Illustration of a tree on a hill with a women's head in the background

Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

Start Free Trial

Discuss the theme of death in Wuthering Heights.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

As is the case with many gothic works, Wuthering Heights features a great deal of death.

By the conclusion of the novel, nearly all of the characters are dead, many of them having died at young ages. This is likely a reflection of Bronte's life. She lost many loved ones to untimely deaths and eventually died herself at the young age of thrity.

Death plays a large role in Wuthering Heights. It fuels the plot and serves several purposes:

Parental death results in orphaned children and has a profound impact on the emotional and psychological growth of the children. It also results in a dramatic change of conditions for the orphaned children. For example, the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Earnshaw leave Catherine, Heathcliff, and Hindley without parental love and guidance. Catherine and Heathcliff are left to the care and mercy of their abusive older brother, which fortifies the bond they share.

Death often results in inheritance and shifts in property ownership. For example, Hindley inherits Wuthering Heights when his parents die. After gambling away his money and becoming indebted to Heathcliff, Hindley's ownership of Wuthering Heights passes to Healthcliff when he dies.

Death is used to communicate the strength of love, particularly the love shared by Catherine and Heathcliff. Their passion and love for each other transcend death. Even after she dies, Catherine haunts Heathcliff as a ghost. Their love is so powerful that not even death can keep them apart.

Death, especially untimely death, serves as a constant reminder of the fragility of life.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial