Wuthering Heights

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Wuthering Heights Symbol Analysis

Wuthering Heights Symbol Icon
The childhood home of many of the book's characters (Heathcliff, Catherine, Hindley, Nelly Dean, and Hareton), Wuthering Heights is a centuries-old farmhouse that symbolizes simplicity, wildness, and passion. Sturdy, substantial, and stubborn, the house is at one with the surrounding moors; it is fierce but unchanging. Its inhabitants share its characteristics—like it or not, they are in touch with their raw, natural, and animalistic instincts. Wuthering Heights stands for unfettered, primal emotions—it is nature.

Wuthering Heights Quotes in Wuthering Heights

The Wuthering Heights quotes below all refer to the symbol of Wuthering Heights. For each quote, you can also see the other characters and themes related to it (each theme is indicated by its own dot and icon, like this one:
Gothic Literature and the Supernatural Theme Icon
). Note: all page and citation info for the quotes below refers to the Vintage edition of Wuthering Heights published in 2009.
Chapter 1 Quotes
But Mr. Heathcliff forms a singular contrast to his abode and style of living. He is a dark-skinned gypsy in aspect, in dress and manners a gentleman, that is, as much a gentleman as many a country squire.
Related Characters: Mr. Lockwood (speaker), Heathcliff
Related Symbols: Wuthering Heights
Page Number: 4
Explanation and Analysis:

Lockwood recalls arriving at Wuthering Heights for the first time, describing his initial impressions of the house and of Heathcliff, its owner. He remarks that based on the look of the house he would expect it to be inhabited by a "homely, Northern farmer," but instead he encounters Heathcliff, whom he describes in paradoxical terms. To Lockwood, Heathcliff simultaneously looks like a "dark-skinned gypsy" and a member of the English aristocracy. Even in his own home, Heathcliff seems to be an outsider, and the reference to his ethnic origin hints that, as Bronte later reveals, Heathcliff was adopted. 

Immediately we know that there is something strange and otherworldly about Heathcliff. To 19th century white English readers, his depiction as a "dark-skinned gypsy" would signal that he was mysterious and potentially menacing. The fact that he blurs class boundaries is also significant, as it would have been highly unusual to meet someone who could not clearly be placed within the rigid class system of the time. Finally, there is a hint of irony in the fact that Lockwood describes Heathcliff as being at odds with his home. Although Heathcliff is more suited to the open moor than to the house, he comes to be closely associated with the rugged, sturdy Wuthering Heights, especially in comparison to Thrushcross Grange.  


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Chapter 3 Quotes
Terror made me cruel; and finding it useless to attempt shaking the creature off, I pulled its wrist on to the broken pane, and rubbed it to and fro till the blood ran down and soaked the bedclothes.
Related Characters: Mr. Lockwood (speaker)
Related Symbols: Wuthering Heights
Page Number: 27
Explanation and Analysis:

Having read Catherine's diary and fallen asleep, Lockwood dreams that he hears a tapping at the window and is grabbed by the "little, ice-cold hand" of Catherine's ghost. He attempts to pull away but the hand won't let him go, begging to be let in; terrified, Lockwood rubs the hand against the broken window pane until eventually it lets go. This disturbing sequence is one of the most obviously gothic moments in the novel. It is ambiguous whether Catherine's ghost is "real" or whether it is only a figment of Lockwood's imagination, conjured by the fact that he fell asleep reading her diary. However, when Heathcliff arrives in the room after hearing Lockwood's screams, it is clear that Catherine's ghost is a very real presence to him.

The graphic violence in the dream is made even more unsettling by the fact that Catherine's ghost is in the form of a child, with a "little" hand. Lockwood's willingness to viciously harm the child in his terror suggests that even highly "civilized" people have a capacity for brutality and passion beneath the veneer of good manners. Meanwhile, the ghost itself displays Catherine's contradictory qualities: it is simultaneously stubborn and powerless, threatening and vulnerable.

This passage also emphasizes the dividing line between Wuthering Heights and the moor outside. The ghost is desperate to be let in, but there is clearly a powerful force keeping it outside. This division between inside and outside is represented by the jagged glass of the broken window pane, which Lockwood makes violent use of in order to keep the ghost out.

