Nature Elements in The Novel Wuthering Heights

Also Read

Scene of Action

      The scene of action in Wuthering Heights is a secluded, though beautiful, at the comer of England. "This is certainly a beautiful country says Mr. Lockwood, a character in the novel. "In all England," he says further, "I do not believe that I could have fixed on a situation so completely removed from stir of society. A perfect misanthropist's Heaven." There is a beauty in the rugged aspects of nature, too, and it is this beauty which the background in the novel possesses. The scene of action lies on the Yorkshire moors on one side of which there are hills with snow-covered peaks, and on the other green valleys. The hills have an indescribable charm about them, so that Cathy discovers in them an irresistible fascination. In summer the valleys are dotted with green fields. To the solitary rambler, the moors have their own attraction. When the sky is clear the moors are bathed in golden sunlight. But when the sky is overcast they assume a dark, somber appearance. Thus, both the comedy and tragedy of human life are reflected in the moors. Bathed in sunshine they appear gay, cheerful and laughing. But under a frowning sky they assume a dark appearance, as if something tragic is about to happen. Emily Bronte loved the moors and had entered into their very soul, as it were. That is why she so successfully presents them in their different moods and appearances in the novel. "She seemed to have absorbed the silence of the gaunt, lonely moors in her aversion to society, and her passion for the moors in all seasons and in all weathers made her almost as one of themselves."

Different Seasons

      Many of the scenes in Wuthering Heights lie in the cold and stormy winter with violent winds howling and rain and snow falling. But winter is not the only season presented in the novel. It is succeeded by spring, summer and autumn, each having a beauty and attraction of its own. Emily Bronte suggests the change of weather or season through short descriptions. For instance:

"That Friday made the last of our fine days, for a month. In the evening, the weather broke; the wind shifted from south to northeast, and brought rain first, and then sleet and snow. On the morrow one could hardly imagine that there had been three weeks of summer the primroses and crocuses were hidden under wintry drifts; the larks were silent, the young leaves of the early trees smitten and blackened."


"On a mellow evening in September, I was coming from the garden with a heavy basket of apples which I had been gathering. It had got dusk, and the moon looked over the high wall of the court, causing undefined shadows to lurk in the comers of the numerous projecting portions of the building. I set my burden on the house steps by the kitchen door, and lingered to rest; and drew in a few more breaths of the soft, sweet air."

Minute Observation

      The description, though short, reveals the author's minute observation. She informs us of the change in the direction of wind that occurs with the change of weather. She also notices that rain comes first and that sleet and snow come after the shower of rain. The effect of the change of weather on flowers and birds, too, does not escape her notice, so that she tells us that the primroses and crocuses were hidden under wintry drifts and that the larks were silent. The second description, too, is characterized by the author's minute observation, in the twilight of the evening Nelly could not see distinctly the flowers in the garden, and so there is no description of flowers in the passage. But she is conscious particularly of two things, the air laden with the scent of flowers and the rising moon, and these two are particularly emphasized in the passage. Nelly draws in a few more breaths of the soft, sweet air, and her eyes are fixed on the moon, which looks over the high wall of the court, causing undefined shadows to lurk in the corners of the garden.

      There are still briefer, but fully suggestive, descriptions of weather in the novel. For instance:

      On the bleak hilltop, the earth was hard with a black frost, and the air made me shiver through every limb.


      A bright frosty afternoon; the ground bare, and the road hard and dry.


      The raining night had ushered in a misty morning—half frost, half drizzle— and temporary brooks crossed our path gurgling from the uplands.

Beautiful Description of All Moods of Nature

      The entire novel is saturated with the author's feeling for nature. Human affairs and actions and descriptions of characters are closely interwoven with short and suggestive descriptions of nature. For instance, Nelly while taking Linton Heathcliff to the Heights suddenly drifts into a short description of nature. The boy enquires if Wuthering Heights is as pleasant a place as Thrushcross Grange, and Nelly replies "It is not so buried in trees, and it is not quite so large, but you can see the country beautifully, all round; and the air is healthier for you presher an dryer." Wuthering Heights may be a cave of savages and a den of beasts, but the nature around it is beautiful and attractive. In the following passage the description of Cathy is interwoven with the description of nature:

      "I put around on my bonnet and sallied out, thinking nothing more of the matter. She bounded before me, and returned to my side, and was off again like a young gray hound; and, at first I found plenty of entertainment in listening to the larks singing far and near, and enjoying the sweet, warm sunshine; and watching her, my pet, and my delight, with her golden ringlets flying loose behind, and her bright cheek, as soft and pure in its bloom as a wild rose, and her eyes radiant with cloudless pleasure."

      In its feeling for nature this passage is almost a poetic description. Nature and Cathy both are equally attractive in the eyes of Nelly. In fact; Cathy is a part of the beauty of nature around Thrushcross Grange, so that any description of her would automatically bring in the beauty of, the surroundings of which she is a part.

      The following passage once again suggests Emily Bronte's feeling for nature. Winter has set in; but Nelly discovers a last lingering lingering bluebell nook of the garden. She asks Cathy to pluck the flower to show it to her father:

"Look Miss!.....Winter is not here yet. There's a little flower, up yonder, the last bud from the multitude of bluebells that clouded those turf steps in July with a lilac mist, will you clamber up, and pluck it to show to Papa?"

