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Characters and Setting in Wuthering Heights

This essay discusses how characters in novels can often move through physical landscapes as well as moral landscapes. It basically discusses how the setting in the novel relate to the temprements of the characters.

The temprements of the characters in a novel can sometimes be skillfully portrayed and enhanced through their physical surroundings. Their morals and values are constructed to reflect the surroundings they are placed in, which helps the reader uderstand them and their situation more. This use of setting is clearly demonstrated in Emily Brontes novel Wuthering Heights, a story of love and hate between two families, which is emphasised by the houses in which these families live. The story takes place in two main settings, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, both situated on the harsh and desolate moors of Yorkshire. Emily Bronte actually grew up and lived in this place, and so her depiction of it is very accurate, and she uses her knowledge to emphasise the moods and attitudes of the characters. The people from Wuthering Heights such as Heathcliff, are generally angry, ill tempered, vengeful, and often immoral. These attitudes are clearly reflected through the large, cold and dark house, situated on top of a ruthless hill on the moors. Thrushcross Grange is a more cultivated, calm house, situated in a valley of the moors. Its inhabitants, including Edgar Linton, are generally more refined, with more morals and calmer attitudes than those of Wuthering Heights. Catherine Earnshaw is a character who creates the conflict throughout the whole book and between the two characters, Edgar and Heathcliff. Her attitudes are also reflected through the setting in which she grew up, in between the two contrasting houses. It is not only the contrasting attitudes, values, and morals of the characters that make the novel so arresting, but also the physical contrasts between the landscapes in the novel, the two houses.

One of the main characters in Wuthering Heights is the fiendish Heathcliff. An orphan despised since his birth, Heathcliff grows up to become a sadistic, cruel, vengeful and immoral man. He is often reffered to as ?like the devil? or as ?evil?, and this is certainly the way he acts. His intense yet destroyed passion towards Catherine Earnshaw causes him to despise all members of the Linton family of Thrushcross Grange, and he schemes to destroy them in numerous ways. A horrible person, Heathcliff abuses Isabelle, Edgar Lintons sister, by using her infatuation as a tool of revenge towards the Lintons, he constantly and savagly attacks Linton, his own dying son, and even his tenant, Mr. Lockwood, cannot escape his cruelty. The way Bronte writes the novel, many comparisons can be seen between Heathcliffs character and the actual house in which he grew up, Wuthering Heights. This house is a dark, ?bleak?, unpleasant place situated on a high, windy crest on the moors. Yet not only is the atmosphere of Wuthering Heights similar to that of Heathcliff, but both are also physically described in a similar way. The house is described as ?grotesque?, with ?strong...narrow windows...deeply set in the wall, and the corners defended with large, jutting stones? (page 4). This is similar to many descriptions of Heathcliffs personal appearance, his ?savage? face is illustrated as having "brows lowering, the eyes deep set and singular...black eyes withdrawn so suspiciously under their brow" (page 93). His dark, immoral attitude is enhanced by his personal physical description, which is similar to that of the actual house, as well as by the described influence of his surroundings. This characters temprement is not only shown through the way he is personally portrayed, but also through the setting in which he is shown.

Thrushcross Grange and the Linton family represent culture, refinement, convention, and cultivation.

Thrushcross Grange, in contrast to the bleak exposed farmhouse on the heights, is situated in the valley with none of the grim features of Heathcliff?s home. Opposite of Wuthering Heights, Thrushcross Grange is filled with light and warmth. "Unlike Wuthering Heights, it is elegant and comfortable...a splendid place carpeted with crimson, and crimson covered chairs and tables, and a pure white ceiling bordered by gold?." Thrushcross Grange is the appropriate home of the children of the calm. The atmosphere of Thrushcross Grange illustrates the link the inhabitants have with the upper-class Victorian lifestyle. Although the Linton?s appearance was often shallow, appearances were kept up for their friends and their social standing. While Wuthering Heights was always full of activity, sometimes to the point of chaos, life at the Grange always seemed placid. Linton?s existence here at Thrushcross Grange was as "different from Heathcliff?s ?as moonbeam from lightning, or frost from fire?." The Linton?s often portrayed themselves as shallow, arrogant people, but life here was much more jovial than the inmates of Wuthering Heights lives were.

