What is the significance of the title, Wuthering Heights?

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thanatassa eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë is a fundamentally Gothic novel. One of the standard devices of this genre is to create an emotional mood through the use of picturesque landscape. This notion of landscape as reflecting the emotions of characters is sometimes known as the "pathetic fallacy" by literary critics, as nature does not actually respond to our moods. Nonetheless, it is a technique not intended to be accurate but emotionally evocative. 

In particular, the local windy and inhospitable microclimate surrounding the house is intended to suggest the character of those who live within it, including their erratic behavior, strong passions, and unhappiness. The use of the house's name in the title emphasizes that the protagonists of the novel and the plot have an emotional center in this house rather than Thrushcross Grange. 

The term "wuthering" is an actual word meaning windy or blustering weather. It is, however, not a common term but rather one associated with Yorkshire dialect, and thus it serves to localize the novel. The narrator mentions this in the following passage:

Wuthering Heights is the name of Mr. Heathcliff's dwelling. 'Wuthering' being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. 

amymc eNotes educator| Certified Educator

As is usually the case with authors, Bronte chose her novel's title carefully. The title actually represents more than one important aspect of the novel.

The setting of Wuthering Heignts is the northern English moors, a rough, inhospitable climate prone to the harshest of winters.  The house by the same name sits high on a hill near some rocky crags.  The word "wuthering" means, as Lockwood tells us, being prone to "...atmospheric tumult...in stormy weather" (Bronte). The area is pummeled by high winds throughout most of the year.

As a result, the architecture of the house must be such that can deflect the wind's damage.  Deeply inset windows and jutted corners are two examples; this particular architecture can make the house appear dark and cold, both outside and inside.

The windy, stormy weather and the necessary architecture reflect of the lives of the family who lives inside.  Their relationships and situations are stormy and dark, just as their home and setting are stormy and dark, as contrasted with neighboring Thrushcross Grange, situated in a grassy, lower-lying area. Thus the reader is focused on the harsher setting and asked to consider its effect on the inhabitants of the home.



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