Themes of the Novel

The novel is largely the story of one man, Heathcliff, a foundling brought by Mr. Earnshaw to Wuthering Heights at a time when the boy was still a child. This occurred in 1771 and the novel recounts Heathcliff's tale from this day to New Years Day 1803 and the marriage of Hareton and Catherine. There are two central families in the novel, the Earnshaws of Wuthering Heights and the Lintons of Thrushcross Grange, metaphorically they represent the worlds of the heart and the mind, the untamed nature based existence of Wuthering Heights vs. the civilised society of Thrushcross Grange. As the novel is drawn from two sources only, the author's limited life experience and her imagination. Much of the characterisation and many of the everyday happenings reflected on life at Haworth. Death is a constant companion throughout the novel and represents perhaps the deaths of her mother and her older sisters. In 1773, Mrs Earnshaw dies, in 1777 she is followed by Mr. Earnshaw. The following year Hindley's wife Frances dies after childbirth, while two years later she reports the deaths of Mr. and Mrs. Linton. In 1784, both Catherine and Hindley die, in the second part of the novel, we find the death of Isabella in 1797, Edgar and Linton in 1801, and finally Heathcliff in 1802. Apart from the death of Heathcliff, which is given a more dramatic coverage than others, the deaths are caused by the same causes which were in the Bronte family. That is i.e. Frances and Catherine, die almost immediately after childbirth, as did Mrs. Bronte. The other deaths are due to vague fevers and in the case of Edgar and indeed Heathcliff, there is a chilling similarity with Emily Bronte herself as she struggled on through consumption, refusing medical aid. The death of Hindley, was a precursor into that of Branwell Bronte. The novel also concerns itself with love, and the various degrees of love as imagined by the author. The love between Heathcliff and Catherine is the dominant motif in the opening half of the novel and such is its all consuming passion, that it lingers even after Catherine's death, her declaration "I am Heathcliff" represents a union of two souls, which is preserved in the story of the shepherd boy at the end of the novel. This type of love contrasted sharply with the marriage of Edgar and Catherine - a sensible union in the social and economic circumstances which prevailed. It is described as a love without passion, the marriage of Linton Heathclif to Catherine, that of Heathcliff to Isabella, are the worst relationships portrayed, in both cases marriage was the means to an end. The final marriage which takes place at the end of the novel is one which combines the passions of Catherine and Heathcliff with the social considerations of that between Edgar and Catherine. The landscape which provides the backdrop to the novel is that of the Yorkshire moors, an area of which the author was familiar, it's natural untamed wildness is reflected in the novel's leading characters, Heathcliff and Catherine. Her images of Gimmerton kirkyard show the battle between civilisation and nature as the boundary between the graveyard and the moors outside are obliterated.

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