Foreshadowing 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'' by Emily Bronte, foreshadowing is used to build suspense and keep the reader engaged. In this lesson, we will look at a few examples of foreshadowing from the novel.

Ominous Predictions

Wuthering Heights is a story about obsessive love between Catherine and her adopted brother, Heathcliff. The story incorporates some dark, highly emotional moments as their parents die leaving a jealous and abusive brother to care for them. Heathcliff and Catherine fall in love, but she ultimately marries a man who can elevate her to a higher social class. As more characters die, the story grows even more ominous. Characters begin to think about their own mortality and some supernatural activity takes place. When Lockwood, the man who is renting Thrushcross Grange, goes to Wuthering Heights to meet his landlord, Heathcliff, foreshadowing leads the reader to guess that some peculiar things have taken place there.

Foreshadowing is when the author provides enough information that the reader can begin to predict what might happen next. Foreshadowing builds suspense and engages the reader. Let's look at some examples of foreshadowing in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

Lockwood Meets the Residents of Wuthering Heights

When Lockwood arrives at Wuthering Heights, he meets some strange and not very friendly people. Lockwood tries to sort out the relationships between the people he meets, but struggles to understand how these people are connected. At first, he assumes that the young girl, Cathy, is Heathcliff's wife, but receives a cold rebuttal from Heathcliff when he makes that suggestion. Heathcliff responds, '…her mate is dead. I said she was my daughter-in-law: therefore, she must have married my son.' Lockwood assumes that the young man, Hareton Earnshaw, is Heathcliff's son, to which Heathcliff replies, 'Not my son, assuredly.'

This exchange foreshadows the next generation of Earnshaws, the death of Heathcliff's son, Linton, and the marriage between Cathy and Linton. In this instance, foreshadowing influences the reader to keep reading to find out how Cathy, Hareton, and Heathcliff all ended up at Wuthering Heights together.

Lockwood Sees Catherine's Names

When Lockwood becomes trapped in the blizzard that forces him to stay the night at Wuthering Heights, the housekeeper takes him to a room that Heathcliff would not have allowed him or anyone else to stay in. Lockwood spends the night in Catherine's room. As he looks through her books, he sees that someone has written '…nothing but a name repeated in all kinds of characters, large and small - CATHERINE EARNSHAW, here and there varied to CATHERINE HEATHCLIFF, and then again to CATHERINE LINTON.' Lockwood does not yet know who Catherine is, but her use of all three names indicates her attachment to the three families. When added to Lockwood's prior introduction to Heathcliff, Hareton Earnshaw, and Miss Cathy, it becomes even more confusing. After Catherine's ghost visits Lockwood during the night, he becomes determined to find out her story and her relationship to the three remaining residents at Wuthering Heights.

In this instance, foreshadowing creates cognitive dissonance that intentionally confuses the reader, giving the reader the mission of solving the mystery by reading the story.

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