Wuthering Heights

Wuthering Heights Essay Questions

  1. 1

    Analyze the relationship between Lockwood and Heathcliff.

    Heathcliff is Lockwood's first introduction to the passionate, terrifying world of Wuthering Heights. Early in the novel, Lockwood frequently confuses himself and Heathcliff. At one point, he backtracks on his description of Heathcliff because he “bestow[s] [his] own attributes too readily on him” (5-6). However, Heathcliff's rudeness to Cathy Linton and his servants, along with Ellen's narrative, eventually convince Lockwood to despise Heathcliff like most of the other characters. Nevertheless, the identification between the two characters remains important because it cements Heathcliff's status as one of the novel's protagonists (in the sense that the narrative sometimes seems to favor his perspective).

  2. 2

    Interpret the novel’s dream sequences. Why are they important?

    Dreams in Wuthering Heights foreshadow future events, but they also reveal important information about the characters' current situations. For example, Lockwood's nightmare about Cathy Linton trying to get into Wuthering Heights foreshadows the young girl's eventual reconciliation with the place, via her relationship with Hareton (although this reconciliation comes only after many months of misery, which may be represented by the wounds she gets from the broken glass). However, her fearsome apparition in the dream also reflects her current psychic desperation. Similarly, Catherine's early dream of choosing the moors over heaven foreshadows her eventual burial (and the importance her buried corpse will have for Heathcliff) but also her current preference for worldly pleasure over future happiness.

  3. 3

    What is the significance of the frame story?

    Wuthering Heights is narrated through many layers of mediation. Not only does Ellen Dean narrate most of the story to Lockwood, but occasionally Ellen herself was not present at important events, and only hears about them secondhand––so we hear what happens through two layers of narration. Examples of this include Cathy's explanation of her correspondence with Linton and Cathy's narration of her first visit to Wuthering Heights. The fact that the story is so potent despite these multiple layers of mediation speaks to the extraordinary power of love and emotion in this isolated society.

  4. 4

    Analyze the story’s setting. What role does it play in Wuthering Heights?

    The natural world of the moors is not merely a setting––it also sets the mood of the novel and exerts a noticeable influence on the characters' choices and personalities. The frequently inhospitable weather establishes the conflict between humanity and nature that becomes an important theme; the frequent blizzards and thunderstorms ensure that the characters constantly struggle for survival against the elements. Moreover, the characters at Wuthering Heights are frequently characterized as 'wild,' which suggests that their dramatic natural surroundings have somehow seeped into the personalities.

  5. 5

    Discuss Emily Brontë’s portrayal of religion in the novel.

    There are distinctly Gothic elements to Brontë's portrayal of Christianity in Wuthering Heights. A riot in a church figures prominently in Lockwood's nightmare in Chapter 3, and Joseph's proselytizing eventually takes on a sinister element as it becomes clear that he is just as cruel and self-centered as any other character in the novel. Only Ellen seems to take Christianity seriously, reminding Heathcliff to make his peace with God when it becomes clear that he is dying. However, Heathcliff ultimately rejects this solace. For the Earnshaws and the Lintons, religion is a weak force that is largely irrelevant to their lives outside the strictures of society.

  6. 6

    When Wuthering Heights was first released, many readers were shocked by its graphic, violent imagery. Why might the violence be important to the story?

    It is important to note that Wuthering Heights features not only extensive physical violence, but also extreme emotional cruelty. These elements serve to demonstrate the potential of the human spirit to be debased by its conditions; although Heathcliff is able to love Catherine in his early life, the compassion and gentleness is slowly drained from him because of his abuse by Hindley. Violence, then, is set up as a counterpoint to love, and as Cathy and Hareton demonstrate at the end of the novel, love is the only thing that can redeem their world from the horrific violence that fills it.

  7. 7

    Discuss the relationship between gender and power in Wuthering Heights.

    Brontë seems to delight in confusing gender roles. Catherine Earnshaw roams free on the moors and works with Heathcliff in the fields, conduct that would have been considered highly unbecoming for a lady at this time, even in rural Yorkshire. In contrast, Linton is characterized as "delicate [and] effeminate" (200). It seems that transcending gender boundaries allows characters to become more powerful; Linton uses his weak health to manipulate others, and Isabella realizes that wielding a knife could give her the means to escape her unhappy marriage.

  8. 8

    Discuss the role of books and literacy in Hareton and Cathy Linton’s relationship.

    From its earliest stages, Hareton and Cathy Linton's relationship is colored by the fact that she can read and he cannot. She drives him away by teasing him about his inability to read, and her decision to teach him to read is what eventually resolves their differences and allows them to love one another. Cathy's reading lessons can also be seen as rehabilitating Hareton after his unhappy childhood with Heathcliff, who purposely prevented him from learning to read in hopes of getting revenge on Hareton's father, Hindley.

  9. 9

    What is Heathcliff’s role in the story? Is he a protagonist or an antagonist?

    Heathcliff can be considered both a protagonist and an antagonist. He is a protagonist in the sense that the novel is structured around his life––Ellen's narrative begins when Earnshaw brings Heathcliff home from Liverpool, and it ends at Heathcliff's death, suggesting that he was the main character all along. Likewise, Heathcliff is the main person to pique Lockwood's curiosity when he first visits Wuthering Heights. However, Heathcliff can also be considered an antagonist in that he actively works to undermine many of the novel's more likeable characters, including Edgar, Hareton, and Cathy Linton. Moreover, the novel is never related from his perspective; for the most part, the narrator Ellen can only speculate on his thoughts and feelings.

  10. 10

    Catherine Earnshaw, Heathcliff, Linton, and Cathy Linton all tend to dwell on their personal ‘heavens.’ What might the significance of this be?

    Heaven is an important concept for each of these characters, and their idea of a perfect world reveals their true personalities. Catherine admits that she would rather be on the moors than in heaven, and Heathcliff rejects the idea of a traditional heaven in favor of his remains mingling with Catherine's beneath the earth. The similarities between their ideas of heaven reveal the compatibility of their personalities, and also their tendency to locate themselves in opposition to conventional society. Linton and Cathy Linton both consider heaven to be a beautiful day outdoors, but the differences between their fantasies––Linton wants to lie in the grass, while Cathy would prefer to climb trees––reveal the fundamental differences in their respective characters.