Parallels & Contrasts 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 this lesson, we will examine how Emily Bronte uses parallels and contrasts to describe the characters and settings of ''Wuthering Heights''. Parallels include Heathcliff/Hareton, Edgar/Linton, and Catherine/Cathy.

Alike and Opposite

Have you ever met someone that reminded you of someone else? Parallels are characters or settings with similarities. On the other hand, there are times when you might meet two siblings and wonder how the two could possibly be from the same family because they are so different from one another. Contrasts are characters or settings that are opposite of one another. By using parallels and contrasts, Emily Bronte is able to more accurately describe the people and places in Wuthering Heights in ways that connect with the reader. Let's look at some examples of parallels and contrasts in the story.


  • Heathcliff and Hareton are an example of surprisingly parallel characters in Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff's older, adopted brother, Hindley, takes over as Heathcliff's guardian after their father dies. Hindley uses his position of authority over Heathcliff to exact revenge for being ''a usurper of his parent's affections and his privileges'' Likewise, Heathcliff assumes guardianship over Hareton when Hareton's father, Hindley, dies. At Hindley's funeral, Heathcliff tells an unsuspecting Hareton, '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!' Heathcliff uses his position of authority over Hareton to get revenge on Hindley by turning his son into a slave. Both have dark hair, dark eyes, and are masculine, but are unrefined, defensive, and emotional. Heathcliff falls deeply for Catherine while Hareton does the same for Catherine's daughter, Cathy.
  • Edgar and Linton are another set of characters that are more similar than one would predict. Edgar Linton is raised in privilege at Thrushcross Grange with his sister, Isabella. Isabella's child with Heathcliff is Linton. Isabella raises Linton alone near London after fleeing her abusive husband. After Isabella's death, Linton goes to Thrushcross Grange for the first time. When Nelly first sees Linton, she describes him as 'a pale, delicate, effeminate boy, who might have been taken for my master's (Edgar) younger brother, so strong was the resemblance.' Both Edgar and Linton have light hair, blue eyes, and pale skin. Both are considered sensitive, weak, and whiny. Edgar falls for Catherine, while Linton falls for Catherine and Edgar's daughter, Cathy. Heathcliff despises both of them, even though Linton is his own son.
  • Catherine and Cathy are a mother and daughter that never knew each other because Catherine died in childbirth. Both are beautiful with dark eyes, but can be headstrong, temperamental, and childish. Both are able to recognize and love the traits of a soft, sensitive man, but also crave the passionate love of an unpredictable, masculine man. The men that love them do so intensely.

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