The Romantic-Gothic Nature of Wuthering Heights

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Section 25 Throughout the class period, we have talked about several different genres that have caught my eye in terms of relatability and interests. One of those genres is the Gothic period. There are many books that are considered part of this era such as, Dracula, Frankenstein, and Jane Eyre, but the one that tops them all is Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Wuthering Heights brings to the surface many different parallels for the more romantic aspects of the book through things such as, spiritualism, supernaturalism even though it was written within the Victorian Period.

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As for the Gothic nature of the book, you can get a feel for it in the descriptions of the terrain, the turbulent love story between Heathcliff and Catherine, and how Heathcliff can be seen as both a traditional gothic hero-villain and a Byronic hero.

Emily Brontë was a woman that we know very little about. She was born on July 30, 1818 in Yorkshire, England. Her mother died in 1821 leaving her and her sisters, to fend for themselves. Their father, Patrick Brontë, stressed the importance of them being intellectual equals. He wanted them to read and educate themselves on the various works that had come out before their time. All three sisters grew up in the Yorkshire Mooreland’s where Emily’s book, Wuthering Heights, plot takes place. After the publication of all three sisters’ novels, Wuthering Heights was considered to critics a “savage, animal-like, and clumsy (Melanie pg.2)” construction of a novel. As one may expect Emily’s dark sense of humor and romance did not go over well with the society of the day.

Throughout the novel, the aspect of spiritualism is shown not by agreeing with a specific religion, Christianity, but by agreeing that there are places such as heaven and hell. Many scholars over the past years have agreed that the book is not for religion in a sense but in fact against it. Throughout the reading of the book, it is noted that Joseph and Nelly Dean are devout Christians practicing their faith whereas, Heathcliff and Catherine have a more open understanding of the spiritual or nonphysical realm. More of a transcendental-like thinking. There are many examples throughout the book that show a great deal of spiritualisms. Emily’s constant reference to heaven, hell and the spirit of Catherine are the main focus of this. For example, Heathcliff is constantly in torment over the fact that Catherine is dead. “Is it not sufficient for your infernal selfishness that while you are at peace I shall writhe in the torments of hell (Bronte pg. 187)?” Just this line alone shows that Heathcliff is in constant torment by Catherine’s spirit.

With Catherine’s spirit tormenting Heathcliff constantly, we can also tie all of this into the supernaturalism of the book. Throughout the reading, supernaturalism comes in many forms. It is shown when Emily Bronte chooses to use the imagination of the character’s perceptions in order to explain what is going on around them. In a way, this helps in “exciting our sympathy by faithful adherence to the truth of nature and giving the interest of novelty by the modifying colors of the imagination (Williams pg. 6).” An example of this is shown when we see Lockwood grow from a very boring unimaginative man to a imaginative one. We see this growth in the beginning when he describes the landscape of the moors. “I have just returned from a visit to my landlord—the solitary neighbor that I shall be troubled with. This is certainly a beautiful country! In all England, I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from the stir of society. A perfect misanthropist’s heaven (Bronte pg. 2)” and at the end “I lingered round them, under that benign sky: watched the moths fluttering among the heath and harebells, listened to the soft wind breathing through the grass, and wondered how anyone could ever imagine unquiet slumbers for the sleepers in that quiet earth (Bronte pg. 339).” With this growth, comes a certain maturing of the senses in such a way that supernaturalism shows.

Another example of the supernatural we see throughout the book is in Lockwood’s dreams. The way Bronte brings the spirits into Lockwood’s dreams are very different from normal Victorian writers. Throughout the novel, there seems to be a sense of nature that can be construed as a supernatural being. Within one of Lockwood’s dreams he sees himself in a chapel he dreamed about being surrounded by the congregation each of whom had staves at ready, “the whole assembly, exalting their pilgrim’s staves, rushed round me in a body; and I, having no weapon to raise in self-defense, commenced grappling with Joseph, my nearest and most ferocious assailant, for his (Bronte p. 27).” In the next moment of the dream he tells us, “blows, aimed at me, fell on other sconces. Presently the whole chapel resounded with rapping’s and counter rapping’s: every man’s hand was against his neighbor Brontë (p. 27).” This rapping sound he hears in his dream was created by a fir tree that was rapping on the pane of his window during a storm. “Merely the branch of a fir-tree that touched my lattice as the blast wailed by, and rattled its dry cones against the panes (Brontë p. 27)!” This shows that Emily Bronte wanted us to get a sense of “the natural and the supernatural to create a sense of mystery (Bhattacharyya pg. 5).”

