- Why does Bronte include a “Genealogical Table” before the novel? What is the effect of including specific and ambiguous birth and death dates?
- What is the effect of having Nelly be the sole recounter of the narrative? Is she a character in her own right or simply a mode of storytelling?
1.) Why does Emily Brontë begin the book in a confusing manner, at a point that is years after Catherine’s death, and with Lockwood as its narrator? How does it affect the readers perspective for the rest of the novel?
2.) How does the wildness of Heathcliff and the refinement of Edgar work as opposing forces in the novel? Especially in regards to Catherine?
- The interplay between human and animal interaction is pronounced in the first two chapters. How do these interaction characterize the people in the book? What do they foreshadow?
- What is the significance of Heathcliff’s name? How does it set up his character?
- How does “nature” or the non-human world, direct action in the novel? Does it? In what way? What kind of plot intelligence/foresight do the moors and the mists around this story hold?
- What effect does distance – whether it be in physicality, memory, social status or otherwise – have on the essence of Bronte’s storytelling? What kind of effect do these just-out-of-reach moments and characters have on the plot and your experience of the story?
- What kind of effect does an unstable narrator have on the book?
- Is Catherine and Heathcliff’s place of play, the moor, peculiar? If so, what is it symbolic of?
- How does the role of women work in the novel? Is it accurate for women of the time or does Brontë take liberties with her portrayals? Would you consider Catherine an empowering female character?
- How much does our environment determine who we will be? If we are surrounded by an untamed atmosphere and landscape, are we bound to be similarly wild? Or, is there an innate, underlying nature to every person that, in the end, is bound to take control?
- Why do you think Brontë makes Joseph’s speech so difficult to understand? How does this compare to Dickens making Sleary’s speech hard to understand in Hard Times?
- Why do you think Brontë introduces so many characters so soon? What is she trying to achieve by throwing so much information at the reader?
- Do you feel sympathy towards Heathcliff? Does he represent a victim to his circumstances or is his behavior inexcusable?
- What does the title of the novel represent? Is it symbolic of the characters and their relationships and if so how?
- In what ways can Catherine’s grave and burial location (149) be seen as echoing Wordsworth’s “The Thorn,” and how does this mimesis imbue the scene of her death and burial with deeper meaning? In a more general sense, how does nature function in the book–romantically, controlling of, or controlled by humans? Discuss the ways in which nature impacts scenes and vice versa. It is worth considering the impact of pathetic fallacy, as a literary device, on readers’ perception of characters and places in Wuthering Heights.
- How does the multi-layered narrative structure, with Nelly and Lockwood’s perspectives as the two prominent voices woven throughout the novel, speak to the class dynamics of 19th century England? In what regard does social status, education, and bias tie into each narrator’s telling of the people and land he or she describes? Expanding out from this discussion of narrative authority and reliability, how does rank cripple or equip characters with the authority to speak, to ‘tell’, or to command in the novel?
- On page 73, Cathy describes her love for Edgar Linton as “like the foliage in the woods,” while her love for Heathcliff “resembles the eternal rocks beneath.” Keeping in mind the idea of nested timescales, how can we interpret this declaration of sentiment, considering that a human’s time on earth is much more comparable to that of a leaf than to that of a rock?
- At one point during her sickness, Mrs. Linton seemingly channels Darwin and begins studying the different feathers found in her down pillow and associating them with the birds that they were plucked from (108). What does this strange moment suggest about a human’s attempt to retain control in distressing circumstances by exerting the powers of her mind on other creatures?