What is the role of education in Wuthering Heights?

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lhc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Education is tied to social class and the hierarchy of 18th and 19th century England, and Bronte weaves it into these themes as they apply to Catherine, Heathcliff, and Hareton in particular.  Social class in England during this time was nearly always determined by wealth, and property ownership, which determined what education a family could give their male children.  Movement between social classes was limited, if not impossible, for most people.  Catherine recognizes this distinction and does a fair amount of educating herself through personal reading, in effort to be deemed worthy of a Linton marriage, for although education is normally the result of the all-important wealth, it is also linked with perceptions about a person's manners and social behavior.  She also recognizes that marriage to Heathcliff would drop her social status irrevocably because of his family roots or lack thereof.  At the novel's end, there is a sort of full-circle, yet ironic twist, when Heathcliff's son is taught to read, and then falls in love with Catherine's daughter.  Heathcliff becomes angry with Catherine's daughter during one incident and nearly hits her--but stops when he apparently sees something in her that reminds him of her mother.