Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell

Emily Brontë, Wuthering Heights (1847)

Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights (1847) is a romance novel that depicts the female romantic fantasy of being a woman who is loved by two men, with each of these men representing ideal types that can be found in romantic literature. Meanwhile, the choice between them represents a dilemma that a young woman can face of choosing between passion and financial security. 

The most important of the suitors, Heathcliff, is a man of mystery and fasciation.  He is dark, brooding, moody, alienated, and he represents passion and adventure.  He is a man of courage and strength, who is capable of great love but also of cruelty and vengefulness.  This makes him alluring but dangerous. 

By contrast, Edgar is a gentleman, a man of elegance and respectability.  He is handsome, kind, well-mannered and financially well off, but he is the proverbial ‘nice guy’ who is generally only able to generate feelings of comfort and contentment in a woman. The love he eventually generates is one associated with tranquillity, happiness and predictability. 

The object of their desire, the romantic heroine Catherine, is headstrong, independent, and she controls both men with the power of her love, subjecting them to her whims and fancies as well as to her profound direction-setting choice between a passionate spiritual bond (Heathcliff) or comfort and social respectability (Edgar).

Catherine’s choice, between two different men and the two different worlds they offer, represents a real dilemma for some women regarding the most important choice in their life – marriage. 

While exploring these romantic themes, Emily Brontë also explores the emotionally charged notions of a love that can never die, of how heartbreak and cruelty can transform their victim into someone who is vengeful and cruel, and of how the great dramas involving members of one generation can impact on the next generation.  She also looks at how the rigidities of the English class system can place imposing barriers on those seeking upward social mobility and also inflict a cruel snobbery that breeds resentment in its victims. 

In addition, the novel also represents Emily Brontë’s views on the value of living close to nature. This is reflected in how she transformed the isolated rural world that she knew, the Yorkshire moors, into a realm providing uplifting feelings of identity and place, while also being a cauldron of romance, passion, drama, and intrigue, a world of epic clashes between powerful personalities. 

Student resources by Dr Mark Lopez

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The purpose of the concise notes of Dr Mark’s The Meaning in a Nutshell is to provide much needed help to students seeking to unlock the meaning of the texts with which they have to deal.  (More elaborate notes are provided in lessons as part of my private tutoring business.) 

Subject: Wuthering Heights meaning, Wuthering Heights themes, Wuthering Heights analysis, Wuthering Heights notes