Notwithstanding these themes, the book flags some key takeaways that are guaranteed to have an immediate impact on the readers’ morals and values reassessment on a positive level. This article will cover some vital themes in ‘Wuthering Heights’ by Emily Brontë.
Wuthering Heights Themes
Violence and Abuse
Not one, but several prominent characters in Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ at one point or another face or grapple with violent abuse, and this takes shape both emotionally and physically. To start with the book’s protagonist, Heathcliff, is a black-skinned foster child adopted by the kind Mr. Earnshaws. Heathcliff’s emotional and physical torture reaches its peak when his half-brother, Hindley, blocks his education and put him out in the field to work hard labor, like a commoner. This happens after their father passes away.
Ghost on the Loose
There seems to be some sort of ghostly presence that spooks people around in the book’s present day, and Lockwood is one of the people who have this very unsettling, spooky experience when he spends a little time in Catherine’s old room. Through the author’s storytelling, one understands that this ghostly presence is triggered a long time ago – in the far past of the book, after Catherine’s death. In what may come as the best quote of the book, Heathcliff is caught begging Catherine’s spirit to stay with him in this world and not leave him alone next he couldn’t imagine existing without her. Here follows the famous quote:
Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!
Catherine and Heathcliff have great love and affection for each other but can’t quite live it up. This doesn’t become a reality, no thanks to the conditions both parties find themselves surrounded by. However, when push comes to shove, Catherine is presented with the opportunity to pick Heathcliff, her longtime love, over Edgar, a newfound affection. She decides against Heathcliff for the reason that her brother, Hindley, has degraded Heathcliff so much that she can’t possibly marry him.
Key Moments in Wuthering Heights
- The plot begins with Lockwood’s visit to ‘Wuthering Heights’ as he seeks to finalize his tenancy arrangements for Heathcliff to occupy Thrushcross Grange. Lockwood’s opinion of the first meeting with Heathcliff, his landlord and owner of both Thrushcross Grange and ‘Wuthering Heights,’ is that he seems mysterious and odd.
- On a later visit to the place, Lockwood is baffled by strange experiences like being attacked by dogs and then spooked by a ghostly presence.
- On his return to Thrushcross, he explains his experiences to Nelly Dean, a long-serving servant at the place – asking her to tell him more about Heathcliff and ‘Wuthering Heights.’
- Nelly narrates how, a long time ago, Mr. Earnshaw, owner of ‘Wuthering Heights,’ returns from his Liverpool trip with Heathcliff, a young, homeless boy to live with him and his two children, Hindley and Catherine.
- While Catherine loves and accepts Heathcliff, Hindley despises him for taking his place in his father’s eyes. Trouble brews because of this, but Mr. Earnshaw sends Hindley away to boarding school to install peace.
- Hindley returns later after the passing of his father to suffer and dehumanize Heathcliff – reducing him to the status of a servant-slave. All this while Catherine loves Heathcliff and spends time with him at the moors.
- But, things quickly change for Heathcliff and Catherine after they discover the Linton family, owners of Thrushcross Grange.
- After spending time with Edgar and Isabella Linton, Catherine is attracted to Edgar because he’s cultured and educated, and his family has a good social status. However, this can’t match the love she feels for Heathcliff.
- With Catherine now spending more time with the Lintons, Heathcliff feels his only source of happiness is taken and thinks about many ways he could pay back the Lintons, and Hindley. Heathcliff decides he’s had enough and leaves when he eavesdrops on Catherine telling Nelly she can’t marry him because he’s been demeaned too much by Hindley.
- Heartbroken by Heathcliff’s disappearance, Catherine decides to marry Edgar, but their marriage isn’t a happy one because Catherine is always distracted by her thought for Heathcliff.
- Three years later, Heathcliff returns a transformed man with mysterious wealth and stays briefly with Hindley, who now has a son, Hareton. Heathcliff marries Isabella, Edgar’s sister but treats her terribly. Catherine dies moments after giving birth to her daughter, Cathy.
- Heathcliff is enraged and swears to have vengeance on all who had hurt him. With Isabella, he begets a sickly son, Linton, and plans to strategically acquire ownership of both ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Thrushcross Grange.
- A few years later, following the deaths of Hindley and Edgar, he plans and forces a marriage between his son Linton and Cathy, while badly treating Hareton for the sins of his father, Hindley. Finally, the marriage between Linton and Cathy gives his full possession of ‘Wuthering Heights’ and Thrushcross Grangebut his sickly son wouldn’t survive for long and dies.
- Amid his search for revenge, Heathcliff is haunted by Catherine’s ghost. In the end, Heathcliff appears to have realized that revenge wouldn’t give nearly the satisfaction that he needs and that the only thing that could give him peace is reuniting with his Catherine. He dies upon this conviction one day while walking the moors.
- Cathy and Hareton fall in love and plan to get married and move from ‘Wuthering Heights’ to Thrushcross Grange.
Style and Tone
The style deployed in Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ is mostly indicative of a poetic prose-like style. This is not surprising considering that the author had been spending so much time writing several poems before she eventually wrote ‘Wuthering Heights.’ Emily’s characters’ statements are caught sounding like lyrics of songs and music to the ears, much in a way that shows touches of her poetic brilliance. The tone of the book is characteristically bleak and somber, typical of a gothic romance.
Emily Brontë was one with unparalleled poetic charisma, so using figurative expressions ranked high in her works, and ‘Wuthering Heights’ isn’t any different. For the book, simile appears to come more frequently than most, but apart from that, there’s also a substantial usage of other figurative expressions – including exaggeration, metaphor, and paradox.
Analysis of Symbols in Wuthering Heights
The name of the book itself has a motif that denotes the apex of crimes and transgressions. After all, this is the dwelling place of Heathcliff, the once innocent and well-mannered boy who grows into a wicked and vengeance-seeking monster of a man.
A beautiful ground in ‘Wuthering Heights’ serves as a place where young Heathcliff and Catherine play and grow fond of each other. The moors signify beautiful and sweet memories.
Thrushcross becomes the direct opposite of ‘Wuthering Heights.’ The place and its people are much more cultured, organized, and educated than ‘Wuthering Heights’ and its dwellers. At best, Thrushcross stands for peace, tranquillity, and order.
Emily Brontë plants several pictures of dogs throughout the book. Ideally, these canine gnashing animals symbolize violence and physical abuse that settles in as one of the frontal themes of ‘Wuthering Heights.’
What is the prevalent theme in Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’?
Revenge is a notable theme in Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’ and becomes what drives the actions of the protagonist, Heathcliff, for most of the book. Violence and love are other notable themes deducible from the book.
What do dogs symbolize in ‘Wuthering Heights’?
In ‘Wuthering Heights,’ dogs are typically ferocious and dangerous and if some way mirrors the violent tendencies of the human characters in the book.
Why can’t Heathcliff and Catherine be together in Emily Brontë’s ‘Wuthering Heights’?
Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw share the most passionate love story, but it turns out they don’t get to be united in love, at least not in the land of the living. While they live, it comes to Catherine to accept Heathcliff, but she finds him too poor and wretched to have her hand in marriage.