The Importance of the Setting in Wuthering Heights

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The Importance of the Setting in Wuthering Heights

There are numerous approaches to analyzing and understanding a novel, with the setting being one of utmost importance. It is one of the first aspects noted by readers because it can potentially increase their identification of specific motifs, and subsequently themes, through repetitively emphasizing the natural setting that penetrates conversations, incidences, thoughts, and behaviors. The author typically creates a setting that facilitates the development of a proper atmosphere and mood while maintaining a sense of veracity for the reader. In Emily Bronte’s classic novel, Wuthering Heights, the setting not only successfully satisfies these fundamental guidelines, but it also contributes to an essential understanding of the characters that allows the reader to predict and follow changes in the plot. Therefore, the interesting tone of the Yorkshire countryside is immediately projected to a higher level of importance: it is employed as a metaphor for character behaviors or attributes which Bronte utilizes to subtly direct the plot, mainly through the ominous foreshadowing of events.

From the beginning of the novel, the reader is confronted by persistent descriptions of the landscape in order to stress its importance. Mr. Lockwood dwells on the word “‘wuthering’ being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult which its station is exposed in stormy weather” (38). Bronte is communicating to the reader through this statement. She strongly implies that the reader will benefit from analyzing the setting, and that her descriptions serve a greater purpose than simply engaging the reader; they are a significant literary device used to facilitate overlying themes.

If the reader successfully heeds the warning from Bronte, they would notice that the two major residences in the novel provide a striking contrast. These two residences not only differ in their inhabitants, but also in the immediate scenery, both intrinsic and extrinsic. For example, Thrushcross Grange is described by Catherine and Heathcliff as a “beautiful, splendid place carpeted with crimson-covered chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold, a shower of glass-drops hanging in silver chains from the centre, and shimmering with little soft tapers” (74). This description clearly demonstrates the sophistication and elegance that overwhelms the Grange. Likewise, the exterior contains tranquil parks in a well-kept setting.

In contrast, the interior of Wuthering Heights is never praised as beautiful or splendid. While it is a larger residence with servants, the furniture and décor is extremely basic. The interior is obviously much different than that of the Grange, but its exterior is the aspect given significantly more attention. Specifically, the Heights are associated with the moors that are infamous for their bleak, desolate landscape and harsh nature. This establishes a sense of isolation in the novel. The seclusion of its inhabitants facilitates the subtle introduction of gothic elements, which creates a haunting atmosphere appropriate for expression of other symbols and motifs. Also, these factors make navigation extremely difficult and “people familiar with these moors often miss their road” (44). This may symbolize the social distance amongst the inhabitants between the two different residences. Additionally, the exterior creates an extremely unwelcoming atmosphere as the Heights contain “bare masses of stone, with hardly enough earth in their clefts to nourish a stunted tree” (192) and “hazels and stunted oaks, with their root half exposed, held uncertain tenure: the soil was too loose for the latter, and strong winds had blown some nearly horizontal” (225). When the setting shifts to that of Wuthering Heights it typically darkens as Isabelle notes, “The sun set behind the Grange as we turned towards the moors” (149). Therefore, the...
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