Describe the contrast in physical appearance between the two estates at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange.
Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange both reflect the characters of their principal inhabitants, one group tough and hard, the other soft and effete.
Wuthering Heights, built in 1500, is a rough stone structure, with few amenities. The floors are stone and in the main living area, pewter dishes and silver tankards sit on an enormous oak dresser that goes to the ceiling. There's an open fireplace, and the room is furnished with "primitive" wooden chairs, some painted green. The ceiling rafters are exposed, and hams, beef, mutton and oatcakes can be seen on wooden frames. In this rough-hewn environment, Catherine and Heathcliffe, sometimes neglected and in Heathcliffe's case, often abused after the father dies, grow up. Not surprisingly, these two spend most of their time running wild on the moors. They grow up tough and aggressive. For all this roughness, however, Wuthering Heights is the second richest home in the area.
Thrushcross Grange is the richest estate in the area. Young Catherine and Heathcliffe spy on it one day and through a window see its principal inhabitants (as concerns the plot of the story) Edmund and Isabella Linton, playing inside. Heathcliffe describes the house to Nelly as follows:
ah! it was beautiful—a splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson-covered chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold, a shower of glass-drops hanging in silver chains from the centre, and shimmering with little soft tapers.
In other words, as opposite as is imaginable from Catherine and Heathcliffe's home. Thrushcross Grange, in contrast to Wuthering Heights, is all soft, eighteenth-century elegance with its thick carpeting and upholstered furniture and crystal chandelier. Like the house, Edgar and Isabella are soft and elegant, no match for the hardened Catherine and Heathcliff. They are like dolls in a doll house, sheltered, pampered and unaware of the harsher realities of life. All through the novel, Catherine, Heathcliff and even to some extent Nellie, herself the product of a hard childhood and the school of hard knocks offered a servant at Wuthering Heights, will hold the Lintons in contempt as soft weaklings. Heathcliffe says of looking in the room:
Old Mr. and Mrs. Linton were not there; Edgar and his sisters had it entirely to themselves. Shouldn’t they have been happy? We should have thought ourselves in heaven! And now, guess what your good children were doing? Isabella—I believe she is eleven, a year younger than Cathy—lay screaming at the farther end of the room, shrieking as if witches were running red-hot needles into her. Edgar stood on the hearth weeping silently, and in the middle of the table sat a little dog, shaking its paw and yelping; which, from their mutual accusations, we understood they had nearly pulled in two between them.
Thus narrative point of view reverses typical expectations: Thrushcross Grange is beautiful, but, also, through the eyes of many of the narrators, soft and suspect. These settings are important in a novel at pains to show how the home life affects the psyche of its characters.
Lockwood describes Wuthering Heights at the beginning of the novel. He says it is dark and forbidding, with a grotesque and Gothic atmosphere. The house has been allowed to deteriorate, and Lockwood feels it should belong to someone who hates all of humankind. It seems to have a tumultuous air about it, as if great trouble was a part of the house itself.
Thrushcross Grange is the opposite of Wuthering Heights. Before Heathcliff owns the house, it is a place of civilized, refined people. It seems to exude an air of nobility and high class. Once Heathcliff buys it, he allows the Grange to lapse into disrepair as well.
The atmospheres of both mansions seem to embody the personalities of their inhabitants. Once Heathcliff gained possession of these homes, his tortured angry soul imbued the spirits of them.