Pathetic Fallacy 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'', Emily Bronte uses pathetic fallacy to set the emotional tone for some major events of the story. In this lesson, we will talk about some examples of pathetic fallacy from the novel.

Setting the Mood

How do authors describe the emotional state of characters? Personification is when an object is given human characteristics. A form of personification is pathetic fallacy. Pathetic fallacy is when emotions are attributed to objects of nature. Let's look at some examples of pathetic fallacy in Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte.

The Weather

Weather is used several times within the novel to display the emotions of the characters. However, probably one of the best examples of pathetic fallacy in the story is on the night that Heathcliff disappears. The storm raging within both Catherine and Heathcliff is portrayed by the weather. ''About midnight, while we still sat up, the storm came rattling over the Heights in full fury. There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, and either one or other split a tree off at the corner of the building; a huge bough fell across the roof.'' Bronte's use of the storm rattling in fury and destroying the landscape, mimics both Catherine and Heathcliff. For example, it symbolizes the violence and anger Heathcliff feels, as well as his desire to damage and destroy those around him.

The Landscape

Another example of pathetic fallacy occurs when Nelly describes the landscape of Wuthering Heights in comparison to Thrushcross Grange. After her mother's death, Cathy's father, Edgar, keeps her protected at Thrushcross Grange, not allowing her over the hill to Wuthering Heights. By the time she is thirteen, Cathy's curiosity peaks and she needs more than the confines of her own property. Cathy stares at the hills in the distance and asks Nelly questions. Nelly responds, ''In winter the frost is always there before it comes to us; and deep into summer I have found snow under that black hollow on the north-east side!... The moors, where you ramble with him, are much nicer; and Thrushcross Park is the finest place in the world.'' Pathetic fallacy sets the mood of Wuthering Heights and its inhabitants as cold, miserable, and forbidding. On the other hand, the mood at the Grange with Nelly and Edgar is idyllic.

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What does Nelly mean when she says that 'the shadows rested longer' when describing Catherine's face in Wuthering Heights?

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