeful toward Hindley by rendering him homeless and then keeps his son away from the world he belongs to. Later, Isabella becomes the victim of his revenge and violence. He even does not leave his son as he purposefully drags him into an uncertain situation. It seems that Heathcliff enjoys causing pain and discomfort to others which becomes the thematics strand of the novel.
- Class Differences: Class difference marks the center of the novel, Wuthering Heights. Emily explores the foreign concept of class distinction in-depth in the story by defining each character’s class and how these differences impact their lives. Edgar, Hindley, and Catherine belong to the wealthy class, the reason that Cathy chooses to marry Edgar. On the contrary, Heathcliff is an adopted child, and despite getting attached to the wealthy class, he remains snubbed and subjugated. This difference instills extremely negative traits into his personality in that he becomes a sadist and enjoys troubling others.
- Relationships: The novel presents a very confusing strain of relationships. Mr. Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff but transfers his property to his son, Hindley. Cathy and Heathcliff grow up as different siblings, but they develop a strong love relation with the passage of time time. However, Cathy does not choose to marry Heathcliff. Instead, she prefers Edgar Linton, belonging to a high social class. Heathcliff does not accept Cathy’s decision and decides to exact revenge. Thus, he marries Edgar’s sister and makes her life hell.
- Prejudice: Emily Bronte has skillfully used this theme in the storyline through various characters. For example, although Mr. Earnshaw adopts Heathcliff, yet he does not grant him equal rights. Also, Hindley never misses a chance to torture him. Similarly, Lintons also looks down upon Heathcliff and never accepts him as a member of the Earnshaw family.
- Success and Social Standing: Success and social distancing, two hallmarks of the upper class, also becomes a thematic strand when Cathy decides to marry Edgar, considering him a cultured rich man, whereas Heathcliff does not find her expectations being fulfilled. Therefore, she chooses success and social standing over love. Similarly, Isabella also gets attracted to Heathcliff’s appearance and ruins her life.
- Ironic Representation of Love: Relationships in the novel are twisted, dark, and ironic. Mr. Earnshaw loves Heathcliff, his adopted son, causing Hindley to hate and despise him. Cathy loves Heathcliff but marries Edgar Earnshaw. Similarly, Heathcliff loves Cathy to satisfy his negative impulses, yet he marries Edgar’s sister, Isabella. Through this confusing cycle of relationships, the author shows how love becomes a joke when it comes to success.
- Patriarchy: Emily has shown the abusive nature of the patriarchal system in the novel. Earnshaw expects Cathy to behave according to her will. Edgar also puts her into a challenging situation by asking her to choose between him and Heathcliff, while Heathcliff shows power,f forcing Catherine to marry his son, Linton Heathcliff.
- Isolation: Isolation is another important theme presented in the novel. Hindley and Heathcliff never get united; instead, they prefer to stay isolated. Catherine and Isabella also die separate from each other, while Heathcliff leaves the world in a quiet and secluded room.
Major Characters in Wuthering Heights
- Heathcliff: Heathcliff is the major and mysterious character of the novel, Wuthering Heights. A waif rescued and brought up by the Earnshaw family at Wuthering Heights, he later becomes an enemy of their son, Hindley, but shares a cordial relation with their daughter, Cathy. Unfortunately, since childhood, Heathcliff has endured a lot when Hindley mistreats him, and later, his love, Cathy, betrays him by marrying Edgar Linton. These incidents has led him to vow revenge against all who have wronged him, intentionally or intentionally, including Catherine and Edgar. He marries Edgar’s sister Isabella and tortures her for the sake of fun, and creates troubles for almost all others. It seems that the bitter treatment he has received during his early years has transformed him into a sadist.
- Catherine: Catherine is another significant character of the novel, Wuthering Heights on account of her being a kind and generous lady whose calm nature wins her praise of every other character. Unfortunately, she leads a comfortable life after the death of her mother, Cathy. Despite facing troubles, she understands the brutality and cruelty of Heathcliff toward Hareton. Later, she falls in love with Heathcliff’s son, Linton, but Linton ditches her following his father’s threat. However, she decides to marry him and takes care of him until his death. Later, when Heathcliff dies, she gets restored her lost property and position with Hareton’s help and chooses to marry him.
