How does Emily Bronte use duality to structure Wuthering Heights? How can this help us understand the novel? 

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rareynolds eNotes educator| Certified Educator

The structure of Wuthering Heights is quite complicated. It's natural to think about "duality" as a way of reducing this complexity, but it is a crude method, which will leave unexamined much of what makes this book so great. Is is true, however, that the book is full of pairings. Some of the obvious ones:

  • Earnshaws vs Lintons
  • Heathcliff vs Cathy
  • Heights vs Grange

These pairings suggest other, more thematic, pairings

  • Wildness vs Civilization
  • Underclass vs Aristocracy
  • Mixed race vs White

These can be made even more elemental:

  • Good vs Evil
  • Light vs Dark
  • Love vs Hate

To me, what is so interesting about the book is how, despite the fundamental disunity of things which these pairings suggest, none of these things could exist without the other. Catherine and Heathcliff are locked in an eternal stuggle, but what gives meaning to each of them is the other. When Catherine says to Nellie, "I am Heathcliff," that statement is at once patently false (she isn't, and isn't even going to marry him) and deeply true: She wouldn't be who she is without Heathcliff. Their differences unite them.

In this way, when we consider any of these pairings, we begin to understand that far from representing opposites, what they in fact suggest is a deep connection or unity, which amounts to a sophisticated and (to me) clear-eyed understanding of reality. We can think about Heathcliff as the devil, as a monomaniac bent on revenge, as an elemental force of nature, or as the proletariat rising up and assuming the position of the ruling class, and all these interpretations are true. But if we think about Heathcliff as one half of the Cathy/Heathcliff dyad, we come to realize that whatever he is, he is essential, not just for the story, but for existence itself.

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Wuthering Heights

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