Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë

Wuthering Heights book cover
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Overview

The main themes in Wuthering Heights include love, revenge, and class conflict.

  • Love and passion: Catherine’s and Heathcliff's fierce love for one another contrasts sharply with their passionless marriages to Edgar and Isabella. Catherine and Heathcliff's tumultuous relationship demonstrates destructive power of love.

  • Revenge: Heathcliff’s obsessive devotion to Catherine drives his thirst for revenge against Edgar. Cruelty and sadism are shown in Heathcliff’s maltreatment of Hareton and Isabella as well as Hindley’s torment of Heathcliff.

  • Class conflict: Class is what separates the penniless Heathcliff from the upper-class Earnshaws and Lintons. Heathcliff knows that Catherine will not marry him because of his low social standing.

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Themes

(Beacham's Guide to Literature for Young Adults)

When Mr. Lockwood became a tenant at Thrushcross Grange he naturally became interested in the history of the place and its owner. During one of his visits to the owner, he gets caught in the snow and is forced to stay overnight. While staying in an abandoned room at Wuthering Heights, he learns part of the story about Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff. This web of the relationship of love and revenge between Catherine, Heathcliff, and Edgar Linton is the major theme of novel.

Bronte presents her readers with a multi-sided portrait of love and revenge. Each of the characters loves at least one of the others. Each in turn, either purposely or unwittingly exacts revenge from the others. This is a complex tale in which none of the characters really understands the psychological make-up of the others or himself or herself.

Bronte creates and explores two halves of one soul. The souls of Heathcliff and Cathy are always trying to be united. Through the events in the novel, Bronte shows her readers that male and female characteristics can perhaps never be fully united or integrated. Neither gender is dominant but neither gender is truly happy either.

This is also a story about passion and naturalness. Heathcliff and Cathy are two passionate people. As children they are soul mates. They are wild, almost feral children who roam the moors, and they are one with nature. They are uncorrupted by "man made laws" of behavior.

When they grow up and Cathy becomes tainted by her stay at the Lintons', their relationship begins to change. She realizes that she cannot marry Heathcliff and rejects him and the way of life that he stands for. She chooses Edgar and the life of conventionality that he represents. She chooses to become a "lady." Edgar is pale in comparison to Heathcliff but he seems to have been a relatively good husband for Cathy, and they eventually have a child.

Bronte uses Heathcliff as a symbol of the darker forces of nonconformity. He is above or beyond the conventions of a classed society. Edgar represents the law-abiding, pedestrian, accepter of civilized society. Cathy is the mediator between the two. She wants the natural, free life that Heathcliff offers, but she also longs for the status and conventional "good...

(The entire section is 1,340 words.)