Meaning of the Black Press in Wuthering Heights

Instructor: Bryan Cowing

Bryan is a freelance writer who specializes in literature. He has worked as an English instructor, editor and writer for the past 10 years.

One of the themes that Emily Bronte explores in ''Wuthering Heights'' is madness. In this lesson, we are going to take a look at the black press, including its meaning and significance to the theme in this novel.


One of the themes that Emily Bronte explores in Wuthering Heights is insanity. While reading the novel, you might notice that there are quite a few vocabulary words in this story that make little sense, especially to a modern day reader. Add to that the fact that delusional characters do not always make sense, and it is easy to get confused. One example of delusional induced vocabulary comes in chapter 12 when Catherine throws a hissy fit, locks herself in her room and refuses to eat. The black press is just one of the things that Catherine mentions in her hallucinatory state. In this lesson, we'll explore Catherine's sickness and the meaning of the black press in Wuthering Heights.

Catherine's Sickness

Catherine is angry because Edgar (her husband) told her that she has to choose between himself and Heathcliff. She is enraged by his comment, locks herself in her room, and doesn't eat for three days. She wants Edgar to feel bad for her and come into the room to console her or at least beg her to eat. But Edgar seems just as stubborn, and according to Nelly the servant, goes about his day locked up with his books. The knowledge of this enrages Catherine further. Finally, Catherine agrees to eat and Nelly brings her some food. While Nelly is with her, Catherine rambles on about death, Edgar, Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights and how she is going to die soon.

In this delirium, she also starts pulling the feathers out of her pillow, naming which bird each feather came from. In her feather-pulling delirium she says things like 'That's a turkey's and this is a wild duck's; and this is a pigeon's. Ah, they put pigeons' feathers in the pillows - no wonder I couldn't die!' The fact that she believes the feathers are related to her inability to die show us exactly how out of it she is.

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