- Dean: Nelly Dean is the narrator of the story as she takes the readers back in time where she narrates the history of the Linton and Earnshaw families to Mr. Lockwood. She is the servant of Wuthering Heights and very loyal member of the family. Throughout the novel, she has been shown as caring and compassionate who treats Heathcliff, Cathy, and Hindley as her siblings. She takes care of Cathy’s daughter, Catherine, after her death.
- Edgar: Edgar Linton is an elegant aristocrat at Thrushcross Grange whom Cathy marries to gain social position. He decides to stay loyal to Cathy but after Heathcliff’s return, his relation with Cathy turns sour. His jealousy toward Heathcliff further corrodes their marital relation, leading to Cathy’s death. He tries to save his daughter from Heathcliff’s revenge but fails to do so in later life. Heathcliff not only takes charge of his property but also abandons his daughter, Catherine.
- Hareton: Heraton is the unfortunate son of Hindley who becomes the victim of Heathcliff’s revenge. Heathcliff treats him exactly the way his father used to treat him during his childhood. He is a very kind-hearted and naïve character who does not know anything about cultured manners despite belonging to the upper class. However, Catherine’s arrival in his life changes his fortune for good.
- Hindley Earnshaw: He is the son of Mr. Earnshaw and Catherine’s brother. He is the one who resents the arrival of Heathcliff in his family, which later evokes Heathcliff to be vindictive toward everyone. After his father’s death, he leaves no stone unturned to abuse and to tease Heathcliff, a move that later costs him dearly when Heathcliff takes all his possessions, dragging him toward awful death.
- Earnshaw: Mr. Earnshaw is Catherine and Hindley’s father. He adopts and brings Heathcliff to his home but the new member faces mistreatment and abuse from the family members.
- Isabella Linton: Isabella Linton is Edgar Linton’s sister. She suffers at the hands of love after marrying Heathcliff, who ruins her life.
- Lockwood: Mr. Lockwood is a visitor to Thrushcross Grange and the narrator of the story. His interest in mysterious Heathcliff drags him to dig into the past of the Linton and Earnshaw families. Therefore, he asks Nelly Dean to tell him the story of Wuthering Heights.
- Linton: He is the Sickly child of Heathcliff and Isabella. He comes to live with his father after the death of his mother. Instead of giving him fatherly love, Heathcliff uses him to execute his revenge.
Writing Style of Wuthering Heights
The writing style of the novel, Wuthering Heights, shows the impressive yet straightforward approach of the author, Emily Bronte. She fictionalizes the man who is corrupted in a society where class and social status direct the ways of life. The skillful use of the elements of gothic fiction and multiple narrative techniques shows how Emily has given her text a unique touch and individualistic feel. Having used simple diction, serious tone, ironic remarks on the social hierarchy of the Victorian age, Emily has presented how class distinction corrodes the social fabric of society.
Analysis of Literary Devices in Wuthering Heights
- Action: The main action of the novel comprises the escape of Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights. The rising action occurs when Heathcliff returns to Wuthering Heights after three years as a wealthy gentleman. The falling action occurs when Heathcliff forces Linton and Cathy to marry and become the honor of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
- Allegory: Wuthering Heights shows the use of allegory by presenting the main idea of how the immortal wreckage of love brings ruination to many of the characters of the novel.
- Allusion: The novel shows the use of allusion such as,
i. The Jonah, in my mind, was Mr. Earnshaw; and I shook the handle of his den that I might ascertain if he were yet living. (Chapter-IX)
ii. Yah knaw whet t’ Scripture ses.’ And he began quoting several texts, referring us to chapters and verses where we might find them. (Chapter-IX)
iii. Oh, I owe him so much. On only one condition can I hope to forgive him. It is, if I may take an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth; for every wrench of agony return a wrench: reduce him to my level. (Chapter-XVII)
All of these references allude to religion; first to Jonah, second to Bible, and third to Exodus verses 21 to 23.
- Conflict: Several conflicts are running parallel in the novel such as; the internal and external struggle of the characters, Heathcliff’s revenge toward Lintons, and class differences.
- Climax: The climax of the novel, Wuthering Heights, occurs when Heathcliff dies and Cathy and Hareton decide to get married.
- Characters: Wuthering Heights presents both static as well as dynamic characters. The young woman, Cathrine Linton, and Edgar Linton are dynamic characters as they go through a transformation during the course of the novel. However, Heathcliff, Hindley Earnshaw, and several others are dynamic characters as they do not show any change in their behavior.
