Duality in Wuthering Heights

Instructor: Kerry Gray

Kerry has been a teacher and an administrator for more than twenty years. She has a Master of Education degree.

In ''Wuthering Heights'', Emily Bronte uses duality to describe characters and setting. Bronte also uses duality to drive the plot. In this lesson, we will look at some of the dual relationships that are developed in this novel.


Wuthering Heights is a story of love and revenge that takes place between two neighboring families. Wuthering Heights is where Hindley, Catherine, and Heathcliff live, while Thrushcross Grange is the home of the well-to-do Linton family. Things get precarious when Catherine finds herself in love with two men. Heathcliff from Wuthering Heights fulfills her needs for passionate love, while Edgar Linton fulfills her need for comfort and security. Throughout the novel, the opposition between the two extremes drives the plot, making duality one of the central themes of the novel. Duality is categorizing things into two distinct, opposite parts. In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, the author uses duality to symbolize differences in social class and temperament. Let's analyze some examples of duality from the novel.

Hindley Versus Heathcliff

Hindley is fourteen years old when his father, Mr. Earnshaw, does the unthinkable and brings home Heathcliff, a seven year old gypsy child he finds alone in the streets of Liverpool. At this point, Hindley is privileged, while Heathcliff is disadvantaged. Catherine is close to Heathcliff's age, so together, they become partners in crime while Hindley is left isolated. It is not just Catherine that prefers Heathcliff, but their father, Mr. Earnshaw, also shows a marked preference for Heathcliff over either of his own children. Hindley is violent and abusive while Heathcliff takes his punishment, and even seems to enjoy having it as something to hold over Hindley's head. After their father's death, Hindley becomes the master of Wuthering Heights, while Heathcliff becomes a servant. Once Hindley turns to drink after the death of his wife and Heathcliff leaves Wuthering Heights to find personal wealth, the tables turn. Hindley's drinking and gambling combined with his father's debt makes him poor just as Heathcliff becomes rich.

Hindley's privilege, violence, isolation, and eventual poverty are accentuated by Heathcliff's disadvantages, willingness to accept abuse, relationship with Catherine and Mr. Earnshaw, and ambition for wealth.

Wuthering Heights Versus Thrushcross Grange

Heathcliff lives in Wuthering Heights with the Earnshaws, but there is another family, the Lintons that live in nearby Thrushcross Grange. Wuthering Heights sits on high ground where it is exposed to the elements, while Thrushcross Grange is protected from harsh weather by the valley in which it sits. Further, the Grange contains carefully manicured gardens and is shielded by a wall, while the Heights are overgrown and wild. The interior of the Heights is rustic and filled with large, fierce, hunting dogs, while the Grange is ornate and refined. The inside dog at the Grange is a tiny pet.

Symbolically, Wuthering Heights represents unbridled passion and violence, while Thrushcross Grange represents security and civility. The contrast between the homes is representative of the contrast between the people who reside in them. The untamed wild nature of Wuthering Heights is intriguing, but dangerous, while the comfort and serenity of the Grange may be considered safe, but boring. Which would you prefer?

Heathcliff Versus Edgar Linton

Catherine's decision about whether to be with Heathcliff or Edgar falls along the same lines. Catherine loves her carefree childhood with Heathcliff, but she initially chooses Edgar because of the social standing, financial security, and familial stability that she finds with him. Heathcliff embodies all of the passion she craves, but when common sense prevails, Edgar seems to be the more logical choice for a secure, but boring future.

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