Wuthering Heights (Bronte)
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1. To what extent do you think the setting of the novel contributes to, or informs, what takes place? Do you think the moors are a character in their own right? How do you interpret Bronte's view of nature and the landscape?
2. Discuss Emily Bronte's careful attention to a rigid timeline and the role of the novel as a sober historical document. How is this significant, particularly in light of the turbulent action within? What other contrasts within the novel strike you, and why? How are these contrasts important, and how do they play out in the novel?
3. Do you think the novel is a tale of redemption, despair, or both? Discuss the novel's meaning to you. Do you think the novel's moral content dictates one choice over the other?
4. Do you think Bronte succeeds in creating three-dimensional figures in
Heathcliff and Cathy, particularly given their larger-than-life metaphysical passion? Why or why not?
5. Discuss Bronte's use of twos: Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange; two families, each with two children; two couples (Catherine and Edgar, and Heathcliff and Isabella); two narrators; the doubling-up of names. What is Bronte's intention here? Discuss.
6. How do Mr. Lockwood and Nelly Dean influence the story as narrators? Do you think they are completely reliable observers? What does Bronte want us to believe?
7. Discuss the role of women in Wuthering Heights. Is their depiction typical of Bronte's time, or not? Do you think Bronte's characterizations of women mark her as a pioneer ahead of her time or not?
8. Who or what does Heathcliff represent in the novel? Is he a force of evil or a victim of it? How important is the role of class in the novel, particularly as it relates to Heathcliff and his life?
(Questions issued by Penguin Classics edition—cover image, top right.)
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Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #1: The Issue of Class in Wuthering Heights
Throughout Emily Bronte’sWuthering Heights, the issue of class is raised repeatedly, especially in relation to Heathcliff. Heathcliff is often shunned because of his lower class roots and his lack of knowledge regarding his parentage. Throughout the course of the novel Wuthering Heights, Heathcliff runs the social gamut by being an orphaned castaway to becoming a gentleman, then turning into a day laborer, and finally becoming a gentleman again. What is Bronte saying about class through her representation of this theme, especially in relation to Heathcliff’s unpredictable slides up and down the social ladder? What other characters in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte are concerned with the effects that their life will have on their class status? For this essay on Wuthering Heights, pick two or three characters for this character analysis, besides Heathcliff, and dissect their concerns in regards to their class status, and how these concerns motivate their major decisions.Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #2: The Role of Vengeance and Revenge in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights
Revenge is a prominent theme in Bronte's Wuthering Heights. As the novel gains momentum and the plot moves forward, it is easy to see how every action of Heathcliff’s is designed to bring down the Earnshaw and Linton family, and to take ownership over what he sees as his. However, during his vengeful acts against the two families, Heathcliff becomes even more dark and unhappy inside. While he truly believes that revenge will justify his existence, he is actually making himself more miserable than Hindley ever did. What is Bronte, then, saying about revenge and it’s manifestations in Wuthering Heights? Is it possible that Heathcliff’s search for revenge actually hastened along his death?Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #3: The Issue of Stagnancy in Wuthering Heights
One thing that is clear throughout Emily Bronte’s novel is that Heathcliff cherishes Catherine Earnshaw. At first, the union is logical: two innocent children running through the moors are bound to find one another attractive, even if only for a lack of other opportunities. However, as they age, the relationship between Heathcliff and Catherine becomes far murkier. Catherine begins to treat Heathcliff quite poorly, leaving him to marry Edgar Linton, yet constantly declaring her true love for Heathcliff. As Catherine’s treatment of Heathcliff degenerates, his love, conversely, expands. Explain how Heathcliff’s inability to see and cope with the changes in Catherine’s personality has a permanent effect on his life. Also, discuss the ways in which their relationship changes, and the separate catalysts for those changes.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #4: The Supernatural in Wuthering Heights
The supernatural is a key element in all of the canon of Romantic Literature and is apparent in Wuthering Heights, especially the manifestation of Catherine’s ghost. It is the presence of Catherine that leads Lockwood to discover the books that have been scrawled in as diaries, and in the end, it is her ghost that drives Heathcliff insane. While reflecting on the usage of the supernatural in Wuthering Heights, discuss in which ways the inclusion of Catherine’s ghost helps to move the plot along. Besides the two examples already listed, in which ways does she influence the storyline? Also, discuss whether or not the ghost of Catherine was a real spirit, or merely a nightmare on the part of Lockwood and the manifestation of Heathcliff’s guilt.
