Wuthering Heights at a Glance


In Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights, realism and gothic symbolism combine to form a romance novel that's full of social relevance. Follow the self-destructive journey of Heathcliff as he seeks revenge for losing his soul mate, Catherine, to Edgar Linton. Themes — such as good versus evil, chaos and order, selfishness, betrayal, and obsession — intertwine as the story unfolds. Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is a symbolic and psychological study of the nature of love.

Written by: Emily Brontë

Type of Work: novel

Genres: gothic literature; Victorian; romance

First Published: 1847

Setting: the moors of Northern England

Main Characters: Heathcliff; Catherine Earnshaw; Edgar Linton; Cathy Linton; Hareton Earnshaw; Ellen (Nelly) Dean

Major Thematic Topics: romantic love; brotherly love; love versus hate; revenge; crime and punishment; nature and culture; class structure; good versus evil; chaos and order; selfishness; betrayal; obsession

Motifs: obsession; revenge; rebellion

Major Symbols: the houses; keys; archetypical characters

The three most important aspects of Wuthering Heights:

  • Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw are among the most famous fictional couples of all time. In fact, they probably are second only to Romeo and Juliet in this regard. Unlike Shakespeare's lovers, who are kept apart by the society in which they live, Catherine and Heathcliff are themselves responsible for their failure to fulfill their love for one another. Their own passionate natures make their union impossible.
  • The novel contains a so-called framing device, which is a story that surrounds the primary narrative and sets it up. Lockwood's visit to Wuthering Heights and the supernatural occurrence he witnesses there frame Nelly's narration of the novel's main story.
  • Wuthering Heights is a gothic novel. Gothic novels focus on the mysterious or supernatural, and take place in dark, sometimes exotic, settings. The double is a frequent feature of the Gothic novel, as well. In Wuthering Heights, the love of Hareton and Cathy doubles that of Heathcliff and Catherine, and Linton doubles Edgar. The novel itself consists of two entire stories, each consisting of seventeen chapters; the second half of Wuthering Heights doubles the first.

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