Literary Analysis Essay Example for English Literature

Instructor: Laura Foist

Laura has a Masters of Science in Food Science and Human Nutrition and has taught college Science.

This lesson includes an example of a literary analysis essay. ''Wuthering Heights'' will be analyzed, and this analysis used as an example of a good literary analysis.

Analyzing Literature

What makes a good book or story? When analyzing a book, it can be helpful to ask questions such as this, to get thinking about what the author did in this book or what made this story a classic. For example, what literary devices did the author use or what is the tone of this story?

Here, we will look at an sample analysis of Wuthering Heights and examine one of the literary devices that Bronte uses to make it a great story: pathetic fallacy. Pathetic fallacy is when the weather or nature expresses the feelings of the characters. This analysis is shorter than you are expected to do, so be sure to include more details or points in your own analyses.

Wuthering Heights Literary Analysis

We often attribute our feelings to the weather. For example, we may be gloomy when it is rainy or happy when the sun is shining. Bronte uses pathetic fallacy when the weather reflects the feelings of the of the characters in Wuthering Heights. When Catherine is raging against everyone after Heathcliff leaves, there is a great storm all about. Snow and ice seem to melt more slowly at Wuthering Heights than at Thrushcross Grange. The mists at Thrushcross Grange seem to form a beautiful skirt for the valley, while the mist at Wuthering Heights seems to shroud it in mystery. The setting of Wuthering Heights reveals the complex feelings of the characters through pathetic fallacy.

At many important crossroads in this story, the characters experience storms. When Catherine determines that she will marry Edgar, even though she loves Heathcliff, Heathcliff disappears and 'the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury.' (Bronte; ch. 9) Later, when Catherine dies, her funeral 'made the last of our fine days for a month. In the evening the weather broke: the wind shifted from south to north-east, and brought rain first, and then sleet and snow.' (Bronte; ch. 17) Each of these turbulent times in the lives of the characters are represented with turbulent weather.

Catherine and Heathcliff have been good friends for years, and they love each other. Catherine determines that it will be more practical to marry Edgar. She explains her reasoning to Nelly, and Heathcliff overhears part of the conversation. He is heartbroken and leaves Wuthering Heights. Catherine goes into a fit, demanding that everyone search for Heathcliff and bring him home. She is quite upset and angry (even beating her young nephew, Hareton). This anger and inner turmoil are represented by the great storm that beats at the house, with lightning which splits a tree in two.

Catherine ends up marrying Edgar, and later dying in childbirth. Heathcliff is distraught at her death; he says that life without her is pointless, and wishes to die too, begging Catherine to remain with him as a ghost. The day of her funeral, when the goodbyes are said, is the last fair-weather day that the town sees for a month. With this chill, a 'Dreary… chill… dismal… morrow did creep over' (Bronte; ch. 17) the entire town. It is not the same world without Catherine in it, which is made evident by the weather seen after her death.

The two houses, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, serve as foils in this story. Much of the turmoil is centered around these two houses. The weather observed at each house marks the feelings felt by the characters. Wuthering Heights has seen a lot of turmoil and sadness; while Thrushcross Grange has also seen this turmoil, it is often seen as a place of safety. These two homes are not separated by much distance, but the weather at Wuthering Heights is often dismal while the weather at Thrushcross Grange is peaceful.

When Linton, Heathcliff's son, is first headed to see Wuthering Heights, he asks if Wuthering Heights is as nice as Thrushcross Grange. Linton is looking back at Thrushcross Grange as he asks this question, from whence 'a light mist mounted and formed a fleecy cloud on the skirts of the blue' (Bronte; ch. 20). The mists here seem welcoming and beautiful. Earlier, the mists at Wuthering Heights are described as obscuring the house, shrouding it in mystery. It is the same weather, mists, but in one instance, it forms something beautiful, and in the other, it forms something mysterious.

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