Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights is structured around a series of dichotomies. (Discuss the significance of as many examples as you can give.)

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

A metaphysical novel that separates and intertwines the wild and the tame, the intellectual and the passionate, the old and the young, the refined and the rustic, Wuthering Heights contains several dichotomies.

  • The Narrators

The understated Nelly, who seems unperturbed by anything differs from the conventional and imaginative Mr. Lockwood, who scrapes the arm of the first Catherine's ghost that appears at the window where he sleeps when held up by a snowstorm.  In contrast to Lockwood's, Nelly's observations are keener; in one instance, Lockwood thinks Heathcliff is "a superior fellow" when he first meets him.

  • The Earnshaws and Heathcliff

When Heathcliff is brought home by Mr. Earnshaw, he stands in sharp contrast to the gentry; Heathcliff is a gamin from the streets of London. This disparity of social class will forever separate Heathcliff from Hindley and even Catherine, who because of this divide, refuses to marry him.

  • Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange

The wild scenery surrounding the Heights, the moors and the rugged terrain of Wuthering Heights contrasts with the gentle land of Thrushcross Grange. Likewise, the emotions of those on Wuthering Heights are not as civilized as those from Thrushcross.

  • Edgar Linton and Heathcliff

The quintessential gentleman, Edgar Linton is in sharp contrast to Cathy. When Catherine as his wife has fits of passion, Edgar retires to his library and leaves her alone, rather than engaging with her in rage as does Heathcliff, who later tells her she cannot leave him as she is dying, and beats his head against a tree after she passes away. Inside, Edgar sits quietly beside her body.

  • Isabella and Heathcliff

The spoiled Isabella Linton becomes infatuated with the dark, brooding Heathcliff and marries him with little knowledge of him. Dominated by Heathcliff, she quickly becomes unhappy and move to London.

  • Hindley Earnshaw and Heathcliff 

Jealous as a boy of Heathcliff's stealing the attention of his father, Hindley continually maligns and degrades Heathcliff. So, after Frances Hindley dies and Heathcliff returns, Heathcliff encourages Hindley to drink, hoping to win all Hindley's money. In fact, Heathcliff even wins Wuthering Heights and Hindley is ruined.


  • Heathcliff and Heathcliff

Heathcliff, as Nelly knows, is both human and inhuman. He loves Catherine passionately and with his soul; yet, he is cruel and animal-like; he exploits Hindley, Isabella, obtaining her property, and Hareton, whom he keeps ignorant until Hareton is helped by Catherine.

  • Catherine Linton and Linton Heathcliff

After his mother, Isabella, dies, Linton comes to live at Wuthering Heights. He is forced by Heathcliff to marry Catherine, whose inheritance will go to him, but he dies, so the fortune goes to Heathcliff.

  • Catherine and Hareton

These two are much like the original Catherine and Heathcliff. Hareton is coarse and belligerent, but Cathy argues with him, calling him names because he cannot read. However, after being left with no one else, Catherine finally reaches out to him, teaching him to read. They fall in love, and resemble the first Catherine and young Heathcliff.

  • Heathcliff and ghosts of the past.

As Heathcliff notices the lovers, he looks "disarmed." Turning toward them he asks, 

"It is a poor conclusion....An absurb termination to my violent exertions?"

He has the opportunity to destroy both the Earnshaw and Linton families, but does not do so.Instead, he sees a "strange change" approaching. 


Karyth Cara eNotes educator| Certified Educator
  • dichotomy: division into two mutually exclusive, opposed, or contradictory groups

The most significant examples of dichotomy is that between Heathcliffr's young years on the estate and the that of the contrasts between Catherine and Heathcliff.

There were two dichotomous groups after Heathcliff came: Catherine and her brother versus Heathcliff.

Catherine and Heathcliff presented dichotomy and conflict after they came of age because, though they felt overwhelming passion for each other, there was a social divide between them that dictated the dichotomy become more entrenched: Catherine and Heathcliff could never marry.

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Wuthering Heights

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