Irony 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, three types of irony are used to tell the story of love and revenge. In this lesson, we will see examples of dramatic irony, verbal irony, and situational irony from the story.

Magnitude of Heathcliff's Hate

In Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte, dramatic irony, verbal irony, and situational irony are used to help the reader understand the depth of ire felt by Heathcliff as he dedicates his life to avenging his poor treatment. Irony keeps the reader engaged as Karma plays itself out. Let's look at some examples of irony from the novel.

Dramatic Irony

Dramatic irony is when the audience knows something that the character does not that causes the character to act out of ignorance. In the novel, the characters make assumptions about how other characters think and feel. Instead of having conversations about it, acting on misinformation creates further complication.

For example, Heathcliff overhears the conversation in which Catherine says, 'I've no more business to marry Edgar Linton than I have to be in heaven; and if the wicked man in there had not brought Heathcliff so low, I shouldn't have thought of it. It would degrade me to marry Heathcliff now; so he shall never know how I love him, …' As soon as he hears that Catherine would not lower herself to marry Heathcliff, he runs away and is not heard from for a couple of years, until he returns after he has made something of himself.

Had he stayed, he would have heard the rest of Catherine's statement, '…and that, not because he's handsome, Nelly, but because he's more myself than I am. Whatever our souls are made of, his and mine are the same; and Linton's is as different as a moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire.' The audience is aware of Catherine's intense love for Heathcliff, but he misses his opportunity because of his lack of information.

Verbal Irony

Verbal irony is when the words that a characters says are the opposite of his intent. At Hindley's funeral, Hareton seems happy to be taken under his Uncle Heathcliff's wing. When Heathcliff says, 'Now, my bonny lad, you are MINE! And we'll see if one tree won't grow as crooked as another, with the same wind to twist it!' Hareton responds by stroking Heathcliff's cheek, but Nelly knows that Heathcliff intends to seek revenge against Hindley by treating Hareton the same way Hindley treated Heathcliff.

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