Wuthering Heights

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Gothic Literature and the Supernatural Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Gothic Literature and the Supernatural Theme Icon
Nature and Civilization Theme Icon
Love and Passion Theme Icon
Masculinity and Femininity Theme Icon
Class Theme Icon
Revenge and Repetition Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Wuthering Heights, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Gothic Literature and the Supernatural Theme Icon

From beginning to end, Wuthering Heights is a novel full of ghosts and spirits. Dead characters refuse to leave the living alone, and the living accept that the deceased find ways of coming back to haunt them. In a departure from traditional Gothic tales, these hauntings are sometimes welcome. Heathcliff, for instance, repeatedly seeks out visitations from the ghost of his beloved Catherine. He even digs up her grave in order to be closer to her. Brontë uses otherworldly figures to emphasize the ferocity of Heathcliff's and Catherine's love; their connection is so powerful that even death can't stop it.

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Gothic Literature and the Supernatural Quotes in Wuthering Heights

Below you will find the important quotes in Wuthering Heights related to the theme of Gothic Literature and the Supernatural.
Chapter 3 Quotes
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. 

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Chapter 15 Quotes
You teach me how cruel you've been—cruel and false. Why do you despise me? Why did you betray your own heart, Cathy? I have not one word of comfort. You deserve this. You have killed yourself. Yes, you may kiss me, and cry, and wring out my kisses and tears; they'll blight you—they'll damn you. You loved me—then what right had you to leave me? What right—answer me—for the poor fancy you felt for Linton? Because misery, and degradation and death, and nothing that God or Satan could inflict would have parted us, you, of your own will, did it. I have not broken your heart—you have broken it; and in breaking it, you have broken mine.
Related Characters: Heathcliff (speaker), Catherine Earnshaw Linton
Page Number: 184
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine, who is dying, has agreed to see Heathcliff for the first time since Edgar separated them and since she has grown ill. During their conversation, Catherine and Heathcliff express both their anger and enduring love for each other. It is clear that they feel deeply resentful of one another, blaming the other for their separation. Heathcliff's words reflect one of the key themes in Wuthering Heights: that when people behave cruelly, there is usually a reason behind it. Bronte suggests that most of the time cruel behavior is motivated by pain, powerlessness, and the subsequent desire for revenge. 

Heathcliff's speech also illuminates the eerie power of his and Catherine's love. This power is shown to be greater than "God or Satan," and in saying that even death would not have separated them, Heathcliff confirms the idea that his and Catherine's love is eternal, almost supernaturally disrupting the barrier between the dead and living. Furthermore, his comment that by breaking her own heart, Catherine has also broken his, emphasizes the notion that they are supernaturally connected to the point that they are the same person. Heathcliff's reference to Catherine's will is also important, as Catherine's stubborn willpower is a recurring motif within the novel. It is important to note, however, that Heathcliff misunderstands her actions; he cannot see that she chose to marry Edgar in order to help Heathcliff escape Hindley. 

I forgive what you have done to me. I love my murderer—but yours! How can I?
Related Characters: Heathcliff (speaker), Catherine Earnshaw Linton
Page Number: 185
Explanation and Analysis:

On her deathbed, Catherine begs Heathcliff to forgive her; he responds by saying that he forgives what she has done to him but not what she has done to herself. It is due to Catherine's own willpower, after all, that she ended up falling ill by self-starvation. Heathcliff's dramatic language blurs the line between sentiment and reality; Catherine has literally murdered herself, but Heathcliff's murder in this passage is only figurative, because he does not wish to live without her. This ambiguity also confirms the eerie, supernatural idea that Catherine and Heathcliff are in fact one person.

Heathcliff's words reflect the complicated doubling between his character and Catherine, and a sense of Catherine's fractured personality. He says he loves his own murderer––Catherine––but that he cannot forgive Catherine's murderer––who is, of course, also Catherine! The notion that Catherine has multiple identities is reminiscent of the moment when Lockwood discovers the three different versions of her name scratched into the wall. Bronte implies that, through Catherine's stubborn struggle against the limits imposed on her by society, her personality becomes fractured.

Chapter 16 Quotes
Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you—haunt me, then! The murdered do haunt their murderers. I believe—I know that ghosts have wandered on earth. Be with me always—take any form—drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you! Oh God! it is unutterable! I cannot live without my life! I cannot live without my soul!
Related Characters: Heathcliff (speaker), Catherine Earnshaw Linton
Page Number: 191-192
Explanation and Analysis:

Catherine has died giving birth to Cathy, and Heathcliff, devastated, demands that her ghost haunt him. Again, his speech is filled with a mix of love and resentment; he cries that he cannot live without her, yet selfishly does not want her soul to rest while he is alive, insisting that she haunt him until he dies. On one level, Heathcliff's despair can be interpreted as extremely romantic, as it is clear that Catherine meant everything to him ("I cannot live without my life!"). 