      In the following passage a picture is presented of man in contact with nature:

"As we talked, we neared a door that opened on the road; and my young lady, lightening into sunshine again, climbed up, and seated herself on the top of the wall, reaching over to gather some hips that bloomed scarlet on the summit branches of the wild rose trees, shadowing the highway side: the lower fruit had disappeared, but only birds could touch the upper, except from Cathy's present station."

      Even in deep mental anguish and great excitement nature is not forgotten. When Catherine is in a state of delirium, she thinks of the moor and the birds on it. Tossing about, she increased her feverish bewilderment to madness, and tore the pillow with her teeth. Then pulling out the feathers from the rents she had made, she said:

That's a turkey's; and this is a wild duck's; and this is a pigeon's. Ah, they put pigeon's feathers in the pillows—wonder I couldn't die! Let me take care to throw it on the floor when I lie down. And here is a moor-cock's; and this I should know it among a thousand — it's lapwing's. Bonny bird; wheeling over our heads in the middle of the moor. It wanted to get to its nest, for the clouds touched the smells, and it felt rain coming. This feather was picked up from the heath, the bird was not shot: we saw its nest in the winter, full of little skeletons.

      All seasons and moods of nature are equally fascinating and delightful to Emily Bronte. She discovers beauty in a winter storm as well as in warm summer breezes. Clouds delight her as much as bright sun-shine. Winter and rough weather dominate in the Wuthering Heights. The very opening scene occurs in winter and Mr. Lockwood's second visit to the Heights is made in a terrible snow-storm. Storm and snow occur more frequently in the novel than spring and summer. Cold affects the health of the characters. Mr. Lockwood catches severe cold and is confined to bed practically for the whole of winter, and it is cold which causes the death of Linton. But in the? process of the change of seasons spring and summer, too, are mentioned. Warm, bright days: however, are frequently succeeded by the spells of cold weather. Winter in the novel appears to be jealous of summer and spring, and is anxious to re-establish its rule at the earliest possible opportunity.

Close Affinity Between Man and Nature

      Another aspect of the treatment of nature in the novel Wuthering Heights is the close affinity existing between man and nature. Heathcliff is a combination both in mind and body of heath and cliff, the two prominent elements in the back-ground of the novel. His body is hard as cliff and his mind is a heath in as much as warm affectionate feelings do not grow there. The mild temperament of Linton is in full harmony with the calm and gentle winds and usually pleasant weather at the Grange. Heathcliff and Catherine appear parts of the moors on which they take long walks, gather flowers and catch birds. Their strong, violent nature is in harmony with the winds howling around the Heights. Even the two opposite human temperaments, dull and active, calm and violent, are presented in terms of nature imagery, as in the following passage. Cathy describes the difference between her and Linton Heathcliff's ideals of happiness:

      "One time, however, we were near quarreling. He said the pleasantest manner of spending a hot July day was lying from morning till evening on a bank of heath in the middle of the moor, with the bees humming dreamily about among the bloom, and the larks singing high up overhead, and the blue sky and bright sun shining steadily and cloudlessly. That was his most perfect idea of heaven's happiness: mine was rocking in a rustling green tree, with a west wind blowing, and bright white clouds flitting rapidly above; and not only larks, but throttles, and blackbirds, and linnets and cuckoo pouring out music on every side, and the moors seen at a distance, broken into cool dusky dells; but close by great smells of long grass undulating in waves to the breeze; and woods and sounding water, and the whole world awake and wild with joy."

      The two contrary human temperaments are presented in this passage through two opposite moods of nature, calm and turbulent. The passage also shows that it is in nature that the characters of the novel seek their ideal of happiness.

Consonance Between Mood of Man and the Mood of Nature

      Again, there is a consonance in Wuthering Heights between the mood of man and the mood of nature. Scenes in which emotions are keyed to a high pitch or there is expression of violent temper are mostly set in cold and stormy weather. For instance, the scene in which Hindley attempts to murder Heathcliff out of sheer desperation is set in such a weather, and it is in such a weather that Isabella having hit her husband with a knife runs away from the Heights where life has become unbearable to her. Weather in the novel changes with the change occurring in man's mood. A good illustration of this fact is the scene in which Heathcliff quietly leaves Wuthering Height on discovering that Catherine is engaged to Linton. Catherine has a long and quiet conversation with Nelly. But she grows restless on discovering that Heathcliff is absent from the house. A search is made for the boy. But when he is found nowhere her restlessness grows into an uncontrollable agitation. Simultaneously dark clouds appear in the sky indicating that a storm is about to break out. Catherine "kept wandering to and fro, from gate to the door, in a state of agitation which permitted no repose; and at length took up a permanent position on one side of the wall, near the road: where heedless of.... the growling thunder, and the great drops that begin to plain around her, she remained, calling at intervals, and than listening, and then crying outright" Her uncontrollable emotion and the storm blowing within her mind have a parallel in the storm outside which breaks out at midnight.. "There was a violent wind, as well as thunder, says Ellen Dean, "and either one or the other split a tree off at the corner of the building: a huge bough fell across the roof, and knocked down a portion of the east chimney-stack, sending a clatter of stones and soot into the kitchen fire." Thus, this scene suggests a close affinity between the mood of man and the mood of nature. Just as in King Lear, the storm scene suggests the storm blowing in Lear's mind, so also in Wuthering Heights strong winds and stormy weather are symbolic of the violent emotions raging in man's mind.

Previous Post Next Post