Explain the significance of the setting in Wuthering Heights.

The setting in Wuthering Heights is significant because the grimness of the house and the wildness of the moors reflect the disordered minds of the characters, particularly Heathcliff.

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Wuthering Heights has a more distinctive atmosphere than any other English novel, and this atmosphere is created by the setting. Even people who have never read the book think, when they hear the title, of the dark, brooding Yorkshire moors, which reflect the personality of Heathcliff in an extended example of the pathetic fallacy.

The time period, the late eighteenth and early nineteenth centuries, was, when the book was published in 1847, sufficiently long ago to seem old-fashioned and add to the gothic atmosphere, but it was still within living memory. However, it is the physical setting of the book that is paramount. The moors are bleak and lonely. Few people venture there, and dark secrets can be kept for a long time. The characters are described in terms of their setting. Heathcliff is, like the moors, "without cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone." The contrast between him and Edgar Linton is like that of "bleak, hilly, coal country" and a "fertile valley." There are no fertile valleys around Wuthering Heights, so the contrast emphasizes that Linton is out of place here.

The house itself is grotesque and gloomy, built to survive in a harsh environment. It is hundreds of years old, apparently having been completed in 1500, and Lockwood describes it as being worthy of its strange name:

“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 stormy weather that is an essential part of the atmosphere of the book is therefore integral to both the design and the name of the house. House, weather, and moors combine to reflect the tempestuous emotions of the characters in a perfect union of theme and setting.

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