The Assessment Objectives and Wuthering Heights

For a reminder of what the Assessment Objectives for A Level English Literature are, see A Level English Literature Assessment Objectives. What follows are some suggestions about how each of the AOs might be addressed in an essay on Wuthering Heights. Exactly how this works depends on the question, of course. This list is far from exhaustive.

When you have planned your essay, before starting to write it, check that you can see where each of the AOs can be ‘hit’, perhaps as a note in the margin or through some colour coding.


  • The sort of terms which might well be used include: unreliable narrator, imagery, multiple narrators, deliberate ambiguity.
  • The rest of this AO involves the quality of your writing.
  • Remember to talk about the writer, rather than giving the impression that the characters are real historical people.


  • You are very likely to refer to the multiple narrator structure. You might also mention the non-chronological form. Both of these ‘shape meaning’ through creating ambiguity and mystery for the reader, and by revealing character gradually.
  • You could have some key passages ready for exploring language (but make sure that they fit the question).
  • If you make no mention of any of the recurring images, such as doors and windows or the four elements, then you have probably missed a major area of language use. You can, for example, explore how barriers are used to show how characters are restricted, and how they sometimes break through these barriers. Do this by examining one or two specific passages where you can look at the actual words Brontë uses to create this ‘meaning’.
  • Other areas where language use is important might be where characters are compared with animals, or where Brontë uses the weather or natural description to create mood.


  • As with the other AOs, be ready with areas that are appropriate to Wuthering Heights but ensure that you stay close to the question.
  • Literary context includes the Gothic, tragedy, and Romantic novels. You could bring any of these in when writing about structure or characters, for example.
  • Historical context is not a major concern in Wuthering Heights but there are clearly elements which are specific to their time.
  • Social context includes class, the role of orthodox religious beliefs and the isolated northern setting. You could refer to this when, for example, writing about Lockwood.
  • Make it clear that you know that this novel was written over 150 years ago, and do not write about it as if it were a modern novel.
  • Some mention of differences between contexts of production and of reception would be useful in writing about Wuthering Heights. How we view Heathcliff, for example, has probably changed over the years.


  • If you need to compare specifically, you will know this. Remember to compare literary features.
  • One other text that you could mention is King Lear which Emily Brontë seems to have used as a basis of some of her ideas.


  • Aspects of the novel where different critical opinions might be explored include: Victorian and modern attitudes to violence, changing views on women in society, the influence of class on events in the novel, and Gothic features in Wuthering Heights.
  • If your exam board is focusing on the Gothic, you will need to reference this frequently, though the question should lead you clearly in this direction. (It is true to say that some questions do this more obviously and helpfully than others, so be careful!)

And finally…

… remember that hitting the AOs is something that you do as you follow through your argument and answer the question, not something which is ‘bolted on’ to your essay in order to tick off some mechanical requirement.

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