Role of Marriage in Wuthering Heights

Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Dori Starnes

Dori has taught college and high school English courses, and has Masters degrees in both literature and education.

Marriage in the novel ''Wuthering Heights'' makes for a destructive and tragic arrangement. However, Cathy and Hareton, the last couple left standing at the end of the novel, may have hope for the future. Updated: 04/13/2021

Wuthering Heights: Background

Wuthering Heights, was written by Emily Brontë in 1847, the year before she died. It's the only novel written by Emily Brontë, the sister of Charlotte Brontë whose novel Jane Eyre is still one of the most beloved novels of English Literature. Wuthering Heights, which is much darker and more psychological than Jane Eyre, tells the story of the Linton and Earnshaw families. This lesson focuses on the role of marriage in Wuthering Heights.

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  • 0:04 ''Wuthering Heights''…
  • 0:32 ''Wuthering Heights'' Synopsis
  • 1:37 The Role of Mariage
  • 4:06 Lesson Summary
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Wuthering Heights: Synopsis

Nelly Dean, is the narrator, or person who tells the story of Wuthering Heights. She's a servant at Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. She tells the story of the Linton and Earnshaw families, starting with the adoption of the gypsy-like Heathcliff. Heathcliff is hated by Hindley Earnshaw but close with the youngest Earnshaw, Catherine.

Catherine loves Heathcliff passionately, but marries Edgar Linton, the heir to Thrushcross Grange, instead. As revenge, Heathcliff marries Edgar's sister, Isabella. After Catherine dies bearing her only child, a daughter named Cathy, Isabella goes to London and bears Heathcliff's son, Linton.

Hindley Earnshaw dies not long after Isabella leaves. Hindley's son Hareton is cheated out of Wuthering Heights by Heathcliff. Years pass, and Cathy grows up. Linton comes to live at Wuthering Heights after his mother dies. Heathcliff forces the two to marry. Then Edgar Linton dies, and Linton Earnshaw soon after, so Cathy becomes the heir to both properties.

The Role of Marriage

Unfortunately, all of the marriages in Wuthering Heights end badly. By examining each of the major marriages, a pattern becomes clear: marriage is destructive, especially to the women, and leads to the end of love and romance.

Heathcliff and Catherine

Heathcliff's love for Catherine drives his entire life. Though she loves him, she marries Edgar, choosing social standing over passion. The love Heathcliff has for Catherine consumes him, eventually causing him to wed another and even to stop eating, causing his own death decades later. It's something to note that the only relationship that is shown as true love is both destructive and never actually realized.

Catherine and Edgar

In a lot of ways, Edgar is the complete opposite of Heathcliff. He has the social standing and family that the orphaned Heathcliff can only dream of. Instead of the fiery passion Heathcliff has, Edgar is solid and steady. They are even opposites in looks: Edgar is described as fair haired and blue-eyed, while Heathcliff is as dark as a gypsy.

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