Wuthering Heights – Characters and their Environment

Considering our class is focused on “tragic ecologies,” I paid special attention to the environmental descriptions in Wuthering Heights. It is not difficult to see the the incredible comparison between the novel’s characters and their environments. The juxtaposition between the two manors, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange is especially illustrative. With just the names of each place, a person could assume their respective characteristics. By definition, “Wuthering means “blustery and turbulent, and often describes the fierce, noisy winds that blow across English moors.” In the novel, the manor is described as “grotesque, with strong, narrow windows… deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large, jutting stones (4). It is a bleak, dark and cold place. The characters and actions that are most closely associated with Wuthering Heights reflect the unpleasant environment. In particular, Heathcliff is fiendish, grim, and moody. Even his physical appearance resembles Wuthering Heights: “brows lowering, the eyes deep set and singular… black eyes withdrawn so suspiciously under their brow (93). Other associated characters include the drunken and brutish Hindley and the rigid and hateful Joseph.

Conversely, Thrushcross Grange (with “thrush” referring to a small songbird) is a warm, light, and sophisticated place. “Unlike Wuthering Heights, it is elegant and comfortable… a splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson covered chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold.” Thrushcross Grange is closely tied with upper-class Victorian society and its associated ideals. Just as Wuthering Heights is paired with Heathcliff, the Grange is paired with Edgar Linton. He handles his matters with grace and is appalled by any unmannered acts. When Catherine stays with the Lintons at Thrushcross for several weeks, she transforms into their picture of a proper “lady.” Despite her passionate love for Heathcliff, she is lured by the social standing that Edgar and Thrushcross Grange represent. Catherine inhabits both spaces and their respective characteristics.

Besides serving as environmental metaphors for individual characters, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange can be considered characters in themselves. They have personality, features and dispositions, and can influence characters’ moods or the reader’s perception of events.

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