What elements of the gothic and the romantic are evident in "Wuthering Heights"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

In addition to the elements already mentioned, there are other elements of the Gothic and Dark Romanticism in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights:

  • Bleak, foreboding environments

In the opening chapter, the narrator describes Heathcliff's house, Wuthering Heights, explaining that the adjective wuthering describes "the atmospheric tumult" of its physical location, for there are high winds and stormy weather. Also, over the doorway of the house Lockwood notices a "grotesque carving."

--The desolate and wild moors are set against the drama of the families. When Heathcliff imprisons Nelly and Cathy at Wuthering Heights in Chapter 28, he goes to Gimmerton and creates the rumor that the two women "sunk in the Blackhorse marsh" and that he rescued them.

  • Atmosphere

--When Mr. Lockwood arrives at Wuthering Heights, he has a sense of dread as he observes the environment with its thorny branches before the house and the weather. 

--Throughout the narrative, there is mystery and dread. The dark child that Mr. Earnshaw brings home with him is mysterious, and throughout the narrative, Heathcliff's actions are often unexpected.

  • Protagonists

--The protagonists of Dark Romanticism and the Gothic are characters who are often isolated or alone. Certainly, Heathcliff represents this type; he is an orphan who is rejected by Hindley Earnshaw and later by Catherine herself, as she marries Edgar Linton, one of her own class.

  • High Emotion

--Heathcliff is characterized by high emotion. He is strong-willed and defies conventions by running away and returning as a wealthy man with the hope of stealing back Catherine. After he purchases Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff becomes cruel and vindictive in his desire for revenge against those who have denied it to him.

  • The Supernatural

--Dark Romantics created images of anthropomorphized spiritual elements in the form of ghosts. While Mr. Lockwood stays at Wuthering Heights, he witnesses a ghost. In Chapter 3, Mr. Lockwood is put in a room where his sleep is interrupted by a branch tapping on the window in the wind. When he opens the window, he is grabbed by a cold hand. "Let me in-let me in!" it cries. When Lockwood asks who it is, this ghost replies, "Catherine Linton." After Lockwood tells Heathcliff of his "dream," Heathcliff rushes to the window, calling to Cathy to come in: "On! my heart's darling! Hear me this time, Catherine, this time!"

lit24 | Student

Emily Bronte's "Wuthering Heights" is a fine instance of a Victorian  'female gothic' novel which features women entrapped within the confines of their domestic space and victimised by patriarchal bullying. Some important features of the gothic are:

1.The architecture: ancient dilapidated houses, "before passing the threshold...the date 1500." Ch1. These houses are usually haunted by ghosts. In Ch3 Lockwood encounters the ghost of Catherine.

2. Ghosts: In Ch.34 "a little boy with a sheep and two lambs" sees the ghosts of Catherine and Heathcliff.

3. Death and decay: In Ch29 Heathcliff disturbs the grave of Catherine and in Ch34 he is buried alongside Catherine so that their decaying bodies can become one.

4. Madness: Both Catherine and Heathcliff are hysterical and almost insane before their deaths, Chs15 and 33 and 34.

5. Hereditary curses: Heathcliff's adoption is referred to as, "so from the very beginning he bred bad feeling in the house."

6. Tyrants:  First Hindley and then Heathcliff exercise their authority over the household of Wuthering Heights.

7. Persecuted maidens: Both the Catherines and Isabella are treated cruelly.

By way of contrast, the elements of romance are:

1. Love for Nature: The novel is full of the beauty  of moors of Yorkshire.

2. Egoistical: All the characters are egoistical and fiercely independent.

3. Love and its concurrent dilemmas: Catherine in love with two men at the same time.

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Wuthering Heights

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