The dual locations of Wuthering Heights

The two houses

Another way of seeing the structure of Wuthering Heights is by examining it through the prism of the two houses where the action takes place. The two settings are a constant throughout the novel, holding the structure together by linking past, present and future. Indeed, ownership of each property is a strand of the plotting, since this has been Heathcliff’s goal since adolescence.

Certain details recur through the novel. For example, in Chapter 3 Lockwood wonders why ‘the hook was soldered into the staple’ on the window. We later discover that this is likely to have been done by Heathcliff in order to prevent Cathy’s escape before she married Linton.

The Heights

Wuthering Heights is described both inside and out in the first chapter of the novel, indicating the importance of readers having a sense of the house as a ‘real’ environment. It is an isolated, wind-swept, threatening building with Gothic gargoyles and mysterious names and dates. It fits many of the expectations of a Gothic sensibility, being a place of passion, violence and secret chambers. It is hardly divided from the rough moorland that surrounds it and the working lives of its occupants influences activity within the house.

For Lockwood it does not appear a homely or welcoming place. Even the trees fail to grow and mature properly there. However, there is a sense of its emotional charge symbolised by the hearth:

the house and kitchen cheerful with great fires … the shining kitchen utensils, the polished clock, … the speckless purity of my particular care - the scoured and well-swept floor. (Chapter 7)

and the kitchen is a place of physical proximity, where many key events occur.

The Grange

By contrast, Thrushcross Grange is a luxurious, colourful place which we first glimpse through a window. Even Heathcliff says, ‘It was beautiful.’ Larger in size than the Heights, its occupants are less on top of each other and it seems to be less emotionally intense than the Earnshaws’ home, symbolised perhaps by the fireless grate Lockwood encounters on his second visit. Love is often described as ‘affection’ and care rather than passion.

The Grange matches the Victorian sensibilities of Brontë’s readers: possessions and décor are showy and carefully ordered, an apt setting for ‘civilised’ propriety. Inhabited by magistrates, security is a priority, the property being surrounded by cultivated parkland which is bordered by high walls. Distasteful activities and people are kept at a distance. The Grange is a place of leisure rather than work (except, of course, for the servants), and there is a sense of hierarchy and deference. This is much more blurred at the Heights, where Joseph and Nelly are close to the family.


The two locations obviously reflect the theme of calm versus storm. (See Themes > Calm versus storm.) A wall shuts the park away from the wildness of the moors, and the gate at Wuthering Heights shuts out the outside, civilised world. (See Imagery and symbolism > Windows, doors, locks and gates.) The two homes are divided not only by these walls and (frequently locked) doors but also a moorland range. These barriers emphasise the separateness and distinctiveness of the two dwellings and their surroundings.

However, when Heathcliff and Catherine first see Thrushcross Grange, it is through the fragile barrier of the window, and this symbolises how Catherine will soon move across this boundary. Later, Heathcliff uses Nelly to gain access through a gate in the Grange wall, so that he is not divided from Catherine.

Location and character

The most important aspect of the novel’s two-location structure is how it is reflected in the characters, and what happens when they move from one house to the other. 

As a general rule, the characters most associated with Wuthering Heights, such as Hindley and Heathcliff, are wild and passionate, whereas those most closely associated with Thrushcross Grange, such as Edgar and Lockwood, are reasonable and civilised.

It is when the two are mixed that trouble arises. Catherine is introduced to the attractive lifestyle at Thrushcross Grange but cannot shake off her Wuthering Heights life, and never manages to decide between the two. This drives her into illness, mental instability and death.

The influence of each house

Entering the life of the Grange civilises Catherine, and even Heathcliff knows that he must behave as a gentleman in order to be granted access. However, the Heights tends to have a depraving influence. Hindley spends more and more time within its walls, as his behaviour becomes unfit for anywhere else, whilst Hareton is actively degraded and has no chance to experience a better lifestyle. Linton has experienced a ‘civilised’ life, yet becomes more unpleasant during his time at the Heights, as his mother had before him. Despite Heathcliff returning as a gentleman, he remains the fierce, emotional man that he always was, and becomes more so the longer he lives at Wuthering Heights.

Perhaps the most interesting character to make the transition is Cathy. She is initially strong enough to hold on to the values of Thrushcross Grange when she visits Linton at Wuthering Heights. Yet when she is effectively imprisoned there, which is when Lockwood first sees her, she appears to have succumbed to the Heights’ uncivilised atmosphere. However, ultimately she is able to reassert the gentler culture of the Grange, via the medium of books as well as the cultivation of flowers. By having the moral and emotional strength to combine the best of both worlds, she becomes a suitable candidate to carry Brontë’s balanced and hopeful ending.

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