In Wuthering Heights, how does Emily Bronte use natural elements such as earth, wind, water and fire in the text?

Expert Answers
accessteacher eNotes educator| Certified Educator

An important literary technique that is used repeatedly in this novel is pathetic fallacy, when nature is used to reflect the emotions that the characters are experiencing. The natural elements in this novel are highlighted repeatedly, as the isolated and exposed setting of the Yorkshire Moors make clear. The frequent storms and bracing winds in this novel are shown to act as symbols of the passions that so utterly possess certain characters. One of the best examples of this comes in Chapter 9, which is when Heathcliff overhears Cathy telling Nelly why she could never marry him, because it would "degrade" her. As he leaves, a powerful storm breaks out and ends up damaging part of Wuthering Heights:

About midnight, while we still sat up, the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury. There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or other split a tree off at the corner of the building; a huge bough fell across the roof, and knocked down a portion of the east chimney-stack, sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen fire.

Here, the "violent wind" of course symbolises the violence and anger that Heathcliff feels against Wuthering Heights and those in it who have kept him from being able to be educated. The storm is a perfect example of a pathetic fallacy, as it mirrors Heathcliff's own feelings at this point in the novel, with the tree damaging the house echoing his own desire to damage and destroy. The natural elements are therefore used in this novel to echo the strong, passionate feelings that the characters experience.

Read the study guide:
Wuthering Heights

Access hundreds of thousands of answers with a free trial.

Start Free Trial
Ask a Question