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Wuthering Heights Character and Theme Analysis

Updated on September 22, 2015


Heraclitus once wrote, “Nothing is permanent but change.” This statement proves to be very true in context of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Many of the characters in this novel always have a change in characteristics based on the setting. Looking at the character, the elder Catherine, it can be seen that the geographical surroundings affect her character quite a bit; showing that even her character is not permanent, but easily susceptible to change. The surroundings affect Catherine by transforming her character and morals to match up with the accepted ideals in that location, thus illuminating the meaning of the work as a whole that a change in character will alter a passionate and loving relationship very negatively, but in the end, the love will never die.

To begin the novel, Catherine is depicted as a girl who does what she wishes and could care less about what other people think about her. This is reflective of the tumultuous nature of her home at the time, Wuthering Heights. The stormy and spontaneous cloud around Wuthering Heights parallels the destructive nature of Catherine at the time. It is during this time of her life that her relationship with Heathcliff develops into something more than just friendship. She spent almost every day in the moors with him, away from the sights of her brother Hindley. They talked and played for hours on end. Both of them shared the nature of being reckless and destructive. In a way, they contributed to the setting perfectly. They were tumultuous and wuthering, just like the setting.

However, this did not go on for long. Following the incident of being bitten by the dogs at Thrushcross Grange, the nearest neighbors, Catherine was forced to spend five weeks there in order to recuperate. Thrushcross Grange is the complete opposite of Wuthering Heights. It is happy, looks beautiful, has nicer weather, is more green, and is not tumultuous or wuthering. Furthermore, the people living there had better manners and were better cultivated. During her stay at the Grange, Catherine was also cultivated to become a different person. Her ideals completely changed. Her morals completely changed. And her character completely changed. She returned to Wuthering Heights as a completely different person. She was no longer destructive, volatile, or spontaneous. She became this well mannered, high class lady, who cared for things she never previously cared about like wealth and social status. She dressed better, talked in a more educated manner, and worst of all, treated Heathcliff in a very condescending manner. This further shows the extent to which the new setting changed her psychological and moral traits. Also, besides the fact that she treated Heathcliff in a condescending manner, she also developed an infatuation for Edgar Linton, a well-mannered boy from Thrushcross Grange. This was the beginning of the end of the good relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine.

To end things more decisively, Catherine married Edgar. However, she soon realized conflicting feelings for both Edgar and Heathcliff. Her wuthering and tumultuous nature wanted Heathcliff, while her new well-mannered nature wanted Edgar. Despite the shift in personality, she was still clinging to Heathcliff. This ultimately shows that, even though the setting greatly changed her character, her love for Heathcliff never died. it just became less intense for a while, but it never died. Even when the entire first generation, so to speak, dies, Edgar, Catherine, and Heathcliff are buried right next to each other. This shows that even though they were dead, their love and conflicting feelings were not.


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    • Larry Rankin profile image

      Larry Rankin 2 years ago from Oklahoma

      Great analysis. If I'm honest, not my favorite book, but certainly a classic.

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