What is the role of marriage in "Wuthering Heights"?

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mstultz72 | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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The 19th century European concept of marriage as depicted in Wuthering Heights is largely based on social and economic advancement and not, as it is in modern America, a romantic notion.  In other words, couples married to either maintain or advance social class or property (land), not because they necessarily loved each other.

Most of the characters in Wuthering Heights are members of the gentry (upper middle class), one step lower than the aristocratic class.  On the heath, the Lintons are more well off than the Earnshaws.  And the Earnshaws are more well off than the orphaned Heathcliff.  So, Catherine Earnshaw marries Edgar Linton to become "the greatest woman in the neighborhood."  She moves over from Wuthering Heights to Thrushcross Grange for socio-economic advancement.  Even though she loves Heathcliff (the romantic concept of marriage), she marries for a better house and more land.

Heathcliff resents the concept of marriage to no end.  Even though he turns himself into a member of the landed gentry, he is still forsaken by Catherine and the society.  So, he plans revenge on the entire system: he abuses the concept of marriage to acquire both houses (Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange).  He arranges marriage between the younger Catherine and Linton as a cruel punishment to this second generation on the heath.  His goal, I think, is to destroy the (romantic or economic) institution of marriage by abusing it to its extreme end.

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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mrafiq | High School Teacher | (Level 1) eNoter

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Marriage has played a vital role in Wuthering Heights. Throughout the novel, it has been observed that various characters have used it in a different manner to achieve their goals. Marriage has the following functions in Wuthering Heights: 1. It has been used as a tool by Heathclif to get access to the property of Linton family. He knows that Edgar Linton has no children. He has only his sister, named Isabella, and she will be the legal heir to the property of Edgar Linton. That is why; he traps Isabella into his love and marries her so as to acquire the property of Thrush Cross Grange. 2. It has also been used as a power tool by Catherin to acquire social status in society. In the novel, we see that Catherin has a desire to become a sociable and an amiable lady. During her stay at Thrush Cross Grange, she is so impressed by the etiquettes and mannerism of the Linton family that when she returns her home, she is an absolutely a changed lady. She wants to marry Edgar as he can provide her with all that she wants. 3. It has also been used as a means by Heathclif to get revenge upon his rival i.e., Edgar Linton who married her beloved. He wants to get vengeance upon him for his harsh treatment at Thrush Cross Grange. 4. At the end of the novel, marriage again serves as a bond between two souls. It brings together Cathy and Hareton forever.
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udonbutterfly | Student, College Freshman | (Level 1) Valedictorian

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In Wuthering Heights Marriage served more as a hindrance rather than a union between two people who love each other. Although Catherine was in love with Heathcliff and they considered each other one half of a whole they never got married and up miserable. Even though Catherine marries Edgar she still longs for Heathcliff and finds Edgars presence slightly bothersome. Although Edgar's sister believed she loved Heathcliff and he her when they got married he abused and mistreated her until she ran away. Then there is little Catherine who marries Linton out of the kindness of her hear but she just ends being mistreated, abused, and miserable. It's almost as if marriage signifies the end of any thing happy and or pure. The only time marriage signifies love is when Catherine and Hareton marry each other in this odd twist of events that were created out of hatred first then grew into fancy.

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pixiegal | Student, Undergraduate | (Level 1) eNoter

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the novel wuthering heights takes place  in the 1800s and the role of marriage is a lot different than what it is now. during that time men had a lot more power than women, therefore many a times women married in order to rise in the social status and power as we see in tthe case of Catherine and Linton's maarriage. though she loves Heathcliffe she does not marry him.Her marriage to Edgar is motivated by her desire to rise in the social status.