Quite a contrast to Heathcliff's malevolent character is the warm and gentle Edgar Linton, one whose personality befits that of his dwelling, Thrushcross Grange. a "beautiful, splendid place"(89), around which "the sky is blue, and the larks are singing, and the becks and brooks are all brim full"(171). Raised in a loving family and comfortable house, Edgar has become a well respected, dignified gentleman in the neighborhood and a "kind master"(131) to Ellen Dean. The Grange, in which all is orderly and pleasant, symbolizes the civilized and kindhearted Edgar. Instead of quarreling with Catherine, Edgar treats her with the utmost patience and affection, resolving to marry her despite witnessing her tyrannical conduct towards Ellen. Moreover, he regards those around him with kindness and hospitality--he even takes pity upon Linton, when others think of him as "the worst-tempered bit of a sickly slip that ever struggled into his teens"(275). The Grange holds elegant objects--"crimson-covered chairs and tables", a "pure white ceiling bordered with gold" and", a shower of glass drops"(89); similarly, Edgar handles his affairs with grace. Edgar is as gentle and gracious as the Grange, and he lives and dies a generous soul in the Grange,

Lastly, Catherine Earnshaw, who has spent her lifetime partly at the Heights and partly at the Grange, displays herself similar in temperament to the atmospheres of both houses. Ellen describes Catherine as being a wayward, quarrelsome girl, her temper matching the "[seasons] of steady rain"(193) at the Heights; yet "she [has] the bonniest eye, the sweetest smile, and lightest foot in the parish"(83), pleasant qualities much like the Grange. She is capable of being extremely disagreeable and selfish, evident when she lavishes her love on Heathcliff despite her husband's sorrow. Yet, Catherine is also capable of gentleness and kindness--Ellen describes this trait during her narration to Mr. Lockwood: "She [seems] almost over fond of Mr. Linton; and even to his sister, she [shows] plenty of affection"(131). Like the Grange, Catherine often evinces warmth in her own feminine sense of tenderness, and she strives to be polite and civilized; but like the Heights, Catherine can be stormy and almost violently ardent at times. This trait is exemplified when, after a quarrel with Heathcliff and Edgar, she resolves to "dashing her head against the arm of the sofa, and grinding her teeth, so that [one] might fancy she would crash them to splinters"(157). Clearly, Catherine is a character combining that which is most pleasant and wonderful of Thrushcross Grange, with the harmful and turbulent characteristics of Wuthering Heights.

It is Bronte?s remarkable imagination, emotional power, figures of speech, and handling of dialect that makes the characters of Wuthering Heights relate so closely with their surroundings. The contrast of these two houses adds much to the meaning of this novel, and without it, the story wouldn?t be the interesting, complex novel it is without the contrast between Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The contrast between them is more than physical, rather these two houses represent opposing forces which are embodied in their inhabitants. Having this contrast is what brings about the presentation of this story altogether. Bronte made Heathcliff and Wuthering Heights as one. Both of these being cold, dark, and menacing similar to a storm. Thrushcross Grange and the Lintons were more a welcoming and peaceful dwelling. The personality of both is warm and draws itself to you by the warmth of the decor and richness of the surrounding landscape.

An author sometimes helps readers gain a better understanding of his characters by giving clues of their personalities in the descriptions of the places where they live. This technique, the use of setting, is demonstrated in Emily Bronte's Wuthering Heights, a story of the love and hate between two households: Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. Descendants from these two households have engaged in bitter arguments, fallen in love, and their fates have been twisted together ever since the arrival of a gypsy orphan, Heathcliff. This extraordinary tale is told by the housekeeper, Ellen Dean, who has worked at both abodes. Bronte uses the technique of setting to enhance and reinforce the characters' personalities: Heathcliff's composition is as chilly and gloomy as Wuthering Heights; Edgar Linton is warm, dignified, and elegant like Thrushcross Grange; and Catherine Earnshaw is a combination of the two estates: warm and civilized, yet not without violent temperament.

Without a doubt, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, along with the people who dwell in them, represent two entirely contrasting mentalities and states of mind: one of unrestrained passion and dark broodiness, the other of politely refined affection and soft tenderness. Heathcliff's love for Catherine is tinged with danger and violence; Edgar loves Catherine with gracious tranquility, and Catherine returns affection to each of them accordingly. The Grange is a symbol of civilization, warmth, and goodness; the Heights is a symbol of wildness, cruelty, and evil. Such utter difference between the environments and climates of the two households symbolizes the distinction between the temperaments of their inhabitants. Not surprisingly, this contrast results in the pain, anguish, and discontent suffered by the protagonists; yet ultimately, the violent passion that is like the howling winds of Wuthering Heights and the tender love that reminds one the sweet air at Thrushcross Grange come together, through the marriage of Catherine and Heathcliff's respective offspring, never to separate again. Through extensive descriptions of the characters' dwellings and its surroundings, Bronte helps the reader gain insight into these characters.

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