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Wuthering Heights

by Emily Brontë

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Discuss the use of irony in Wuthering Heights.

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In Wuthering Heights, there are examples of dramatic irony, verbal irony, and situational irony. An example of dramatic irony is when Catherine says that she could never marry Heathcliff because he is beneath her in status, but the reader knows that Heathcliff only heard a fraction of what Catherine has said and does not understand her meaning.

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An example of dramatic irony in Wuthering Heights is when Heathcliff overhears Catherine saying to Nelly that she, Catherine, could never marry Heathcliff because Heathcliff is beneath her. She says, in fact, that it would "degrade" her to marry Heathcliff. Heathcliff overhears this conversation and is so upset that he decides to run away. However, Heathcliff runs away before he has a chance to hear Catherine also say that Heathcliff is her soulmate. Referring to their souls, she says that "his and mine are the same." This is dramatic irony because we know the full extent of what Catherine has said, but Heathcliff does not. If Heathcliff had heard Catherine call them soulmates, he may have stayed.

An example of verbal irony is when Heathcliff takes possession of Hareton at Hareton's father's funeral and tells Hareton, "Now, my bonnie lad, you are mine!" Hareton, described here as an "unsuspecting thing," is "pleased" at hearing these words from Heathcliff and seems to interpret them to mean that Heathcliff will look after him. Little does he know, however, that Heathcliff intends to ruin Hareton as a way of getting revenge on Hareton's father.

When Heathcliff returns, after a mysterious absence of three years, he returns as a wealthy and powerful man, and he immediately sets upon his plan for revenge. A big part of this plan, which in time he achieves, is to become master of Wuthering Heights. This is an example of situational irony because nobody would have expected the scruffy, homeless, "stupid little thing" that arrived at Wuthering Heights as a child to eventually become the master.

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Discuss the irony/symbolism used in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

It is indeed ironic that Heathcliff should be regarded as the epitome of barbarism—of all that is wild, impulsive, and savage—when it is the supposedly respectable Hindley Earnshaw who behaves abominably, not just towards Heathcliff but towards everyone else as well. On the surface, Hindley appears to be the ideal representative of so-called civilized society; he has education, wealth, and prospects. However, the abusive way he treats others (especially Heathcliff) is anything but civilized and reveals a heart of darkness beneath his respectable exterior.

With regards to symbolism, ghosts are used by Brontë to represent the persistence of memory in people's lives. The bleak moors which form the backdrop of most of the book's action are haunted, both literally and figuratively. Whether the sightings of ghosts are meant to be real or merely a figment of overactive, superstitious imaginations—there's no doubt that, within the narrative, ghosts symbolize the way in which the very landscape has become deeply infused by the abiding memory of Heathcliff and Catherine: two restless spirits.

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Discuss the irony/symbolism used in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights.

With regard to Emily Bronte's novel, Wuthering Heights, I don't know that I can help you much, but the most obvious irony is that Heathcliff does all he can to get Wuthering Heights, mostly because he cannot have Catherine (and because of how Hindley treats him).

Once he wins the house from Hindley while gambling, the reader would expect Heathcliff to be happy, finally. He bested Hindley, and he is the master in the home where he was treated like a servant after his adoptive father died. However, the hole within Heathcliff is just as deep, and the more he hurts those around him, from his own suffering, the more he suffers himself, never finding happiness.

Before Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights after Hindley's poor treatment, he overhears Catherine speaking of why she could not marry Heathcliff. He leaves the Heights before he hears anymore. The irony here is that had he listened further, or talked with Catherine before leaving, he would have known that she loved him, but that she did not believe they would make a good match. This might have given him hope, knowing someone he cared for loved him, to make the most of what he was able to do for himself while he was away (returning educated, with money), to enjoy a much fuller life. His obsession devours his soul and robs him of that opportunity.

Later, Catherine collapses in his arms, and dies never regaining consciousness. His only solace is begging her ghost to haunt him. We know this happens soon before he dies. In death they are reunited as their caskets lie next to each other, with the sides open so that as they return to dust, their remains can mingle over the years. Perhaps this is ironic that they are finally able to be together, but only in death.

In terms of symbols, I can offer only one, which also presents an irony: the moors. When the novel opens, Lockwood, to whom Nellie tells the story of Wuthering Heights, does not like walking on the moors at night because he is frightened; ironically, Heathcliff and Catherine love spending long hours on the moors growing up. The landscape does not intimidate them. This may symbolize a wild, impetuous nature, something they both share.

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