What is the significance of status in "Wuthering Heights"?

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mwestwood eNotes educator| Certified Educator

Status is of paramount importance because it determines the conflict in "Wuthering Heights."  For, it is Heathcliff's status as an orphan and a dark, brooding child that ostracizes him from the society of Catherine.  While it is all right for her to play with him, she is certainly not expected to consider him a serious suitor or true relative.  Even when Heathcliff acquires wealth and returns in hopes of marrying Catherine, he is yet considered a social unequal.

Of course, the saga of the continuing efforts of Heathcliff to be recognized as a man of worth and to attain the love of Catherine and be the equal--if not superior--of Hindley Earnshaw, Catherine's brother, is the very structure of the plot of Bronte's classic.

mkcapen1 | Student

In the book "Wuthering Heights" status plays an important role.  Heathcliff is found on the streets by Mr. Earnshaw, a wealthy gentleman.  Heathcliff has two strikes against him; he is a poor orphan and he is a Roma/Gypsy child.  Mr. Earnshaw takes him to live with him and his family to be raised as his own son, but upon his death Heathcliff did not inherit anything.  The inheritance by law went to the oldest son, Hindley.

Hindley hated Heathcliff and immediately reduced him back to his social stature.  He made him a servant in the home and treated him badly.  Heathcliff loved Catherine Earnshaw so he remained behind to be near her.

Catherine finds out what it means to be part of the more elite society and can hardly tolerate Heathcliff's short comings.  She is also aware that if she were to marry him, she would have nothing and be a poor person.  When Heathcliff hears that she has been asked to marry Mr. Linton and her rude remarks about Heathcliff, he runs away.

Heathcliff returns with money and begins to acquire Wuthering Heights.  He is more accepted by others because he has gained financial status as well as having become more polished.  Had Heathcliff not been so determined to get Catherine back and ruin Hindley and Edgar Linton’s life, he could have now been a part of the upper society.

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Wuthering Heights

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