Windows, doors, gates and locks/keys

Throughout Wuthering Heights there are frequent mentions of windows, doors, gates and locks/keys. These images mark boundaries of various kinds, some strong and some fragile. They are also connected with the idea of entrapment. Both the presence of boundaries and the use of entrapment are familiar Gothic features.


Many characters are trapped or imprisoned, either literally or metaphorically. Nelly and Cathy are imprisoned at Wuthering Heights by Heathcliff, for example, and Heathcliff teases Cathy with the key, symbolising his power over her (Chapter 27). When he chooses, he allows Zillah to have the key to let Nelly out, and later Linton unlocks Cathy’s door. She escapes through the same window through which Lockwood had seen her mother’s ghost. (See Synopses and Commentaries > Chapter 28.)


Early in the novel, Heathcliff is often locked out, his exclusion marking the exercise of power by Hindley. It is this which doubtless motivates Heathcliff’s later desire to control the use of doors and keys. When Lockwood first arrives at Wuthering Heights, he notes that the gate is closed and chained, an effective ‘barrier’.

It is symbolic of Heathcliff’s gradual loss of desire to exercise control that, when Lockwood returns in Chapter 32, he notices that the gate is unfastened and the ‘doors and lattices were open’.


Windows provide views into different worlds. Heathcliff and Catherine look into Thrushcross Grange through a window and glimpse a different world to the one they have so far inhabited (Chapter 6). When Heathcliff returns some time after Catherine and Edgar’s wedding (Chapter 10), he still looks ‘up to the windows’ to try to see the married couple. Despite having acquired wealth and a degree of gentility, he is still not fully part of their world.

Windows are also fragile or permeable barriers. Isabella recounts how Heathcliff forces his way through the casement to a vengeful Hindley. When Catherine is ill, she is desperate for the windows to be left open so that she can be close to the moors, her and Heathcliff’s spiritual home. It is symbolic that, when Heathcliff dies, it is with the windows open and the rain coming in, as if he too has escaped to that natural place of reunion.

The windows of the soul

There is much description of eyes in the novel and these can be seen as windows into characters. Nelly describes Heathcliff’s eyes as being ‘so deeply buried, who never open their windows boldly’ (Chapter 7). The similarity of the eyes of both Cathy and Hareton to those of Catherine haunt Heathcliff, as they signify the continued presence of Catherine to him (Chapter 33).

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