Do the homes in  Wuthering Heights support or criticise Victorian ideals about domesticity?

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M.P. Ossa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Being that Emily Brontë's Wuthering Heights is a Gothic novel, the author's purpose should be to stay away from the idyllic and somewhat over exaggerated virtuosity of the typical Victorian home and move toward the isolated, cold, and nostalgic nature of human existence.

We find a fine example of this tendency in the very first chapter when Lockwood describes what he sees and, actually, makes reference to the difference between what he is seeing at that point and what he is used to expect in the typical home that he visits.

I believe at Wuthering Heights the kitchen is forced to retreat altogether into another quarter: at least I distinguished a chatter of tongues, and a clatter of culinary utensils, deep within; and I observed no signs of roasting, boiling, or baking, about the huge fireplace; nor any glitter of copper saucepans and tin cullenders on the walls.

Here Lockwood clearly alludes to the cold, bare, and mute nature of this particular household whereas, as he implies, the typical scene would have been an active kitchen where meals would be consistently being planned, especially since there will be a guest in the home. In Victorian times, the home was meant to reflect the unity and prosperity of the household. It is clear that, at least at this point in the novel, the charm and gusto of domesticity has been lost in this particular home.

Special consideration should be given to the fact that Heathcliff's countenance and looks also contrast with his home and give it an even stranger atmosphere. Lockwood also narrates how he expected the nature of Heathcliff- as a farmer- to reflect more in his tastes. However, we see again that the contrast between what Lockwood expects and what he actually sees is quite strong:

The apartment and furniture would have been nothing extraordinary as belonging to a homely, northern farmer, with a stubborn countenance, and stalwart limbs set out to advantage in knee-breeches and gaiters. Such an individual seated in his arm-chair, his mug of ale frothing on the round table before him, is to be seen in any circuit of five or six miles among these hills, if you go at the right time after dinner. But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living.

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Wuthering Heights

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