Wuthering Heights: Meaning of the Title

Instructor: Ian Matthews

Ian teaches college writing and has a Master's in Writing and Publishing

Emily Bronte's 'Wuthering Heights' is named after the lonely, spooky house on top of a hill where most of the novel's action takes place. But the title -- and the house -- have a little deeper meaning than that.

What it Means to Wuther

Let's start off by breaking the title down into its two words. 'Wuthering' is an antiquated term meaning 'to blow with a dull roaring sound'. 'Heights' refers to the house's location at the top of a hill, where the weather is almost always terrible, dark and windy. So the house Wuthering Heights is on a wuthering height.

Mr. Lockwood tells it better in the first chapter of the book: ''Wuthering being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. ''The house is built tough, with ''narrow windows ... deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large jutting stones.'' The house's surroundings are creepy, and the house itself is built to match.

Genre Influences on Wuthering Heights

In her writing of Wuthering Heights, Bronte was strongly influenced by the Gothic horror tropes (common themes, objects, or characters within a genre) of her day. Think Frankenstein and the like. Ghosts show up a lot, everybody's obsessed with death, there's a lot of brooding over the moors. One of the biggest tropes in that genre is the haunted house on the hill (again, think Dr. Frankenstein's castle). This image still sees use in horror movies today, because it's so powerful.

By naming her novel after the haunted house she's writing about, Bronte places Wuthering Heights in that Gothic horror tradition. Readers that were familiar with the popular examples of the genre would have an idea of what to expect from the book just from its title.

Who's Doing All That Wuthering

The house is ostensibly named after the terrible weather it experiences, seemingly around the clock. But a lot of other people in the novel could be said to 'blow with a dull roaring sound.'

Hindley Earnshaw is the first person we see who turns into a rage monster during his time in the house. When his wife dies shortly after the birth of Hareton Earnshaw, Hindley becomes a physically and verbally abusive alcoholic, mistreating everyone in the house (especially the young Heathcliff).

Heathcliff himself, when he grows up, has much the same personality. He yells at everybody all the time, and he's never happy. His mood matches the weather outside the house, and his voice roars to match the wind.

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