Dualism in 'Wuthering Heights'
Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë teems with duality, creating themes that are juxtaposed to one another, such as revenge versus forgiveness, love versus hate, and ambition versus settling. The dualism in the novel also helps to reinforce the opposing elements found in the settings and characters.
Emily Brontë’s novel takes place in two settings: the cold, dreary, and isolated Wuthering Heights owned by the Earnshaw family, and the well-kept, warm, and welcoming Thrushcross Grange owned by the Linton family. While the estates are neighbors they not only opposite each other in the way they were designed but also on the land on which they were built. Wuthering Heights was built on less forgiving land with harsher weather, while Thrushcross Grange was settled in a more comfortable and forgiving place.
Each character in the novel is a representation from the place they are from, helping to create the two equal yet opposite families. The Lintons from Thrushcross Grange are of fair complexion, gentle, timid, the “day” to the Earnshaw’s “night.” The Earnshaws from Wuthering Heights are dark haired, coarse, and tough. The polarity of the cold, dreary Wuthering Heights versus the warm, welcoming Thrushcross Grange sets the stage for the dualism in the themes and helps to create a sound background for the complexity of the characters.
The Lintons (with fair hair and light eyes) can be described to have soft, or even weak dispositions in will and health. Their manners are more refined and they are more concerned with fashion than their counterparts. The Earnshaws (with dark hair and dark eyes) are hardier and rougher in both disposition and health. While they are equals to the Lintons in class and status, the Earnshaws are less concerned with manners and fancy dress. Additionally, Heathcliff—an adopted family member to the Earnshaws—is the darkest in complexion and considered the “wildest,” although he becomes as equally gentlemanly as any Linton.
Within each family, there is a core pair of characters: Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw positioned against Edgar and Isabella Linton. These pairs showcase the duality of not only the settings of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange, but also the themes of revenge versus forgiveness, love versus hate, and ambition versus settling.
Although Heathcliff and Catherine Earnshaw have different qualities, they are complimentary to one another. As a child, Heathcliff was quiet and morose and considered not handsome, and Catherine was loud and obnoxious and considered beautiful, but both were from Wuthering Heights and exhibited “features” of being from that estate: they enjoyed roughhousing, using foul language, and were unconcerned with their attire. Heathcliff’s quiet nature and admiration for Catherine paired well with Catherine’s loud and bossy personality. On the other hand, Edgar Linton and his sister Isabella did not get along as children, but were as similar to each other as they were opposites of the Earnshaws. The Lintons were well-mannered, soft spoken, sensitive, and considered weak-willed and delicate.
A turn of events causes Catherine to stay at Thrushcross Grange, where she absorbs elements of that place and the Lintons: manners, well-dress, etc. Here, Edgar becomes infatuated with Catherine, beginning the love triangle among him, Catherine, and Heathcliff. Isabella is brought into the situation after Heathcliff marries her in revenge of Catherine and Edgar’s nuptials. Although these pairings may not be considered “right” for each other they do create symmetry, coupling a Linton with an Earnshaw.
These characters are set up by circumstance to either decide on love or hate, to seek vengeance or forgiveness, and to follow ambition or settle either for the wants of the heart or into failure. Catherine chooses ambition over love when she marries the wealthy Edgar, although Edgar marries Catherine for love rather than for a promising pairing. Heathcliff marries Isabella to prove a point to Catherine, while Isabella married Heathcliff because she was seduced by him. These actions align with each original couple—the Earnshaws are both calculating and driven by power or ambition, while the Lintons are swayed by desire and matters of the heart.
Heathcliff allows his love for Catherine to be poisoned by his pride and jealousy and gives in to his hatred for Edgar. He then chooses vengeance over forgiveness. Edgar fails to forgive Catherine for her obvious love and desire for Heathcliff. And Isabella fails to forgive Heathcliff for loving Catherine. Each of these characters plays out the dual nature of the themes of novel.
Emily Brontë uses dualism in her novel Wuthering Heights in the two opposing settings of Thrushcross Grange and Wuthering Heights, in the conflicting and, at times, complimentary natures of the characters, especially of Heathcliff/Catherine and Edgar/ Isabella, and in the opposing choices of the themes and decisions the characters make. Duality helps to create the complexity of the setting, themes, and especially characters, creating polarizing elements in each.
Brontë, Emily. Wuthering Heights. New York: Pocket Books, Inc., 1942. Print.