Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights is a tale of intense love and revenge set against the backdrop of the wild Yorkshire moors. The story follows Heathcliff, an orphan, and Catherine, a passionate and headstrong woman, who are deeply in love. However, their relationship is thwarted by societal expectations and personal grudges. Catherine marries her neighbour Edgar Linton for his social status and wealth, believing it will elevate her position in society, but this decision shatters Heathcliff’s heart. Driven by revenge, Heathcliff improves his social status and manipulates people’s lives to hurt those who wronged him. The next generation also suffers from this toxic legacy.

Significance of the Title

The title ‘Wuthering Heights‘ reveals layers of meaning that establish the atmosphere for Emily Bronte’s novel. The term ‘wuthering,’ though outdated, describes the eerie howling wind during a storm, conveying a sense of wildness and unpredictability. Meanwhile, ‘heights’ suggests a high, exposed location, adding a feeling of giddiness and isolation. Together, these words paint a vivid picture of a remote, windswept landscape. In the story, it is the name of Earnshaw’s home perched on a hill, thus giving us a sense of the wild, untamed atmosphere surrounding Earnshaw’s residence.

Furthermore, the title “Wuthering Heights” goes beyond simply describing the weather and location. It serves as a backdrop for the intense and often turbulent relationships depicted in the novel. The house itself, with its stormy and exposed setting, mirrors the characters’ tumultuous emotions and events. The isolation and harshness of the environment reflect the characters’ intense passions and conflicts.”

About the Author

Emily Bronte 

Early Life

Emily Bronte is a poet and novelist, famously known for her classic novel Wuthering Heights. She was born on 30th July 1818 in Thornton, Near Bradford in Yorkshire. Emily was the fifth of sixth children to Maria Branwell and an Irish father Patrick Brontë, a reverend. When Emily was six, the Brontë family relocated to Haworth, a village set in the windy moors of West Yorkshire, which later inspired much of her writing. Her father became the local curate of Haworth, and the family stayed there for the rest of their lives. Their old home is now a museum dedicated to the Brontës.

Shortly after moving to Haworth, Emily’s mother died. The girls were sent to the Clergy Daughters’ school at Cowan Bridge. This was a difficult time for them, as they found the school harsh and unkind. This experience was later included in Charlotte Brontë’s novel Jane Eyre.

During a typhus epidemic, Emily lost two of her sisters, Maria and Elizabeth, to the illness. Shortly after, she returned home where her father and aunt taught her. At 17, she briefly attended Roe Head girls’ school, where Charlotte worked as a teacher. However, Emily soon returned home because she missed her family. The Brontë sisters dreamed of starting their own school, but it didn’t happen. To gain some experience, Emily worked as a teacher in Halifax in September 1838. But, she found the long hours exhausting, and after a few months, she went back to Haworth. However, domestic life was also undoubtedly challenging for Emily because of her brother, Branwell, who struggled with mood swings caused by his alcohol and drug addictions. Branwell passed away in 1848, shortly before Emily did.

Emily’s father, who preferred to eat alone in his room, was somewhat reclusive. Like her father, Emily also preferred to live an eccentric, close and guarded life. Through the character of Lockwood in her novel, she writes about this preference:

I’m now quite cured of seeking pleasure in society, be it country or town. A sensible man ought to find sufficient company in himself.”

(Wuthering Heights Ch III)


Her Literary Journey 

Emily Brontë’s literary career began in her childhood, where she and her siblings, left to their own devices on the moor, created elaborate games and stories. They invented a fantasy world called Gondal, and filled their notebooks with its detailed history and characters. This early creativity led all three sisters to become published authors as adults.

Emily continued to write throughout her life, though it became a private pursuit. Initially, she was reluctant to publish her poems but was persuaded after discovering her sisters had written similar works. In 1846, the three Brontë sisters published a collection of poems under the pseudonyms Currer Bell (Charlotte), Ellis Bell (Emily), and Acton Bell (Anne) to avoid the prejudice against female writers. At that time, it was uncommon for women to be published.

In 1847, Emily published her only novel, Wuthering Heights. Set on the windswept moors of Haworth, the novel is a powerful tale of love, hate, sorrow, and death, and it later became a classic of English literature. However, its innovative structure and complexity led to mixed reviews initially. In 1850, her sister Charlotte republished the book under Emily’s real name. Mathew Arnold praised Emily for Wuthering Heights:

She is fantastic when it comes to the portrayal of passion, vehemence and grief.”


Her Death

Emily Brontë was frail her whole life and became very sick in the autumn of 1848. Her health was affected by unsanitary water that drained from a nearby churchyard. After her brother’s funeral, she caught a serious cold and, refusing medical help, died on December 19, 1848.

Emily left little personal writing, so people often look for clues about her life in her poems and novel. However, it’s hard to tell which parts are based on her experiences and which are purely imaginative. Her writings fall into the Romanticism period and explore themes ranging from the harshness of life to the beauty and power of love and the mystical force of nature.

Historical Background

The novel “Wuthering Heights” was published during the Victorian period, spanning from 1837 to 1901. At that time, Victorian society was characterized by strict moral codes, particularly regarding gender roles and sexuality. The era was marked by a strong emphasis on family values, respectability, and social hierarchy. Women were expected to adhere to ideals of domesticity and virtue, while men were seen as the breadwinners and heads of the household. The Victorian Era witnessed a rigid social structure, with a clear distinction between the upper class, middle class, and working class. The upper class consisted of the aristocracy and landowners, while the middle class comprised professionals, businessmen, and prosperous individuals. The working class constituted the majority of the population, including factory workers, miners, and laborers. Social mobility was limited, and class divisions were deeply entrenched.

Though the novel was written and published in the Victorian period, it challenges Victorian values and traditions by emphasizing romantic ideals such as emotion, nature, and individuality. Brontë may have chosen this earlier period to give her characters more freedom of expression, especially regarding female sexuality, rigid class hierarchy, and the treatment of servants.

Victorian women were expected to be submissive, domestic, and prioritize societal appearances. Catherine embodies the opposite. She is fiercely independent, outspoken, and defies expectations. Her internal struggle between her love for Heathcliff and the societal pressure to marry Edgar highlights the limitations placed on women’s choices.

Victorian society championed arranged marriages based on social standing and financial security. “Wuthering Heights” challenges this notion. Catherine’s love for Heathcliff is raw, passionate, and fueled by a deep emotional connection. Society expects her to marry Edgar Linton, the wealthy and refined neighbor, but her heart belongs to Heathcliff. This defiance of societal expectations regarding love highlights the hypocrisy of Victorian marriage practices.

Victorian society adhered to a rigid class hierarchy. “Wuthering Heights” blurs these lines. Heathcliff, raised as a servant, rises in social status through sheer determination. However, this rise is not celebrated. It is a source of resentment and underscores the hypocrisy of a system that values wealth over merit.

Victorian society emphasized logic and reason. Wuthering Heights introduces elements of the supernatural and the uncanny – dreams, hauntings, and a connection beyond the physical realm. This challenges the Victorian emphasis on rationality and allows for a deeper exploration of human emotions and desires.







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