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Wuthering Heights Context
Wuthering Heights was published in 1847.
At the time of the majority of people were Protestant and deeply religious. However, during the
1800s, science continued to develop (especially after the publication of The Origin of Species by
Charles Darwin in 1854) to new heights and few began to doubt their religious beliefs.
Class was a major division in society at the time, with the poorest in society seen as lazy and inferior
to the best. The upper class would marry only someone of the same social class, hence why it would
"demean" Catherine to marry Heathcliff. It would not be abnormal for people to marry their first
cousins, especially in rural areas, to ensure the status and lineage of the family.
Women in the mid 1800s were socially inferior to men and the movement for equality to women was
yet to begin. Religion was a factor in this as Eve was created from Adam. Emily Brontë, like her
sisters, had to use a male name to publish Wuthering Heights as no publisher would print the work of
a woman. Upon death, wealth would be distributed to the first male heir or the closest male relation.
Women were seen as feeble-minded.
Wuthering Heights is a classic of the gothic genre, a genre popular in the 19th Century. Key features
1. Setting either in a castle or old mansion Wuthering Heights is an ancient mansion on the
Yorkshire moors. The isolation and age of the building well match the gothic genre
2. Visions Heathcliff, in his madness, sees visions of his beloved
3. High emotion The novel is based on the strength of Heathcliff's obsessive love for Cathy,
whose heightened emotions turn her mad.
4. Women in distress
5. Women threatened by a tyrannical male Catherine is forced into marrying Linton by
6. The metonymy of gloom and horror
Critics of Wuthering Heights did not know it was written by a woman, therefore looked upon it
favourably, although it was found difficult to understand because of the complicated events. Most
critics were impressed by the written communication by "Mr Ellis Bell".