Wuthering Heights has many different Gothic qualities that we can list. In the name alone, we get a sense of just how gothic this novel really is. Wuthering Heights as described by Lockwood as, “being a significant provincial adjective, descriptive of the atmospheric tumult to which its station is exposed in stormy weather. Pure, bracing ventilation they must have up there at all times, indeed: one may guess the power of the north wind blowing over the edge, by the excessive slant of a few stunted firs at the end of the house; and by a range of gaunt thorns all stretching their limbs one way, as if craving alms of the sun (Brontë p. 3). This description gives us a sense of dread, danger, and almost an eerie feeling from the way the moors look and feel. The supernatural qualities of the moors seem to represent the relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine throughout the book. In the beginning their relationship had started with them both playing in the moors and by the end they were both buried next to each other. The moors are a symbol of mystery, menace, danger; these qualities constantly arise throughout the relationship of Heathcliff and Catherine. We can also note that the moors are a represented differently to individual characters. For example, Lockwood described them as, “whole hill-back was one billowy, white ocean; the swells and falls not indicating corresponding rises and depressions in the ground (Brontë p. 34).” In his mind you are able to get lost easily through them because all the “swells and falls” look the same. Heathcliff and Catherine on the other hand, thought of the moors as a link to freedom. “I wish I were out of doors! I wish I were a girl again, half savage and hardy, and free… (Brontë pp. 148-149)”

Heathcliff is considered to be many different types of hero. As a Byronic hero, he fits the classic nature of tall, dark, and handsome with a twist of mystery. As Lockwood described, “He had grown a tall, athletic, well-formed man (Brontë p. 112).” As a Gothic hero he is the main character of Gothic novel, always shrouded by a cloud of supernaturalism and death. Many times, throughout the novel he is accused of acting like the devil. “Mr. Heathcliff you have nobody to love you… You are miserable, are you not? Lonely, like the devil, and envious like him? (Brontë. p. 339). Through both of these types of hero’s, Emily Bronte gives us the idea that Heathcliff can evolve between both a romantic and gothic hero. The Byronic hero which gives us the idea that there is a passionate, romantic quality about him; whereas, the Gothic hero which gives us the dangerous side of him, a fight between good versus evil.

Throughout the reading of Wuthering Heights, we were able to classify it as Gothic reading. We also were able to find many parallels that Bronte used to give us the illusion that it can be classified as a Romanticism era novel. Today we went over some of this particular parallels that make this novel be considered a mixture of Romantic-Victorian- Gothic era reading.


  1. Bhattacharyya, Jibesh. The Atlantic Critical Studies: Emily Brontë’s Wuthering Heights. New Delhi, Atlantic Publishers and Distributors, 2007.
  2. Dodworth, Cameron. “The Mystery of the Moors: Purgatory and the Absence/Presence of Evil in Wuthering Heights.” Bronte Studies, vol. 37, no. 2, Apr. 2012, pp. 125–135. EBSCOhost, doi:10.1179/174582212X13279217752787.
  3. Lambley, Lizzie. Heathcliff As A Hero – A Reading of Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights in Reference to Oscar Wilde’s The Picture of Dorian Gray. April 8, 2015.
  4. Melanie, Lilia. The Nineteenth Century British Novel. Brooklyn College, March 9, 2011, Accessed 10 April 2019.
  5. Williams, Anne. “Natural Supernaturalism in Wuthering Heights.” Studies in Philology, vol. 82, no. 1, Winter 1985, p. 104. EBSCOhost,
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The Romantic-Gothic Nature of Wuthering Heights. (2021, May 10). Retrieved from