‘Wuthering Heights’ a Gothic Revenge Drama

“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 the 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!”


‘Wuthering Heights’ is a 19th century gothic novel that revolves around the lives of two families: the Earnshaws, the Lintons and the peculiar boy adopted by the Earnshaws named Heathcliff. Set in the damp mysterious English moores, the story is riddled with the themes of love, revenge, and drama. It merges the supernatural with the real and creates a unique world that leaves us both horrified and curious. The novel has multiple levels of narrators ranging from the newly moved in Lockwood to Wuthering Heights’ lifetime caretaker Nelly Dean and finally to the inhabitants of both Heights and Thrushcross Grange.

“Treachery and violence are spears pointed at both ends; they wound those who resort to them worse than their enemies.”

The theme of violence and revenge runs constantly throughout Wuthering Heights and Heathcliff acts as the tool through which it is propagated. A chain reaction of continues revenge takes place when Old Earnshaw’s affection towards the foundling Heathcliff deeply upsets Hindley. After Earnshaw’s death, Hindley neglects Heathcliff and degrades him. Overcome with a desire for revenge, upon his return, Heathcliff successfully deceives Hindley into selling off Wuthering Heights. Furthermore, he also takes in Hareton Earnshaw and condemns him to a life of degradation and torture. Heathcliff also seeks revenge against Edgar for marrying Catherine and marries his sister Isabella. He tortures her both physically and mentally and even continues this mistreatment towards their son Linton, whom he uses merely as a tool to take over Thrushcross Grange. He forces marriage between Linton and young Catherine, confines her, and beats her up violently as he sees her as a proof of the union between his Cathy and Edgar. Heathcliff’s affinity for revenge and violence plays a major role in driving Catherine away from him. As he nears his death, he gradually abstains from it and is in turn able to reunite with a ghostly presence of Cathy.

“If all else perished, and he remained, I should still continue to be; and if all else remained, and he were annihilated, the universe would turn to a mighty stranger.”

As for the gothic elements, the novel can be considered the prime example of a gothic novel for a multitude of reasons. The setting of the English moors in itself reflects the untamedness of the novel’s characters and their mindsets. The house ‘Wuthering Heights’ is described as being old and gloomy, similar to the ruined castle-like gothic architecture. A few characters like the tyrannies, deceitfully handsome villains, fragile women and ghosts are said to be typical to a gothic novel. Heathcliff can be seen as a gothic villain, who loses sight of all morality in mad pursuit of his passion. The character of Isabella Linton is a typical example of the fragile woman who is beautiful and innocent but is brutally exploited by the villain. Another major element of the gothic is the inclusion of ghosts and other supernatural elements. In the start of the novel, the ghost of Catherine Earnshaw appears and grabs hold of Mr. Lockwood, whom he thinks is a ‘changeling’ and is mentioned throughout the novel. The weather also contributes to the damp dark setting and constantly reflects the melancholic feelings of the characters. Typical to a gothic narrative, Wuthering Heights touches upon concepts that are considered paranoid, barbaric and the tabooed.

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Categories: Book Review, Literature

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