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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

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Describe Wuthering Heights and the protogonist, Heathcliff, in Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë.

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Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is a rather atypical Victorian novel set on the Yorkshire moors of England. The conditions there are harsh and unforgiving. One of the two primary settings in the novel is an imposing manor home.

Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff's dwelling. "Wuthering" being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun. Happily, the architect had foresight to build it strong: the narrow windows are deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones.

The house is lavishly decorated with "grotesque carving," but inside it is relatively plain and rather rustic but very sturdy. It is a structure that was built to withstand the harsh and capricious weather of the moors, but it has done so at a price. There is nothing bright or cheerful about Wuthering Heights. Notice that the fir trees are stunted and the thorns are gaunt; while both things have survived, their survival has come at a price. There is an air of mystery about the place, and sits in stark isolation on the moors.

Wuthering Heights is a dark, melancholy, and rather foreboding place; and it is an apt setting for this novel about revenge, violence, passion, and loss.

Heathcliff is the protagonist of the novel, and he is the perfect character for this setting and this house. Like Wuthering Heights, his name also references his surroundings on the tempestuous and harsh moors. He is dark and brooding, and he is consumed with the need to exact revenge for wrongs that have been done to him. Nelly describes him as  

a tall, athletic, well-formed man; beside whom my master [Edgar] seemed quite slender and youth-like. His upright carriage suggested the idea of his having been in the army. His countenance was much older in expression and decision of feature than Mr. Linton's; it looked intelligent, and retained no marks of former degradation. A half-civilised ferocity lurked yet in the depressed brows and eyes full of black fire, but it was subdued....

He finds love, but it becomes a kind of twisted obsession when Catherine chooses Heathcliff's worst enemy to marry. Heathcliff has a mysterious beginning and his relationship are as tempestuous and beleaguered as the isolated house on the moors. Though he lives through the trials of his melancholy and beleaguered life, Heathcliff is an empty man devoid of any positive emotion or feeling by the end of his life.

His is a stark and isolated, stunted and gaunt existence in the end, just like Wuthering Heights.

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