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What are some examples of literary elements (conflict, theme, etc.) in Wuthering Heights?

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raven627 | eNotes Newbie

Posted August 18, 2010 at 6:17 AM via web

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What are some examples of literary elements (conflict, theme, etc.) in Wuthering Heights?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

Posted August 18, 2010 at 7:00 AM (Answer #1)

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Wuthering Heights blends the genres of Romanticism, Naturalism, and Realism together to achieve a balance between the three.  The novel is rich in Romantic imagery and characterization: nature as good, Heathcliff as a Byronic hero, mystery and ghosts, unbridled passion, and consequences of unrequited love (revenge).

The novel also deals with the Naturalistic/Realistic themes of social class barriers, gender differences, and geography.  The narration of Nelly seems very realistic, as it is modest, plain-spoken, and objective.  Though, we often doubt her motivations (is she in love with Heathcliff or not?).

The novel is a great example of doubling, doppelgangers, foils, and dualities.  It is two novels in one.  It has two narrators, two Catherines, two Heathcliffs (hero and villain), and two settings (Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange).  And a lot of rabid dogs.  In this way, it is a forerunner for the Gothic psychological horror tales.

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mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

Posted August 21, 2010 at 3:41 AM (Answer #2)

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What makes Wuthering Heights such an outstanding work of fiction is its blend of concreteness with abstraction. For instance, the familiar narration of Nelly who provides dates and exact details mixes with the almost preternatural nature of Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship.  And, while Heathcliff is described often with animal imagery as, for example, "a mad dog," he is yet perceived as possessing supernatural attributes, being likened to "the devil." 

This trope of forces working against each other is also evidenced in the theme of the destructiveness of love. Nelly condemns the love of Heathcliff and Catherine, yet it is the strongest and most compelling force in the novel. In fact, it is the cause of the major conflicts of the novel.  With this theme again comes Bronte's characteristic ambiguity as the reader is unsure of whether the author is depicting Catherine and Heathcliff as romantic heroes or as some type of naturalistic destructive force.  In fact, it is this ambiguity that makes Bronte's novel so intriguing with the dual nature of various elements and blend of the literary genres of Romanticism, Realism, and Naturalism.


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