Insiders versus outsiders


In such a small, isolated society as Brontë depicts in Wuthering Heights, it is not surprising that some people are accepted and some are not. There is a strong sense of the ‘otherness’ of some, hinted at by Nelly’s comment on Hindley’s new wife, Frances, in Chapter 6:

We don’t in general take to foreigners here, Mr Lockwood, unless they take to us first.


There are many instances when the story is told from the perspective of the outsider, for example:

  • Lockwood’s initial and final encounters with life at Wuthering Heights
  • Heathcliff’s view of the Lintons’ drawing room
  • Isabella’s narrative on life at the Heights with Hindley and Heathcliff
  • Cathy’s early accounts of Linton and Hareton.

These accounts mean that readers have a voice for their own ‘outsider’ confusion as they encounter such insular cultures / characters.

Reasons for exclusion


Lockwood is an outsider by virtue of his sophisticated southern origins. Once this prejudice is understood, we can accept him as an observer who is largely unbiased. Linton’s similar upbringing by Isabella means that he too does not naturally fit within the lifestyle of northern country folk.


Heathcliff is an outsider who is never accepted by most characters. This is partly because he is seen, particularly by the Lintons, as coming from a lower social class. This is made clear by the differing reception he and Catherine receive after being caught in the Lintons’ garden.

Heathcliff’s motivation to leave and ‘better himself’ is particularly prompted by Catherine’s desire to be assimilated into the gentry class, and her assertion that marriage to Heathcliff would degrade her socially. Once he returns a ‘gentleman’, Edgar is compelled to admit him to the Grange and Isabella can regard him as a socially acceptable suitor.


Several characters become outsiders by being isolated or rejected even by their own families:

  • Once married, Catherine and her husband no longer seem to visit or entertain her brother Hindley, whose drunkenness and bereavement makes him more isolated
  • Isabella is cut off by her brother after she has eloped with Heathcliff, for fear that maintaining relations with her would compel Edgar to have dealings with the man he blames for the death of his wife. So as not to endanger life at the Grange, she further isolates herself from her Yorkshire roots by living in London with her baby
  • Once Cathy has become a widow (and maintained a self-imposed exile in her bedroom for a fortnight) she remains isolated within Wuthering Heights, preferring to spend time in the kitchen rather than in the company of Heathcliff, Hareton or Joseph.
Scan and go

Scan on your mobile for direct link.