The ledge, where I placed my candle, had a few mildewed books piled up in one corner; and it was covered with writing scratched on the paint. This writing, however, was nothing but a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small—Catherine Earnshaw, here and there varied to Catherine Heathcliff, and then again to Catherine Linton.
Related Characters: Mr. Lockwood (speaker), Catherine Earnshaw Linton, Heathcliff, Edgar Linton
Related Symbols: Wuthering Heights
Page Number: 21
Explanation and Analysis:

Having attempted to leave Wuthering Heights after an unsettling dinner, Lockwood is attacked by the dogs and suffers a nosebleed, forcing him to stay the night in a bedroom that Heathcliff does not normally let anyone use. Describing the room, Lockwood notes that it is damp and fairly empty, and on the window ledge he notices multiple versions of Catherine's name scratched onto the paint. The name signals that, as Lockwood will soon find out, the room is haunted by the ghost of Catherine. 

The fact that there are three different versions of Catherine's name––with the different surnames Earnshaw, Heathcliff, and Linton––highlights the legacy of Catherine's passionate and fickle emotions. At the same time, the names also emphasize the fractured nature of women's identities in the 19th century. When a woman married, she gained not only a new spouse and lifestyle but also essentially became a different person, with a new name and identity. The decision of who to marry was thus of pivotal importance for women, and Catherine's conflict over who to choose was thus inevitably tied to an identity crisis about who she was. Lockwood's description of her handwriting––"all kinds of letters, large and small"––further conveys this sense of inner conflict and turmoil. 

Chapter 20 Quotes
My son is prospective owner of your place, and I should not wish him to die till I was certain of being his successor. Besides he's mine, and I want the triumph of seeing my descendant fairly lord of their estates: my child hiring their children to till their father's land for wages. That is the sole consideration which can make me endure the whelp: I despise him for himself, and hate him for the memories he revives!
Related Characters: Heathcliff (speaker), Edgar Linton, Linton Heathcliff
Related Symbols: Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange
Page Number: 238
Explanation and Analysis:

Nelly has tried to reassure Linton that he shouldn't be afraid of his father, but Heathcliff turns out to behave incredibly cruelly towards his son, treating him in the same hateful way as he treated Edgar and Isabella. Linton resembles Edgar in his looks and demeanor, and doesn't seem to bear any similarity to Heathcliff at all. This makes it even more disturbing that Heathcliff is so insistent on the hereditary connection between him and Linton, emphasizing this relationship with the words "my son," "mine," "my descendent," and "my son." Clearly, Heathcliff wishes to enact his revenge through Linton; indeed, Heathcliff himself admits that this is the only reason why he tolerates Linton's presence. 

This passage thus confirms the importance of vengeance in the novel, and specifically reveals how Heathcliff wishes to overcome the humiliation he experienced through his class position by seeing Linton become the owner of Thrushcross Grange. The fact that he describes Linton as belonging to him suggests that he sees Linton himself as property, akin to the properties of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights. 

Chapter 33 Quotes
'It is a poor conclusion, is it not?' he observed, having brooded awhile on the scene he had just witnessed: 'an absurd termination to my violent exertions? I get levers and mattocks to demolish the two houses, and train myself to be capable of working like Hercules, and when everything is ready and in my power, I find the will to lift a slate off either roof has vanished! My old enemies have not beaten me; now would be the precise time to revenge myself on their representatives: I could do it; and none could hinder me. But where is the use? I don't care for striking: I can't take the trouble to raise my hand! That sounds as if I had been labouring the whole time only to exhibit a fine trait of magnanimity. It is far from being the case: I have lost the faculty of enjoying their destruction, and I am too idle to destroy for nothing.
Related Characters: Heathcliff (speaker)
Related Symbols: Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange
Page Number: 369
Explanation and Analysis:

Heathcliff and Cathy have argued about her inheritance and her relationship with Hareton. Heathcliff almost hits her, but is stopped by the fact that Cathy's eyes remind him of his beloved Catherine. In this speech, he reflects on the fact that his violent thirst for vengeance is steadily dissolving. He expresses mixed feelings about this: he is frustrated that all the work he put towards revenge is for nothing, but can't deny that he no longer sees any point in destroying the lives of his enemies.

Here Bronte avoids presenting too neat a resolution or happy ending. Heathcliff himself maintains that he has not suddenly become "magnanimous"––indeed, this would contradict everything we know about his personality––but simply declares that he no longer cares about getting revenge. This sense of exhaustion foreshadows the fact that Heathcliff will soon die, and that both he and the other characters will finally be left at peace.  

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