Weather and landscape

This category of images is closely linked with the elements. See Imagery and symbolism: the four elements.


The location in which the story takes place is vital to the novel. The area is wild and the characters’ lives and behaviour reflect this in a way familiar in Gothic literature.

The moors provide a small stage on which the events are acted out. When characters leave the area, it is as if they have gone offstage - we are no longer aware of them. (Incidentally, when they return they tend to be changed in some way.)

Having such a limited location helps Emily Brontë to create and maintain a claustrophobic atmosphere. The isolation and strangeness of the setting is, of course, another Gothic feature. There appears to be no option for characters other than dwelling with the intense and inhospitable occupants of the Heights.

Top Withins, possible inspiration for Wuthering Heights location, image available through Creative CommonsWeather

The fierce weather is closely linked to the landscape. As we are told in Chapter 1, ‘wuthering’ is a dialect word

descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which [the Heights’] station is exposed in stormy weather.

Lookwood notes the pervasive effect of the ‘bracing ventilation’ on the

excessive slant of a few stunted firs .. and .. range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun.

The adjectives ‘stunted’, ‘gaunt’ and ‘craving’ convey the brutality of the elements, which is echoed by that of Hindley, then of Heathcliff. The weather therefore creates the atmosphere of the novel and reflects the moods and attitudes of the characters. It also affects the plot, such as when Lockwood is trapped at Wuthering Heights by the snow, or the rain which causes characters to become ill, such as Catherine (Chapter 9) and later Nelly (Chapter 23).

Thrushcross Grange

The controlled landscape of the Grange and its park is contrasted with the moors around Wuthering Heights. Brontë does not necessarily favour the former, however. When Heathcliff and Catherine first look into Thrushcross Grange they see Edgar and Isabella squabbling; this is a petty argument compared with the bigger emotions of the watchers, but does not suggest peace and calm.

Later, the park is also shown to be inadequate to meet the needs of Cathy, who longs for a larger canvas on which to expand her life. The artificial restraint imposed by the walls actually endangers Cathy because it excludes her at critical points.

Ultimately it is perhaps the organised garden that Cathy and Hareton create at the Heights, combined with their freedom to roam beyond it onto the moors, which seems a more promising symbol. It speaks of a harmonious environment, which seeks neither to imprison (the Heights) nor exclude (the Grange). This harmony is echoed by the mellowing of the graves of Catherine and her suitors, all mortal passion spent.

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