Character Development with Nature in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights Analytical Essay

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Nature plays an important role in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights. The novel is set in the moors which is wild and open land in the highlands that can be a dangerous place to those unfamiliar with the area. In Bronte’s novel, there are often parallels between nature and the novel’s characters and plot. The dark landscape also adds to the brooding tone of Wuthering Heights. In different ways nature assists many of the characters’ development.

Heathcliff’s home is named Wuthering Heights. The word “wuthering” is “a word used to characterize an area where the wind blows so strongly that it makes a terrifying roaring sound.” (Urban Dictionary) The imagery contained in this description of wuthering targets the fierce weather and justly shows the atmosphere inside the house as well. Heathcliff and Catherine’s rough relationship can easily be compared to the weather at the heights. Another example of the tumultuous weather is when Lockwood visits Heathcliff during a snowstorm, Heathcliff is surprised.

“I wonder you should select the thick of a snow-storm to ramble about in. Do you know that you run a risk of being lost in the marshes?” (14) Heathcliff asks. “People familiar with these moors often miss their road on such evenings; and I can tell you there is no chance of a change at present.” (14) The moors and weather have an effect on all of the characters’ lives. For example, Catherine becomes feverish after walking in the storm and the older Mr. and Mrs. Linton die after being exposed to the same storm. Even the dead are affected by the storms as the author describes how the graves are covered with snow.

“The extreme winds prevalent at the Heights symbolize the hardness of the inhabitants. At Thrushcross Grange, things are much more delicate and mild, like its initial inhabitants, the Lintons. Wind and rain are present when Mr. Earnshaw dies, when Heathcliff departs from Wuthering Heights, and when Heathcliff dies.” (Wuthering Heights Symbolism) Seasons go in cycles, spring and summer are pleasant for the inhabitants of Heights, winter and autumn are unfriendly and often bring death.

The novel is a mixture of passion, mystery and doomed love. One of the most interesting elements of it is nature which, in the book, is almost as important as any character. Occasionally in the novel nature almost seems as if it takes control over the plot. However, most of the time it is more like a background that gives special atmosphere to the events. Nature is often compared to Catherine and Heathcliff. “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!” (342) Nature has very often been compared to passion. That is why we see so much of it in Wuthering Heights. Catherine associates Linton with nature and saying, “My love for Linton is like the foliage in the woods: time will change it, I’m well aware, as winter changes the trees.” (101) Then she associates Heathcliff with nature by saying

“My love for Heathcliff resembles the eternal rocks beneath a source of little visible delight, but necessary. Nelly, I am Heathcliff! He’s always, always in my mind: not as a pleasure, any more than I am always a pleasure to myself, but as my own being. So, don’t talk of our separation again: it is impracticable.” (101)

Nature is not only present at Wuthering Heights, but it is a part of every human being in the story. Cathy and Heathcliff are usually associated with images of wilderness, while the Lintons are associated with pictures of cultivated land. Cathy compares Heathcliff to the arid wilderness of the moors, while Nelly describes the Lintons as honeysuckles, cultivated and delicate. When Heathcliff speaks about Edgar’s love for Cathy, he says, “He might as well plant an oak in a flowerpot and expect it to thrive, as imagine he can restore her to vigor in the soil of his shallow cares!” (236)

By putting nature against civilization, Emily Brontë promotes the idea that the awe-inspiring and sometimes frightening aspect of nature is superior to man-made culture. She does this by associating many of the characters with one side or the other and then making them rivals. Heathcliff, whose origins are unknown and who often roams the moors, is definitely on the nature side, but his rival, Edgar Linton, is on the civilized side. Other pairings include Hareton Earnshaw vs. Linton Earnshaw; Catherine vs. Isabella; and Hareton vs. Cathy. In all of these cases, Brontë makes one character a bit wild (by showing them in tune with animals, the outdoors and their emotions), while portraying the other as somewhat reserved and often snobby or fussy. But nothing is black and white in Wuthering Heights.

Many of the characters exhibit traits from both sides. While Brontë argues that nature is somehow purer, she also supports parts civilization, particularly education. Hareton Earnshaw represents this combination of nature and civilization. Brontë compares the young orphan to nature (he is an awkward farm boy) as well as civilization (he learns to read in hopes that young Cathy would love him). The novel’s natural elements are the perfect complement to the main characters in Wuthering Heights. As the novel opens Lockwood fears walking through the moors at night. Catherine and Heathcliff spend much of their childhood rambling on the moors, symbolizing their wild inclinations. Both Catherine and Heathcliff are buried on the moors, because of their fondness for them and their fondness for the wildness they represent.

There are other similarities between the main characters and nature. Heathcliff, like the rough landscape of the novel is often violent and cruel. Catherine has unpredictable moods, much like the weather on the moors. The beautiful landscape of the novel is often very dangerous, as housekeeper Nelly Dean explains. She warns young Cathy Linton about Penistone Crags. “You could not climb them; they are too high and steep. In winter the frost is always there before it comes to us; and deep into summer I have found snow under that black hollow on the north-east side!” (186) The marshes are dangerous, as well. Heathcliff imprisons Nelly Dean and Cathy Linton inside Wuthering Heights, during Nelly’s absence, rumors begin to circulate in the village regarding her disappearance, and many believed that Nelly had drowned in the Blackhorse marsh.

Seasons and storms, and windy weather are not dependent on the plot; they live their own life and create the setting of the book. The frequent storms and wind that sweep through Wuthering Heights are a symbol of how the characters are at the mercy of forces they cannot control. For example, Lockwood, the city boy, thinks he can walk back to Thrushcross Grange through a storm, but the nature-respecting folks at Wuthering Heights tell him he’s crazy. They know that the weather is far stronger than he is. Brontë uses the weather as a metaphor for nature, which she paints as an amazingly strong force that can conquer any character. The strongest and wisest characters are those who give the weather the respect it dictates.

It is very interesting to see how Bronte uses nature to develop her characters and how she manages to engrave nature into almost every aspect of her novel. She took a unique approach on character development and used it to write one of the best novels of all time.


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Character Development with Nature in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights Analytical Essay. (2021, Nov 11). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/character-development-with-nature-in-emily-brontes-wuthering-heights/



How are the civilized characters portrayed in Wuthering Heights?
The civilized characters in Wuthering Heights are portrayed as being more reasonable and level-headed than the other characters. They are also shown to be more concerned with propriety and social conventions.
What does Wuthering Heights reveal about human nature?
Wuthering Heights reveals that humans are capable of great love and great hate.
What role does nature play in Wuthering Heights?
Nature plays a significant role in Wuthering Heights as it is used to symbolize the emotions of the characters. The moors, for example, are associated with Heathcliff's dark and brooding personality, while the gardens at Thrushcross Grange represent Catherine's more light-hearted and carefree nature.
Which two characters represent nature in Wuthering Heights?
The nature vs. nurture debate is one that has been around for a long time, and it is one that is still very relevant today. There is no one answer to this question, as it is still an ongoing debate with no clear consensus. However, there are some general ideas that can be addressed. Generally speaking, nature refers to the inherent traits and abilities that we are born with, while nurture refers to the environment and experiences that we have throughout our lives. It is believed that both nature and nurture play a role in IQ, with nature providing the foundation and nurture helping to shape and develop it.
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