Setting Analysis and Symbolism of Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte
In Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte uses the setting of the English Moors, a setting she is familiar with, to place two manors, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange. The first symbolizes man's dark side while the latter symbolizes an artificial utopia. This 19th century setting allows the reader to see the destructive nature of love when one loves the wrong person.
The manor Wuthering Heights is described as dark and demonic. In the English moors, winter lasted three times as long as summer and the Heights and the land adjacent to it can be compared to winter, while Thrushcross Grange can be described as the summer. Bronte describes the Heights as a "misanthropist's Heaven." Its gate is always chained from the outside and its inhabitants on the inside are as unappealing as the house itself. Wuthering Heights produces Heathcliff, the protagonist of the story, and his "siblings", Catherine and Hindley. These three children, brought together in unusual circumstances, have to survive the obstacles of their environment. This reality is harsh, but it explains their later behavior. Because life at the Heights often demonstrates man's cruelty, the children can not appreciate the utopia that is Thrushcross Grange. When Heathcliff is a boy and returns from the Grange he describes his adventure;
"...We laughed outright at the petted things; we did despise them! ... or find us by ourselves, seeking entertainment in yelling, and sobbing, and rolling on the ground divided by the whole room? I'd not exchange, for a thousand lives, my condition here, for Edgar Linton's at Thrushcross Grange..." (p.52)
Wuthering Heights is a dark manor that expects the worst in man, and to its inhabitants it is the only reality they know. When Catherine marries Edgar Linton and moves over to the Grange, she is at first contented to be pampered and spoiled. Her every need is taken care of. Later, when she is confronted by Heathcliff, she is reminded of Wuthering Heights and begins to miss the place she once was so eager to leave. Catherine begins to see the Grange as superficial and confining, and at first she is only annoyed by this, but eventually the suffocating enclosure causes Catherine to lash out at her husband and all the Grange represents. Catherine, aware of her incestuous attraction to Heathcliff, believes the Grange is destroying her, and because of her disgust of the Grange and her sense of guilt, it does. In the process, Edgar too must suffer Catherine's pain because of his love for her.
While Wuthering Heights was a symbol of darkness and winter, Thrushcross Grange could only be described as its opposite. Thrushcross Grange can be seen as a happy place that is light...