Thesis Statement / Essay Topic #5: The Moor Motif in Wuthering Heights
During the telling of the story of Heathcliff and Catherine, the subject of Moors comes up fairly regularly, in two different contexts. To begin with, the Moor’s are the place where Catherine and Heathcliff first found love, and the Moor’s are what draw the young Catherine to Heathcliff’s new home across the grange. Also important is the fact that while Heathcliff is usually referred to as a gypsy, with his dark hair and skin, another common racial term during Bronte’s day was “Moor". With this knowledge in hand, discuss how the moors surrounding the grange reflect Heathcliff, the Moor. In what ways do the natural moors personify Heathcliff’s own dark and brooding personality and unpredictable nature? How do events that occur out in the moor foreshadow later events that are caused by Heathcliff?
For help putting Wuthering Heights in historical, click here to check out the article “Overview of Romanticism in Literature”
This list of important quotations from “Wuthering Heights” by Emily Bronte will help you work with the essay topics and thesis statements above by allowing you to support your claims. All of the important quotes from Bronte's “Wuthering Heights” listed here correspond, at least in some way, to the paper topics above and by themselves can give you great ideas for an essay by offering quotes and explanations about other themes, symbols, imagery, and motifs than those already mentioned and explained. Aside from the thesis statements for Bronte's “Wuthering Heights” above, these quotes alone can act as essay questions or study questions as they are all relevant to the text in an important way. All quotes contain page numbers as well. Look at the bottom of the page to identify which edition of the text they are referring to.
“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" (21)
“In vapid listlessness I leant my head against the window, and continued spelling over Catherine Earnshaw—Heathcliff—Linton, till my eyes closed; but they had not rested five minutes when a glare of white letters started from the dark, as vivid as spectres—the air swarmed with Catherines" (33)
“It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him; and that, not because he’s handsome, Nelly, but because he’s more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same, and his is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire." (78)
“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!" (271)
“In every cloud, in every tree—filling the air at night, and caught by glimpses in every object by day, I am surrounded with her image! The most ordinary faces of men and women—my own features—mock me with a resemblance. The entire world is a dreadful collection of memoranda that she did exist, and that I have lost her!" (310)
“’I know why Hareton never speaks, when I am in the kitchen’ she exclaimed, on another occasion. ‘He is afraid I shall laugh at him. Ellen, what do you think? He began to teach himself to read once; and, because I laughed, he burned his books, and dropped it: was he not a fool?’" (301)
“Proud people breed sad sorrows for themselves. But, if you be ashamed of your touciness, you must ask pardon, mind, when she comes in. You must go up and offer to kiss her, and say-you know best what to say; only do it heartily and not as if you thought her converted into a stranger by her grand dress." (57)
“My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods. Time will change it, I'm well aware, as winter changes the trees – my love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath – a source of little visible delight, but necessary.” (67)
“I'm trying to settle how I shall pay Hindley back. I don't care how long I wait, if I can only do it at last. I hope he will not die before I do!” (54)
“And I pray one prayer–I repeat it till my tongue stiffens–Catherine Earnshaw, may you not rest as long as I am living! You said I killed you–haunt me, then!…Be with me always–take any form–drive me mad! only do not leave me in this abyss, where I cannot find you!” (153)
Source: Bronte, Emily. Wuthering Heights. Philadelphia: Courage Books, 1991.