CliffsNotes on Brontë's Wuthering Heights

By Richard P. Wasowski | Go to book overview

Major Themes

Of the major themes in Wuthering Heights, the nature of love — both romantic and brotherly but, oddly enough, not erotic — applies to the principal characters as well as the minor ones. Every relationship in the text is strained at one point or another. Brontë’s exploration of love is best discussed in the context of good versus evil (which is another way of saying love versus hate). Although the polarities between good and evil are easily understood, the differences are not that easily applied to the characters and their actions.

The most important relationship is the one between Heathcliff and Catherine. The nature of their love seems to go beyond the kind of love most people know. In fact, it is as if their love is beyond this world, belonging on a spiritual plane that supercedes anything available to everyone else on Earth. Their love seems to be born out of their rebellion and not merely a sexual desire. They both, however, do not fully understand the nature of their love, for they betray one another: Each of them marry a person whom they know they do not love as much as they love each other.

Contrasting the capacity for love is the ability to hate. And Heathcliff hates with a vengeance. Heathcliff initially focuses his hate toward Hindley, then to Edgar, and then to a certain extent, to Catherine. Because of his hate, Heathcliff resorts to what is another major theme in Wuthering Heights — revenge. Hate and revenge intertwine with selfishness to reveal the conflicting emotions that drive people to do things that are not particularly nice or rationale. Some choices are regretted while others are relished.

These emotions make the majority of the characters in Wuthering Heights well rounded and more than just traditional stereotypes. Instead of symbolizing a particular emotion, characters symbolize real people with real, oftentimes not-so-nice emotions. Every character has at least one redeeming trait or action with which the reader can empathize. This empathy is a result of the complex nature of the characters and results in a depiction of life in the Victorian Era, a time when people behaved very similarly to the way they do today.

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CliffsNotes on Brontë's Wuthering Heights
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page i
  • Table of Contents 1
  • Wuthering Heights at a Glance 2
  • Book Summary 4
  • About Wuthering Heights 5
  • Character List 7
  • Summary and Analysis 8
  • Chapter 1 9
  • Chapter 2 11
  • Chapter 3 13
  • Chapter 4 15
  • Chapter 5 17
  • Chapter 6 18
  • Chapter 7 20
  • Chapter 8 21
  • Chapter 9 22
  • Chapter 10 23
  • Chapter 11 24
  • Chapter 12 25
  • Chapter 13 26
  • Chapter 14 27
  • Chapter 15 28
  • Chapter 16 29
  • Chapter 17 30
  • Chapter 18 32
  • Chapter 19 34
  • Chapter 20 35
  • Chapter 21 36
  • Chapter 22 38
  • Chapter 23 39
  • Chapter 24 40
  • Chapter 25 41
  • Chapter 26 42
  • Chapter 27 43
  • Chapter 28 44
  • Chapter 29 45
  • Chapter 30 46
  • Chapter 31 47
  • Chapter 32 48
  • Chapter 33 49
  • Chapter 34 50
  • Character Analysis 51
  • Heathcliff 52
  • Catherine Earnshaw 53
  • Edgar Linton 54
  • Cathy Linton 55
  • Hareton Earnshaw 56
  • Ellen (Nelly) Dean 57
  • Character Genealogy 58
  • Emily Brontë Biography 59
  • Critical Essays 61
  • Major Themes 62
  • The Narrative Structure 63
  • Class Structure 64
  • Heathcliff’s Obsession 65
  • Study Help 66
  • Full Glossary 67
  • Essay Questions 75
  • Practice Project 76
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