- Foreshadowing: The novel shows examples of foreshadows such as,
i. The intense horror of nightmare came over me: I tried to draw back my arm, but the hand clung to it, and a most melancholy voice sobbed, “let me in—let me in!”“Who are you?” I asked, struggling, meanwhile, to disengage myself.”Catherine Linton,” it replied, shiveringly (why did I think of Linton? I had read Earnshaw twenty times for Linton)—”I’m come home: I’d lost my way on the moor!” (Chapter-III)
This example predicts what is going to happen in the story as this ghostly nightmare of Lockwood prefigures the major happening of the novel.
- Imagery: The novel shows the use of imagery such as,
i. Yesterday afternoon set in misty and cold. I had half a mind to spend it by my study fire, instead of wading through heath and mud to Wuthering Heights. . . [However] I took my hat, and, after a four-mile’ walk, arrived at Heathcliff’s garden-gate just in time to escape the first feathery flakes of a snow-shower……..On that bleak hill-top the earth was hard with a black frost, and the air made me shiver through every limb. (Chapter-II)
ii. He was leaning against the ledge of an open lattice, but not looking out: his face was turned to the interior gloom. The fire had smouldered to ashes; the room was filled with the damp, mild air of the cloudy evening; and so still that not only the murmur of the beck [stream] down Gimmerton was distinguishable, but its ripples and it’s gurgling over the pebbles, or through the large stones which it could not cover. (Chapter-XXXIV)
Both of these examples show the use of different images such as the image of the black forest, movement, and image cloudy evening. The second example also shows the images of sound, touch, and sight.
- Irony: The novel shows situational irony such as,
i. She is angry at Heathcliff for not leaving sooner to make something of himself. Catherine could have had Heathcliff, but she chooses not to and ends up miserable. (Chapter-VIII)
- Mood: The novel, Wuthering Heights, shows a sympathetic mood, though it becomes tragic, ironic, and highly satiric at times. Sometimes, it also becomes gloomy when Heathcliff and Catharine choose different paths.
- Motifs: The most important motifs of the novel, Wuthering Heights are Doubles, repetition, the conflict between nature and culture.
- Narrator: The novel, Wuthering Heights, has been narrated by a first and third-person narrator.
- Personification: The novel shows the examples of personifications such as,
i. Her spirits were always at high-water mark, her tongue always going
singing, laughing, and plaguing everybody who would not do the same. (Chapter-V)
ii. It was not the thorn bending to the honeysuckles, but the honeysuckles embracing the thorn. There were no mutual concessions: one stood erect, and the others yielded: and who can be ill-natured and bad-tempered when they encounter neither opposition nor indiﬀerence? (Chapter-10)
In both of these examples, spirits, tongue, thorn, and honeysuckles have been shown as having life and emotions of their own.
- Protagonist: Lockwood and Nelly Dean are the protagonists of the novel. The novel starts with mysterious happenings with them and ends on a happy note.
- Point of View: The novel, Wuthering Height, presents both first and third person points of view.
- Resolution: Resolution is when all the mysteries, conflicts, and problems reach a conclusion. Wuthering Heights ends with Heathcliff’s death which eventually puts a stop on all tensions.
- Setting: The setting of the novel, Wuthering Heights, is the moors of Yorkshire, England, and the story is divided between Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights.
- Symbols: Wuthering Heights shows the symbols of the moors, a ghost, Wuthering Heights, and Thrushcross Grange. Whereas the buildings represent two different classes, ghost stands for memories and the moors are the symbols of love and affection.
- Similes: The novel shows the use of similes such as,
i. We all kept as mute as mice a full half-hour, and should have done so longer, only Joseph, having finished his chapter, got up and said that he must rouse the master for prayers and bed. (Chapter- V)
ii. ‘The Lintons heard us, and with one accord they shot like arrows to the door; there was silence, and then a cry, ‘Oh, mamma, mamma! (Chapter-VI)
iii. He flung himself into the nearest seat, and on my approaching hurriedly to ascertain if she had fainted, he gnashed at me, and foamed like a mad dog. (Chapter-XIV)
iv. Did she die like a saint? Come, give me a true history of the event. How did ?’ (Chapter-XVI)
These examples show the use of like to compare different things such as the first one compares them with the mice, the second their departure to arrows, the third to a mad dog, and the last to a saint.
- Theme: A theme is a central idea that the novelist or the writer wants to stress upon. The novel, Wuthering Height, shows the clash between good and evil, class distinction, and prejudice.