On the other hand, this passage shows Catherine and Heathcliff's relationship to be dark and disturbing in its intensity. Heathcliff's passion for Catherine is so fierce that he wishes to be driven mad by her. This presents a view of romantic love as a destructive, destabilizing force, and one that is ultimately rather selfish. 

Finally, Heathcliff's claim to know that "ghosts have wandered the earth" emphasizes the supernatural, gothic side of Wuthering Heights. As the reader knows from the opening of the novel, Catherine's ghost does come to haunt Heathcliff and drive him mad; this speech can therefore be seen as a kind of conjuring, foreshadowing events that we know will come later in the story. 

Chapter 17 Quotes
I've recovered from my first desire to be killed by him-I'd rather he'd kill himself! He has extinguished my love effectually, and so I'm at my ease.
Related Characters: Isabella Linton (speaker), Heathcliff
Page Number: 197
Explanation and Analysis:

Isabella, soaking wet and dishevelled, has arrived at Wuthering Heights in a crazed mood. She announces to Nelly that Heathcliff has "extinguished" her love for him and that she plans to run away from Thruschcross Grange, believing that Heathcliff wouldn't bother following her. The change Isabella has undergone is striking; introduced in the novel as a model of civilized, refined femininity, she now seems wild, fearless, and unhinged, highly reminiscent of Catherine. Isabella emphasizes this total transformation with the words "recovered" and "extinguished." Although she hardly seems happy, the phrase "at ease" suggests she has found a kind of freedom in relinquishing her emotional attachment to Heathcliff.

This passage is also striking for its mention of violence. It would have been strange to hear Isabella speaking of murder and suicide at an earlier point in the novel, but life at Wuthering Heights has clearly had a menacing effect on her. Once again, Bronte presents love and death as intimately connected, suggesting that passionate love inevitably leads to a desire for death. 

Chapter 29 Quotes
I got the sexton, who was digging Linton's grave, to remove the earth off her coffin lid, and I opened it. I thought, once, I would have stayed there, when I saw her face again—it is hers yet—he had hard work to stir me; but he said it would change, if the air blew on it, and so I struck one side of the coffin loose, and covered it up—not Linton's side, damn him! I wish he'd been soldered in lead—and I bribed the sexton to pull it away, when I'm laid there, and slide mine out too. I'll have it made so, and then, by the time Linton gets to us, he'll not know which is which!"
Related Characters: Heathcliff (speaker), Catherine Earnshaw Linton, Edgar Linton
Page Number: 329
Explanation and Analysis:

Edgar Linton has died, and Heathcliff tells Nelly that he bribed the sexton burying Edgar's body to open Catherine's coffin and promise to eventually bury Heathcliff beside her. This is one of the most morbid moments in the novel, where Heathcliff's desire to be with Catherine's dead body has somewhat necrophilic overtones. Heathcliff's longing for Catherine literally becomes a longing for death. This passage also confirms the importance of death as the moment when Catherine and Heathcliff's union will finally be unchallenged, and Heathcliff's hope is that their remains will literally become one, indistinguishable from each other.

This passage also shows again how Heathcliff's passion extends both towards love for Catherine and vengefulness towards those whom he feels have wronged him. Thus his tampering with Catherine's grave is not just a morbid desire for union with his lost beloved, but also a spiteful gesture towards the recently-deceased Edgar.

Chapter 34 Quotes
Last night, I was on the threshold of hell. To-day, I am within sight of my heaven. I have my eyes on it: hardly three feet to sever me!
Related Characters: Heathcliff (speaker), Catherine Earnshaw Linton
Page Number: 375
Explanation and Analysis:

Nelly has brought Heathcliff his lunch, but he has refused it, saying that he wants to be alone. Nelly asks why Heathcliff is acting so strangely, and he tells her that he is "within sight of my heaven," meaning he knows he will soon die and be reunited with Catherine. Bronte's presentation of Heathcliff in his final days is more sympathetic than his depiction in the rest of the novel. For the first time, he experiences joy, and does not behave aggressively to the other characters (as long as they leave him alone). This highlights Heathcliff's contrary nature; while most people would approach their own death with feelings of sadness or fear, Heathcliff is ecstatic. Such a paradox confirms that Heathcliff's only desire is to be with Catherine. Again, the themes of love and death are inextricably linked.

The fact that Heathcliff uses the phrase "my heaven" and not just "heaven" emphasizes the recurring idea that each person has their own idea of heaven, and what is heaven to one person might be hell to another. Though a fairly accepted principle in today's world, this notion would have been controversial in Bronte's time. Heathcliff's rejection of the concept of a Christian heaven in favor of simply being with Catherine would have seemed heretical. Within Christianity, death and heaven bring the opportunity to be united with God; thus Heathcliff's excitement at his impending death suggests that to him, Catherine has replaced God. This reflects the novel's gothic exploration of supernaturally powerful love.