When Cathy Earnshaw’s father brings a wild, angry child named Heathcliff to live with his family in Yorkshire, one of literature’s most powerful love stories begins. The intense, destructive romance between Cathy and Heathcliff consumes the two families living on the moors, as well as the generation that follows. Emily Brontë’s passionate novel Wuthering Heights is alive with revenge, violence and ghostly spirits, which have haunted readers’ imaginations for more than 150 years.
Yorkshire’s moors are almost a character in their own right. Cathy and Heathcliff are both trapped by the social conventions between the walls of their homes, but the wild countryside represents the freedom and passion they yearn for. To others, it is a treacherous, dangerous wasteland.
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The line between love and hate is thin throughout the story, and romance can be both tender and violent. But the love between the central characters is the novel’s most powerful force. Cathy explains that she loves Edgar “like foliage in the woods”, but she loves Heathcliff like “the eternal rocks beneath”.
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Not even the wildest regions of England’s landscapes can escape strict Victorian class structures. Heathcliff, who has no family and no surname, cannot marry Cathy until he returns to the moors with his own mysterious wealth — and by that time, she has been lured into the more refined world of Thrushcross Grange.
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If it is love that ignites the story of Cathy and Heathcliff, revenge is the force which drives it to its end. Once Cathy is dead, Heathcliff is determined to punish those who have wronged him. Revenge is a basic human desire — does it still play a part in the conflicts we see today?
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There is something otherworldly about Wuthering Heights from the very beginning — even the outsider Lockwood is haunted by Cathy’s ghost, and Heathcliff is frequently described as a vampire, Satan, and an “imp”. Yet Victorian England was a golden age of science, reason and innovation, not unlike our own. Is this contrast what makes stories about the supernatural so compelling?
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