Wuthering Heights is a novel of passion, revenge, and the destructiveness of a love that is too fierce. The book takes place in the Yorkshire moors in New England in the late 18th century. Emily Brontë, the author of the tale, makes great use of the story’s Gothic landscape and setting to draw into her story and complement its ongoing themes. The book divides its plot between the wild farmhouse, Wuthering Heights, and the cleanly kept mansion, Thrushcross Grange.
Catherine Earnshaw and Heathcliff grow up at the Heights, a old, stone building with a despondent interior. The setting of the house influences both characters who are only happy when they leave the bleak and depressing Wuthering Heights. They spend most of their days in the moors. The Yorkshire moors are colorful and lush in the summer and this draws the two characters to it. The moors represent freedom and innocence.
This is where Catherine and Heathcliff fall in love: secluded from society and free from anyone’s judgement. However, the moors are also wild, water infested land which makes them consequently infertile, unable to cultivate on, and hard to navigate. This directly translates into the love that develops between the two main characters. A love that is unchanging, selfish, unkind, obsessive, and haunting. Their love is marred by wrong timing and drastic decisions that puts no thoughts in consequence.
The lovers face their first inevitable obstacle when they encounter the Thrushcross Grange. Thrushcross Grange is the opposite of everything Catherine and Heathcliff are. With its kept grounds and strict architecture, it represents everything that Catherine has the prospect of being and Heathcliff does not. Catherine's brother, Hindley, makes it absolutely impossible for Heathcliff to have any kind of respectable future, working the boy from dawn to dusk.
Thrushcross Grange is the first symbolic wedge between the young lovers. The mansion is such a threat to their relationship that after spending five weeks there, Catherine's whole character changes. Although she is still headstrong and stubborn, she becomes a socially accepted and graceful young woman. This greatly hurts and forever alters her relationship with Heathcliff, who like Wuthering Heights will always be wild and unkept.
Thrushcross Grange also lines up with the novel’s social class theme. Having access to the Grange seems to hold parallel to having a higher social status. Catherine is accepted in either household while Heathcliff does not belong in either household. In fact, even when Heathcliff comes to own the Grange, he never really seems to be there except for the one day when he visit an ill-stricken Lockwood. Even with his many riches and properties, Heathcliff is still not accepted by the higher social class.
The novel's setting also plays a huge role in the lives of the new generation which consists of Cathy, the late Catherine and Edgar's daughter; Linton, the late Isabelle and Heathcliff's son; and Hareton, Hindley's son. When speaking with Linton about a perfect day in the moors, Cathy and Linton have two very different ideas of perfect. Cathy wants a lively, exciting day at the moors while all Linton wants is peace and rest. This shows how incompatible and how contrasting their characters are. Cathy is headstrong and lively like her mother, while Linton is weak and whiny like his mother.
When Lockwood, the new tenant of Thrushcross Grange, arrives at Wuthering Heights, everything about it seems ghostly to him. While sleeping in Catherine’s old chambers, Lockwood has a vivid nightmare in which Catherine Earnshaw’s ghost tries to gain access to her old room. It is then that he becomes intrigued to investigate the mystery of Wuthering Heights. The somber, dreadful atmosphere only seems to lift once Heathcliff dies.
The mansion at Thrushcross Grange, which reflects an uppity and pretentious society, is now abandoned and untouched while Wuthering Heights, which before Heathcliff’s death only held a negative atmosphere, is now gleaming with the prospect of a new generation. Heathcliff and Catherine are finally at rest. Cathy, who is just like her mother, is soon to marry Hareton, who largely resembles Heathcliff.
In the end, the landscape in the story changes in the same way that the characters do. Everything seems to mature and take a turn for the better. Perhaps the setting doesn’t actually physically change. Perhaps Bronte’s descriptions of the land change. The setting descriptions seem to shift according to the mood and attitude of the characters who live there. Emily Bronte’s most interesting character might just be the lands in where her characters reside.