Wuthering Heights: Symbols and Interpretations

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Asst. prof. Aseel Hatif

Year of study: Third

Subject: Novel

Wuthering Heights: Symbols and Interpretations

The moors: The moors play an important role in establishing the mood of the novel. They are open areas, wet, wild, and infertile. Both Catherine and Heathcliff keep rambling on them since childhood, reflecting their wild inclinations. They are seen by Mr. Lockwood as dangerous places, places full of threat and menace. But they are seen by the lovers in another perspective. For Catherine and Heathcliff, they are mysterious areas where they feel comfortable and have respite from the prison-like atmosphere of Wuthering Heights. For them, the moors exist as a supernatural, liberating, and boundless region. Their freedom is associated with these moors. They even describe their love and their own identities through metaphors of nature (remember the foliage vs. eternal rocks; and the bleak, hilly, coal country vs. the fertile valley). Catherine and Heathcliff are also buried on the moors. Thus, Catherine's dying wish to be released on the moors reinforces Heathcliff's analogy of Catherine as an oak contained by the strictures of Thushcross Grange. More than once, Catherine and her belongings are connected to the oak tree, why? In addition to being a symbol of strength, energy, and power, the oak tree is also known as a signifier of endurance. Catherine endures so much and is often miserable both at Wuthering Heights where she feels she is imprisoned and separated from Heathcliff by Hindley and at Thrushcross Grange for marrying Edgar Linton and being away from Heathcliff, her real love. Referring to her misery, Catherine says:" I was enclosed in the oak- paneled bed at home; and my heart ached with some great grief which just waking, I could not recollect "(ch.12, p. 102) Catherine expresses her displeasure also at Thrushcross Grange, saying "Oh, I'm burning! I wish I were out of doors! I wish I were a girl again, half savage, and hardy, and free ; … I'm sure I should be myself were I once among the heather on those hills. Open the window again wide … " ( ch. 12, p. 102-103). Doubting that Edgar would make Catherine happy and be able to recover her health, Heathcliff compares Catherine to "an oak" that could not " thrive" and get " vigor in the soil of [ Edgar's] shallow cares" (ch. 14, p. 126). Catherine and Heathcliff's fondness of the wild moors continues even after their death. When they die, a rumor persists that their ghosts roam the moors at night. Even Heathcliff's name has something to do with the moors. It demonstrates his affinity with the moors and rocks. Like them, he is wild, rough, and strong. Like nature, he is violent in his passions towards Catherine; cold and stony towards strangers (remember his attitude towards Mr. Lockwood).

Catherine's locket: Catherine has on her neck a locket containing a lock of Edgar's hair. After seeing the dead Catherine, Heathcliff removes the lock and throws it on the ground, and replaces it with a lock of his own hair. Heathcliff's act symbolizes his desire to supplant Edgar and his belief that Catherine is rightfully his. Nelly Dean takes Edgar's lock of hair intertwines it with Heathcliff' lock of hair, and put it into the locket, symbolizing how the two nemesis' lives intertwine and how Catherine would continue to be torn between them eternally even in the afterlife.

Windows and Gates: They are presented in the novels as barriers to separate persons from others or from their hopes and desires. Shut, they represent barriers between people; open, they represent barriers removed. When Mr. Lockwood pays a visit to his landlord at Wuthering Heights, he is prevented entrance. As he arrives, he finds the gate is locked. In the opening chapter, Mr. Lockwood says: "even the gate over which he leant manifested no sympathizing movement to the words"( ch.1, p. 1). By means of personification, the anxious Mr. Lockwood implies that like the gate , Heathcliff does not let him in. In fact, even Mr. Lockwood's name is not used coincidentally. His name reflects his failure to gain access. Constructed in 1500, Wuthering Heights as a house is viewed as a very old fashioned house. Mr. Lockwood has observed its unwelcoming architecture. It is described as a strong building with ''narrow windows" which" are deeply set in the wall" and "corners" that " are defended with large jutting stone"( ch.1 , p. 2). These closed windows are also meant to symbolize the damaging effect of revenge. This is true when Heathcliff, thirsty to fulfill his plan of revenge, imprisons Nelly Dean and Catherine at Wuthering Heights.

Windows and gates are left open intentionally by characters, especially when the lovers, Catherine and Heathcliff want to meet each other. Heathcliff, when Catherine dies, leaves the window of his room open so as to enable Catherine's ghost enter. Even when Heathcliff dies, his window is seen wide open as if it is left intentionally again to let his spirit escape. In contrast to the narrow windows that are deeply set at Wuthering Heights, the windows of Thrushcross Grange are so wide and provide accessible view out onto the garden and the green valley as well as into the home's interior. As Catherine and Heathcliff spy on Edgar and Isabella through the window, the Lintons manage to get a view of the two and the unbridgeable gap between them. Again and consequently, the window provides access and welcomes Catherine and rejects and prevents Heathcliff to enter.

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