What is the importance and an interpretation of the setting of Wuthering Heights?
The novel makes clear that the setting of the moors and the stony, rugged Wuthering Heights home itself form the characters of Catherine and Heathcliff. The moors and the house are harsh, bleak, and isolated. As Nelly Dean points out, such a setting forces people to go deeply into themselves and develop strength. In the case of Catherine and Heathcliff, the setting mirrors their bleak, harsh lives in a severely dysfunctional family ruled by an alcoholic.
The setting in which Catherine and Heathcliff grows up influences them to be hard, wild, and daring, and bonds them together in an indissoluble way. Catherine likens the relationship between them to the "eternal rocks" of the moors. Catherine, as she is dying, protests against going to heaven, and wants to be flung on the beloved moors which have formed her.
Catherine and Heathcliff are strong and fierce because of the harsh, wild, stony setting in which they have been formed. This is directly contrasted to the beautiful, soft setting the Linton children grow up in. As Heathcliff tells Nelly:
ah! it was beautiful—a splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson-covered chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold, a shower of glass-drops hanging in silver chains from the centre, and shimmering with little soft tapers. ... Shouldn’t they have been happy? We should have thought ourselves in heaven!
The direct implication is that the Lintons are soft and weak, no match for Catherine and Heathcliff, because they have grown up in a pampered setting. Environment, not birth, the novel asserts, is what forms us.
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