Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

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What are the main conflicts in Wuthering Heights and how do they relate to the novel's themes?

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D. Reynolds eNotes educator | Certified Educator

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The main conflict in the novel is between the desires of the heart and the economic and social constraints on that desire posed by family and society.

Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff love each other deeply and would love to get married, but Heathcliff, degraded to a farmhand by his older stepbrother Hindley, makes that an unrealistic possibility. Catherine does the practical thing and marries the rich man in the neighborhood, Edgar Linton. Heathcliff runs off in despair and comes back after a mysterious absence of three years, having fashioned himself into a gentleman. Because of her marriage, Catherine and Heathcliff cannot be together, as Linton increasingly won't even endure Heathcliff's presence. The separation eventually kills Catherine and leaves Heathcliff in a state of grief and rage.

Several themes emerge out of this central conflict of love versus society. The first is revenge: Heathcliff is determined to revenge himself on the Earnshaw and Linton families, both of whom he...

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