Literary Qualities

Wuthering Heights has confounded those critics who attempt to place it in any one literary genre. For its depiction of the intensely individualistic personalities of Cathy and Heathcliff, Wuthering Heights has been called the first truly romantic novel. Early in the novel, Heathcliff is an almost pure type of romantic hero; furthermore, Heathcliff’s mysterious origin, the larger-than-life dimensions of Cathy’s and Heathcliff’s Characters, and their unearthly love for each other give Wuthering Heights the status of myth. Bronte’s treatment of time-the narrative moves from present to past to present again-gives the novel an epic quality. But its subject matter, the survival of romantic love and the survival of the family, place it at the crossroads between romantic poetry and the Victorian novel.

Bronte employs numerous points of view to relate her story; much of the book is filtered through the perspective of Nelly Dean, who tells the tale of the inhabitants of Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange to an outsider, Lockwood. By using two relatively minor Characters, Nelly and Lockwood, as her primary narrators and interpreters of the action, Bronte challenges her readers to evaluate the book and its principal Themes from a multitude of viewpoints. Bronte’s sophisticated and groundbreaking narrative technique has been elaborated on by later writers such as Joseph Conrad in his novel Heart of Darkness and Henry James in his short story “The Turn of the Screw.”

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